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Developing Your Office 365 Training Plan

Office 365 Training

As someone who has been involved in business technology deployments for over 30 years, it never ceases to amaze me how so few resources are invested in end-user training. The fact is that a good training program can spell the difference between success or failure in the deployment of a new technology solution in an organization. This is especially true with the implementation of Office 365 because of its potential to reach far and wide into an organization.

Part of the challenge of investing in Office 365 end-user training is the fact that many see Office 365 as merely the next version of the Microsoft Office Suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Nothing could be further from the truth. The 20 plus cloud-based applications that are available with Office 365 can impact the way your team communicates and works together all day, every day. I would like to spend some time on this blog post outlining a reasonable approach to developing your end user training program that won’t break the bank.

 

        "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance"
                       - Derek Bok, president of Harvard University

 

Application vs. Process Training

It is essential to understand that there are two types of training, both of which are necessary. Application training refers to teaching people how to operate the software. For example, teaching them how to save a file in Word, or how to format a column of values in Excel. If you don’t provide this training, your staff will use their ingenuity to learn it on their own by using tools like Google search or YouTube video clips. Worse yet, they may just spend an inordinate amount of time on trying to figure it out themselves through trial and error.

All of these methods can result in a high hidden cost that results from inefficiency in the learning process. The most significant cost of this approach to application training is that the end user will very likely never become aware of features in the software that may allow them to do their job more efficiently. Using the "Styles" feature in Word is a classic example. My guess is that less than 20% of Word users take advantage of Styles, which is the most efficient and effective way to format your reports and documents. Instead, most people just work with the font attribute buttons like size, style, bold, italic, etc. Why? They think this is the most efficient way. The bottom line is that end-user training on how to use the software is imperative and should be organized to cover the range of proficiencies: beginner, intermediate and advanced.

Process training is the second and more important type of training. This type of training refers to training your staff on how the particular application is to be integrated into specific workflows. An example would be how Excel is to be used by department managers to submit their budget figures, or how HR is to utilize a custom Word template to capture employee profile information. This type of training cannot be acquired through Google or YouTube because it has to be able to factor in information that is unique to your organization and its workflows. The cost of not providing this process training can be substantial. The final result is people doing their work the way they always have and leveraging what they can from the knowledge they acquire on their own.

This method means you are forgoing one of the primary benefits of deploying technology, which is standardization through automation. The negative impact is exponential when you bring on new hires. They will only be exposed to the process being used by the person responsible for teaching them. Without formal training, this can result in errors and a lack of understanding in new hires.

Sources of Training

The good news when it comes to Office 365 is that there are plenty of training resources available, particularly for the "application" training. Of course, you can always start with the Google and YouTube searches mentioned above to learn how to master specific features of the application. Microsoft offers an extensive database of Office 365 training resources, beginning with their support center website https://support.office.com, This will be one of the first search results on Google. 

Microsoft also offers a comprehensive catalog of Office 365 applications training as part of your Office 365 subscription. These on-demand courses originate from the acquisition of LinkedIn, who in turn had previously acquired the popular training site Lynda.com. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not provide a shameless plug for the extensive catalog of Office 365 online training that we offer at CPA Crossings. 

We provide over 100 hours of training on all things Office 365, including Excel, Teams, Skype for Business, OneDrive, SharePoint, Power BI and more. We have a unique Passport program for unlimited access to the training for $395. Visit our Office 365 Learning Center for more information. We also offer customized "process" training for Office 365, such as creating custom KPI dashboards, deploying Teams and more. This training can be delivered online or on site.

Developing Your Plan

As with any initiative, it is always good to start with a plan and a budget. You should start with establishing the budget as your first step. Your budget will determine what types of training you can include in your plan and how much. The next step is to determine who needs what level of training on which applications. I am a big believer in spreading your training over an extended period in smaller, bite-sized increments. That is the beauty of web-based and on-demand training. Not only can your staff schedule the training at a time that is convenient for them, but they can also do it at their own pace and try to apply the concepts presented during the training session since most people have two or more monitors at their desk.

One of the most effective things you can do as it relates to training is to designate a "champion" for each application. If you have a larger organization with multiple departments, you should select a team of champions with representation from all of the departments that will be deploying the application. The champion's responsibility is to develop deep expertise on the application and facilitate the process of determining how to optimize the integration of the application into the department's workflows. The champion should also make recommendations on who should receive what level of training on the application.

To help you plan your training and budget, I have created a simple training configurator spreadsheet that can help you map out the specific application training required by user or department. Feel free to use it and modify it according to your needs. Hopefully I have provided you with some tips that will help you create an Office 365 training plan that will optimize your organization's return on investment.

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