'Computers: fast, accurate, stupid. Man: slow, slovenly, smart.' So reads the sign hanging in an office I visited recently. It's not all that amusing, though. Information technology (IT) systems, those essential operational business tools, will not deliver business benefits on their own. It is the people using IT who make the difference between organisations that optimise their return on IT investment and those that don't. Effective education and training of staff are vital to achieving success with IT. The problem is that the quality and subsequent value of the training being offered varies enormously. So how can you guarantee value for money?
First, make sure the training is done as a result of a formal, planned evaluation of needs. Typically, less than half of all training undertaken is specified in this way. Planning and evaluation are essential to reinforce the need to maintain investment in training and to ensure its benefits are realised and linked to company objectives.
Second, go to a company where training is its specialisation, not just a sideline to selling PCs or consultancy. A professional training organisation will be able to provide guarantees about the quality and relevance of the instruction given. It can give details about the course content, the class size and teaching method, and can supply a clear definition about the intended audience, including the expected aptitudes, qualifications and experience of students. This type of organisation can also explain how students are assessed and whether or not the course is industry accredited and leads to a recognised qualification.
You should check the qualifications and experience of the instructors, and whether the course materials are of a standard you would expect for a professional in-service course. Also find out whether the course fee includes meals, accommodation and materials, or other extras.
Finally, you might want to change the time and date of the training to fit in with your business requirements, so ensure that you can cancel or postpone the course within a reasonable period without incurring charges.
This advice may seem obvious, but it is amazing how few people observe it. You wouldn't allow untrained people to drive the company vehicles, so why allow them to drive the company's information? IT training is not an optional extra - it's an essential component.
Rob Wirszycz is marketing and strategy director of EDS UK, 0181 535 3200.