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Thursday, December 05, 2013

New Technology, Old Training

I see new technology being rapidly deployed all around me. Hospitals are adopting new software like Epic and new tools like Apple’s iPad. Corporate classrooms are getting new displays like the Promethean interactive display. Large organizations are hiring Javascript writers to code new web-based applications for their entire workforce to use. Retailers are putting in yet another self-serve check-out system or new scanner software for their cashiers to use. Mom and Pop and the kids at home are tinkering with devices that use Android, iOS or Windows interfaces. Even mobile wallets like the Isis are slowly creeping through society.

In most cases the ways we use our technology, the so-called “User Interface,” is starting to become more intuitive. Some designers, like Apple or the people at Promethean, have included design concepts and controls that allow users to quickly begin to benefit from their new hardware and software. Other developers are spending many long hours making certain all the required functions are in the product, somewhere, someplace, deep down. Using the interface becomes a tug-of-war Eastport Tug of War 13113143 Hardware and software deployment still appears to be the after-thought in every single case. I cannot say how much time was spent on User Acceptance Testing (UAT) on some products but I can guess that in some cases the UAT process was brief. It often is. Yet, if you do not test a software interface or hardware functions with a group that closely resembles society you run the great risk that your product will only be understood by a few.

To be certain there is usually the one to four-hour training class for most new technology. Some people will get to this class while others may not. The class may be held close to and even after the date the new product is actually available or the class may be held weeks in advance of the arrival of the new interface. This timing of training is critical but often overlooked.

After the class is conducted, the product is rolled out to a large audience. Some people get some of the functions and neglect other parts of the interface at first. Others are stymied from the start.

Consumer product manufacturers tend to rely on the 5-minute lesson from the sales rep, maybe a small brochure that gets thrown out with the packaging, an on-line tutorial few will find and the customer service 800 number. Few invest in ideas like Apple’s Genius bar or Verizon’s Wireless Workshops. Corporate software developers like Epic or the in-house web application team depend on training departments and an 800 desk. Yet without follow-up training, refresher courses, quick reference materials and actual human floor support, many products will not reach the very users that could benefit the most. Products go under-used or unused and may be even returned In the end all the players in this process, the manufacturer, the retailers, and the consumers depend on a successful deployment. It is time more thought and money is invested in the implementation process.