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Learning & Adoption Strategy – The Milestones

Regular Member

Learning & Adoption Strategy – The Milestones

In the first parts of this series, I talked about the value of having a Learning & Adoption Strategy in place early and discussing the questions of WHO and WHERE we should be informing and training. In today’s blog, I would like to take a close look at the learning and adoption timeline, the milestones, and discuss these in the context of the overarching implementation project plan. WHEN should we run our information and motivation campaigns and our trainings?

In the past we have seen that implementation project plans have often been created without considering the learning and adoption work stream properly. Or, if a training work stream was considered, only generic tasks like “training” are added not aligned to other project work streams.

It is important to consider Learning & Adoption tasks and milestones in the overall project plan right from the beginning. It’s one of the major mistakes in project plans seeing the “training” tasks only related to end-users and considering these tasks standalone at the end of the project. As to be seen in the picture below there are considerable Learning & Adoption activities right in the beginning of a project:

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Training Milestones

The training milestones should be aligned to the project set-up and implementation tasks as well as the go-live. As a best practice we theoretically split the overall project into 3 phases and ask the typical questions:

  • Project Start: WHO shall be trained and informed, WHERE, WHEN, WHAT, HOW?
  • Technical Consolidation and Testing: WHO shall be trained and informed, WHERE, WHEN, WHAT, HOW?
  • Go-Live: WHO shall be trained and informed, WHERE, WHEN, WHAT, HOW?

With this 3-phase-structure the Learning & Adoption Strategy considers the different teams to be prepared for supporting the project, e.g. the client’s specialists are meant to be a part of the new process definition or the testing team. Finding the project teams (WHO-question at the 3 phases) the project related milestones in these phases can easily be named. In general, we are considering the following teams:

  • (client) Implementation Team
    In practice we often see requests for training short after the project start. There is a ramp-up needed in the basics of the new software for the client process specialists to be able to work together with our process and implementation specialists. These trainings are based on standard material, maybe configured using selected content to meet the general needs. It is essential to plan and schedule the needed ramp-up to be started short after the project kick-off.
  • (client) Test Team
    Shortly before the test phase starts, additional trainings are needed for testers from the practice coming in to the project. These trainings need to be customized to the implemented use-cases. Even if the training material creation process hasn’t started by this time or is still ongoing, we prepare tailored trainings by using a mix of standard content, documented use-cases retyped for training purposes or already prepared “Quick Reference Cards” to support practical use-cases and prepare the testers for executing the tests. In addition, the test execution should be supported by a well prepared list of test cases, test case documentation and support for the test-team during the tests. Only with defined and scheduled testers’ training and support the test-phase can be executed.
  • (client) Administrators
    When completing  the project and leaving the client site, the implementation team hands over all responsibility to the local administrators. We talk about two types of administrators; the IT personnel taking care of the stable and well performing server, so-called “System Administrators”, and the personnel responsible for the workflows, the processes the user maintenance and in general the implementation’s usage in the field. We call the latter “Business Administrators”.
    Training and ramp-up plans for administrators should be considered very early in the project. Experience has shown that the administrators can give valuable input in the new system´s set-up as they know “their” system inside out.
  • (client) Hotline and Mentoring Team
    For supporting the end-users a team of local mentors and/or central remote support needs to be prepared for their upcoming tasks. Related to their individual support roles, this team is ramped-up in parallel to the end-users but with broader training content to achieve a deeper knowledge and understanding. For ensuring fast implementation value a support team ramp-up schedule and aligned milestones need to be in place for team invitation and assigning the time for these critical resources.
  • (client) Adoption Team
    In an implementation with severe changes of processes and tools, information and motivation are critical to the project success. Local individuals that have been appointed to act as “Ambassadors” should be prepared for supporting the change. The ambassadors need to be informed on the global values as well as on tool usage. By having well-balanced training and information packages for the ambassadors their messages to other employees are based on own experiences and guarantee confidence and positive excitement for the change.
  • (client) Extended Team
    The influence of workers’ councils and unions should not be underestimated. In some countries it´s even mandatory to gain their approval for changing to new processes or tools and train the staff. There should be dedicated information or training activity to achieve the councils’ and unions’ support.
    Other supporting activities and departments should be involved as well, such as the Human Resources departments. The global or the local HR departments are needed for training invitation or training room booking.
    All the extended teams need to be identified (see the WHO blog) and considered in the Learning & Adoption milestones.

Even if these teams have much less personnel than the later end-users they need to be considered due to their major impact on the project success. Only by naming and considering these teams the Learning & Adoption milestones can be listed and aligned to the overall project plan.

Some major project milestones with direct impact to training milestones are:

Learning & Adoption MilestoneRelated/influencing  Project MilestoneNote
Learning & Adoption Strategy StartProject StartL&A Strategy should be part of the project set-up, definition and planning.
Project Kick-OffProject Kick-OffShould be part of the adoption program.
Training Material EditingTechnical Code FreezeTechnical and process implementations should be finished before course customization starts. In practice, the training material customization starts before the code freeze.
Training Environment ReadyTechnical Code FreezeThe final training environment is needed for aligning the training material use cases or screenshots with the environment used e.g. in lab exercises.
Training Editorial DeadlineNo direct impact from other project milestones. Important for the following training milestones.
Training Material Printing & ShippingGo-LiveCa. 2 weeks are needed for training material printing and shipping. Calculate sufficient time for printing and shipping. Consider extended time needed for shipping to other countries!
Training Room PreparationGo-LiveEven if the preparation for already existing training rooms may be a marginal task, there is only a short time-window for preparing the rooms before training starts. Each day a training room is not set-up properly can waist 10 working days from the users!
Train-the-TrainerGo-LiveThere is only a short time-window between the finished training material and the first trainings. Any TtT session should be planned early enough … and don´t forget the trainer’s trainer, a room and a training environment!
Training StartGo-LiveThis milestone is one of the most important milestones with impact to other decisions. Consider the number of trainings to be delivered in the time window and the resulting number of trainers or rooms!
User Support StartGo-LiveThe user support start can be defined as a date and a real milestone. In practice, we often realize that not all users start working on the new system at the actual go-live date because of processes, different local start dates or by users’ fear during the first days. Consider an increasing user support for the first days or weeks as an “extended” milestone.
User Support EndGo-LiveAnother extended milestone: a decreasing user support team follows the practice of decreasing user requests. There is a milestone where the project-related user support is ended and softly passing over to the daily business of user support. 

Tip: In project plans, create a dependency from technical tasks to training tasks. If technical tasks will be delayed the training tasks should be delayed as well!

Tip: In the project plans, add the training tasks to the critical path. If training task prerequisites failed in keeping their deadline the training work stream should not be made responsible for keeping the go-live date!

One of the most important relations between the technical implementation work stream and the training work stream is the milestone of “Training Environment Ready”. A simple calculation of this milestone is:

training hot phase duration = training phase + trainer and classroom prep + training material prep

In the simplified example below we can easily calculate the milestone of the “Technical Code Freeze” as related input parameter for the training hot phase:

  • x weeks of end-user training
    Depending on the number of users, user profile and training needs, training sites, …
  • x weeks of training classroom preparation
    Including trainer preparation for delivering customized trainings, room preparation and training material printing & shipping or eLearning material set-up
  • x weeks of training material preparation
    Heavily impacted on major decisions such as re-use of standard training material, grade of customization, didactical delivery methods or the need for translation of the customized training material

Calculation of milestone of the “Technical Code Freeze”:

SNAG-0002.jpg

This calculation is one of the first estimates done in a Learning & Adoption Strategy. In later project phases, this calculation will be verified and detailed, based on other decisions.

It is essential for a successful project to consider the critical path of the training “hot phase” in the overall project plan. The more client-specific implementation and customization is needed the more user-specific training material needs to be prepared. Not to mention the time needed for translating the training material in international projects!

Adoption Milestones

There are adoption milestones in parallel to training milestones. Even if the adoption tasks are very important for a valuable and successful implementation, these milestones for informing and motivating users and managers normally don´t have a direct impact on the go-live and are not in the critical project path. Examples for adoption milestones are

  • Project Kick-Off
  • Manager Information
  • User Information
  • Gathering manager input for risk analysis
  • Organization readiness check
  • Training invitation
  • Training feedback analysis

Learning & Adoption Milestones in Practice

In practice, it sometimes happens that even major milestones from the technical or process implementation are not met. The training team can absorb some time delays but only with additional resources and budget. For example, if the technical implementation is late. In this case, the training material preparation can start or being continued if already started. But finished training material needs to be reviewed and updated to represent the latest technical changes so the users can be trained according to the actual system.

In order not to delay the training milestone of the editorial deadline, additional authors need to be staffed on a short term and additional budget for review and rework tasks is needed.

Tip: Consider there are a maximum number of authors to work in parallel based on different technical topics or other editorial tasks like the translation.

Tip: Consider the author’s ramp-up time and support from the technical team if questions come up.

Note: You cannot add any number of authors for training material creation to compress this task!

Learning & Adoption Questions and Decisions Influencing Each Other

In a Learning & Adoption Strategy the decisions influence each other. When it comes to the WHEN considering the milestones, work packages and timelines aligned to other project milestones, some decisions of WHO, WHERE or HOW may need an update. So the definition of WHEN shall never been seen as a standalone task.

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Summary for the WHEN in a Learning & Adoption Strategy

Here are some tips to consider the WHEN defining the milestones in a Learning & Adoption Strategy:

  1. Define the Learning & Adoption milestones as soon as possible. First, use generic tasks and durations relative to the go-live.
  2. Consider the Learning & Adoption milestones in the overall project plan.
  3. Align the required Learning & Adoption milestones to technical milestones
  4. Consider the project teams and administrators as well as end-users.

The milestones defined in a Learning & Adoption Strategy share the same importance as the milestones for the implementation or the data migration. Only well-trained, informed, motivated and supported users will contribute to the aspired project success and value. Without defined and monitored Learning & Adoption milestones the project success is at risk from the start.

In Part 5 of this article, we will talk about the next detail of a Learning & Adoption Strategy considering the training content or curriculum (WHAT).