Training the Users
Documentation is necessary, but it's usually not sufficient for training your customers. Actually, it's usually sufficient for training only some of your customers. On our project, we had a few options. We could send a team member to train the customers at their site. We could hold online training sessions. We could develop some training materials and let the customers learn on their own. We could hope that they would learn from the
or from each other.
We chose to let one of our team members train the end users for the initial release. The obvious team member was Russell. Yes, he was the customer, but he was an integral part of our team from the beginning. He had been using the product. He had access to all of the material that the other team
had, and he knew the end users better than
else on the team.
Russell was willing to do the training as long as someone was on call to help with any questions that he couldn't answer. He never had to use the lifeline, but he was reassured to have the option of using it. He spent about an
training his team on how to set up a PSP Tools database and use the product.
During the session they also decided to use individual databases (one per user), rather than one single
database. They wanted the database to be portable so they could use it on different computers. For version 1, users need to copy the database. In addition to this overhead, they need to keep the database contents consistent across computers. Gary uses PSP Tools on three different computers and when he forgets to copy the database, he needs to manually re-enter data.
The feedback we got from the training session and our customers'
product use resulted in more requirements for the
release. One of the high-priority changes we plan to implement in version 2 will give database access over the Internet, which will eliminate the need to maintain multiple copies of a database.
There was an additional benefit to having Russell conduct the training. Adopting PSP Tools
that the engineers' process was going to change. Russell was part of the organization ”in fact he managed the organization ”so he was able to use the session to get buy-in from the
about how they were going to adapt to the changes. This made the changed process
process, not one that was imposed on them.
Training a Larger Group of Customers
We admit that the circumstances of our project are rare. It is fair to ask how you can help your customers learn your product. In a more typical situation, a representative from the customer's organization isn't available to help train users, or more than one small, co-located set of customers need to learn your software.
You need to balance the benefits of developing training materials and programs against the costs of not developing them. Consider the following points:
How many users are there and where are they located?
Are the users part of your organization or are they external to your organization? If they are external, it might be more difficult to gather them for a training session.
Is there an economic advantage to offering training sessions? Especially when the customers are external to your organization, there may be an advantage to offering training sessions. Even if the basic use of the software is simple, it may be worth the customers' time and money to pay you to train them to become experts. Perhaps coupling teaching the tool usage with describing the underlying techniques (in this case, Personal Software Process itself), is
to the customer.
Can training be delivered by interactive, remote sessions? Several networking tools (such as WebEx, at www.webex.com) allow you to conduct meetings and training sessions over the Internet. Consider some of these as possible alternatives to in-person training. These will not be as effective, but it may be more realistic to use them.
Can training be delivered in self-study modules? If so, what is the cost of developing book-based or web-based training modules? This effort requires some special skills, but might be valuable to both you and your customer.
If you decide to develop training materials, can your technical writers and
collaborate and possibly share material? We recommend that you develop user-centered training. One of the best places to start is with the use cases, the same starting point that we recommend for technical writers.
The size of the development project isn't a major issue here. The software you deliver, its complexity, and the value of training your customers are the major drivers when you consider the type and amount of training you will deliver.