User Training

User Training

Back in Chapter 9 we described how one of the main purposes of the BI applications is to provide information for the 90 percent of the organization wholl never learn to access the data directly. Unfortunately, the remaining 10 percent will never learn either, unless you teach them. Offer classes that will help ad hoc users climb the learning curve to master both the ad hoc tool and the underlying data. While youre at it, even though the BI applications should be self-guiding, offer a short class to all folks who will be using the BI applications, even if they never touch the ad hoc tool.

Teaching the advanced users how to directly access the system breaks down into two phases: development and delivery. Development is all of the work it takes to design the curriculum and create the training materials. Delivery is the actual stand-up classroom presentation of the materials and exercises, and the web-based delivery of the materials.

Training Development

Its hard to know when to start developing end user training. You need to start after the database is stable and the front-end ad hoc tool has been selected, but long enough before the actual rollout begins to be able to create and test a solid set of course materials. Development breaks down into two primary tasks : design and development of the course materials. Beyond these, the DW/BI educator might also need to create supporting materials and a training database.

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INTRODUCTORY ONE-DAY AD HOC QUERY COURSE OUTLINE
  • Introduction (gain attention) [30min]

    • DW/BI system overview (goals, data, status, and players)

    • Goals of the class

    • Student expectations for the class

  • Tool Overview (Demo) [15]

    • Basic elements and user interface

    • The query building process

  • Exercise 1Simple query [45]

  • Break [15]

  • Querying Orders from the Orders Fact table (Demo) [15]

  • Exercise 2Simple multi-table query [45]

  • Review and questions [15]

  • Lunch [60]

  • Working with query templates (Demo) [15]

  • Exercise 3Sales over time [60]

  • Exercise 3 review (Demo) [15]

  • Break [15]

  • Saving, scheduling and sharing reports (Demo) [15]

  • Exercise 4Saving and scheduling reports [30]

  • Overall review and next steps [15]

  • Exercise 5Self-paced problem set [75]

image from book

 

Design and Approach

Before you actually sit down to write the training materials, you need to spend a few minutes thinking at a high level about who your audiences are, what skill levels they have, and how much theyll be using the tools. This will help you determine your overall curriculum. What classes will you offer and how will they relate to each other? The initial rollout of the DW/BI system usually requires two classes: an introductory ad hoc query class that could be one or two days long, and a short BI applications class that may last an hour . After the system has been in use for a few months, you may add an advanced techniques class for ad hoc users. It may also be useful to provide a separate, data-centric class for each new business process dimensional model added to the DW/BI system.

Part of the design process includes outlining each class. The sidebar titled Introductory One-Day Ad Hoc Query Course Outline shows a typical outline. The outline will evolve during development, testing, and delivery of the class based on the reality of what it takes to teach people, and how long it takes them to learn.

The outline should include notes about supporting items that will be needed, like:

  • Course prerequisites

  • Data needed

  • Data availability

  • Training facilities (desktops, projector, network access, software installed, and so on)

  • User IDs

  • Printing of materials

  • Instructor evaluations

Developing Training Materials

Creating the course materials for hands-on training requires a good sense for computer-based education. Many of the classic communications principles apply. Each module should be short enough to finish within the average adult attention span of 45 minutes to an hour. Each module should follow the same structure, beginning with a summary of the lesson and the key points the student should learn from the module. The body of the module should use a relevant business problem as the motivation for working through the material. Learning how to count the number of customers who responded to a new promotion would be more interesting than learning how to count the number of rows in the TABLES system table, even if the two exercises teach exactly the same concept. The exercises should be well illustrated with screen captures that look exactly like what the students will see on their computers.

Reference 

Much of the instructional design approach we follow is based on the work of Robert Gagn. His influential books, The Conditions of Learning and Theory of Instruction (Harcourt Brace College Publishers; 4th edition, 1985), and his more practical Principles of Instructional Design (Gagn, et.al., Wadsworth Publishing; 5th edition, June 15, 2004), take an approach based on cognitive psychology and information-processing theory. These theories posit that there are internal mental processes involved in learning that are influenced by external events.

Gagn uses this relationship by viewing instruction as the arrangement of external events to activate and support the internal processes of learning. There is a lot more to creating effective training materials than just writing down a list of click here steps.

The modules should become progressively more complex, with the early ones providing step-by-step instructions and the later ones offering higher-level guidance. This gives the students the opportunity to memorize the basic steps so they can create a report without having to be prompted. Near the end of the class, students should be able to handle an instruction like Set up the following query: followed by a screen capture of a completed query. Include bonus exercises at the end of each module to keep the quick learners occupied.

Include time to test the training materials as part of the course development plan. Test each module on a few people from your team, and then test the whole package on a few of your friendly end users. Look for timing, errors, confusing sections, overall understandability, and value. Ask for feedback about what works, what doesnt, and suggestions for improvement. Weave what you learn back into the materials.

Finally, pay careful attention to the design layout of the course materials. Keep it clean, clear, and concise . Use a nice cover page, include reference pages with contact info and phone numbers . At least put it in a 3-ring binder, and consider using spiral or other bindings if you have access to them. (And really, how many of us dont have a 24-hour copy shop close by?) The product quality of these materials reflects directly on the reputation of the DW/BI system. Make it a good reflection.

Developing Supporting Materials

In addition to the course materials, the DW/BI educator is also on the hook to create any needed supporting materials. Examples include online tutorials, cheat sheets, and online help. We discussed online tutorials in the preceding documentation section. Cheat sheets are brief summaries of common commands, processes, terminology, constraint lists, and so onwhatever people use or do on a regular basis that might be hard to remember. A cheat sheet is a single-page document, often meant to be folded into a tri-fold format for easy access and storage. In some ways, these cheat sheets are marketing brochures for the DW/BI system. They will be prominently displayed in your users offices, so make them look professional. The cheat sheets should also be part of the BI portal content.

The Training Database

If possible, your courses will work directly against the production DW/BI system. However, there are several reasons why this isnt always possible, and you may need to create a training database. Certain kinds of tables, like an accumulating snapshot table, are always changing. The screenshots in exercises that include this table must match what people see when they do the exercise. In a case like this, it may make sense to create a training database with a fixed snapshot of the data. There are other reasons to create a training database. It may be important to mask confidential data, or performance against the production database for certain detailed datasets might be too slow for everyone in the class to execute simultaneously .

In all cases when you need to create a training database, it should be done as early in the course development process as possible. Create a dataset that reflects the world people will be returning to when they leave class.

Level of Effort

Creating a good class takes a lot of work. Count on at least eight hours of work to create an hour of class materials. A one-day class will take about a week and a half to two weeks of hard work for someone with experience developing course materials. If this is your first time, double the estimate to give you more time to research other examples of good materials, and to test the materials you create.

Training Delivery

Training is one of the most important end user activities for the DW/BI team. It is often your first real contact with many of the users. Youll make your first impression and begin building long- term relationships. As this section has shown, creating and delivering quality education is a lot of work, but its worth spending the time it takes to get it right.

Keep hands-on classes for ad hoc users relatively small10 to 20 people at a time. The number of workstations in the training facility is usually the limiting factor. Regardless of the class size , have an assistant in the classroom to help answer individual questions during the exercises. Plan to have one assistant for every 10 students.

The BI application one-hour class can be given to much larger groups because the format is presentation and demonstration. Because theres no hands-on content, provide attendees with handouts that include the presentation materials and key screen captures of the demos. People can use these to get started when they get back to their desks.

A day or two before class, send out reminders to all registered students. Verify that you have enough copies of the materials and that the training facility is set up with all needed software installed and working. Provide coffee and snacks for the students, especially for an all-day class.

The day of the class, arrive early and set up the room as you want it. It helps to have a registration area with the registration list, course materials and name tents so people can sign in when they come into the room. Start and end on time. If youre clear about timing and stick to your schedule, people will quickly understand that youre serious.

Although you may have attended many classes, if you havent taught one before, youre in for a surprise. Teaching a full-day class is exhausting work. If this is your first time teaching, practice with a friendly audience before working with new users. Get feedback on your style and suggestions for improvement.