It’s a painful story. A company makes a significant investment in high-end collaboration solutions for multiple conference rooms, but they’re not getting used. For the executive responsible for this large purchase, this is a disaster. The goal of any high-tech AV room is not to simply impress, but to actually be used for business. It takes proper planning for adoption to happen, and the training required to achieve this must follow a carefully thought out strategy. When it’s brushed-off as a last-minute, cursory obligation, often done by someone in IT, the solution will most likely sit and collect dust.
Change is always a challenge. They’ll always be resistance to anything new and different, but leadership must find ways to overcome this reluctance. To start, before the solutions are deployed, managers should get employees can get warmed-up to the idea. For example, a company can send out sending out newsletters and emails discussing the arrival of the new AV technology and get the team acclimated to the idea. The messaging can provide specific examples of how a department can benefit from using the technology and include use cases of how others have improved their throughput with it. Advanced communication showing how the solution increases productivity sets the stage for acceptance and proves the value of making the transition. An effective training and adoption strategy should always include this first step.
Next, all end-users should be trained. People can only use the technology if they know how, and although the IT staff may feel it’s intuitive to operate, that’s not always the case. Because the staff looks through their own lense, they may not be the right resource to deliver training.
“Adoption is the biggest hurdle to a successful AV deployment,” says Bonnie Fritz, project manager for OfficePro, a software and technology training company. “Typically, an internal IT person is focused on other concerns like the security of the network and not having enough bandwidth to support video conferencing. As a result, they’re more inclined to rush through training and concentrate on fixing infrastructure issues, their primary responsibility.”
Typically, AV integrators leave the training to either installers or engineers. Sometimes, it’s even pushed off to a technology partner, so it’s often done quickly by someone with a technical background. This is not the skillset needed to actually ensure adoption and often leads to poor results. “Training delivered by professionals with a solid background in adult learning, instructional design and customer service,” adds Fritz. “For end-users to truly embrace the technology, they have to get comfortable using it. This requires hands-on learning with mentoring from an experienced educator, not a programmer, system architect, or engineer.”
When done correctly, training can be the most important step to ensuring acceptance of the new technology. In fact, IVCi feels so strongly about it, that training and adoption services are included as a key line item on many quotes. “Training for collaboration systems should be a requirement for all new implementations where end-users are new to AV technology or even if there’s a significant overhaul of an existing solution,” advises Jan Timmer, an IVCi senior account manager. “When an organization invests a large part of their IT budget in communication and collaboration technologies, it should make sure user adoption is a number one priority. This is crucial to realizing its ROI and objectives that were established at the start of the project.”
Don’t forget to address training issues early on. Functional requirements for an AV solution are defined during pre-sales meetings. During the discovery process where all space requirements and goals are carefully considered, questions should also be directed towards disclosing the knowledge and experience levels of the general user population and the size of the IT department; often the group is short-staffed, so training becomes an additional burden. Outsourcing this service is well worth the expense. Employing education professionals with the appropriate skillset is a practical, cost-effective method of delivery.
Using training and adoption services is insurance for getting the full value from a large technology investment; skip this step and the project could fail completely, simply because employees aren’t using it. That’s why an experienced AV integrator includes education. “To stress the value of training services, I show how little it costs in relation to the overall investment,” Timmer shares. “I do this by providing the cost-per-person, which is often a very easy number to digest. Key stakeholders in the project should quickly see that it’s an affordable add-on that’s easily outsourced for maximum benefit.”
After hosting a training session, knowledge retention can present a secondary challenge. If the technology isn’t used every day, it’s quickly forgotten. Printed and laminated Quick Reference Guides can be kept with equipment, so anyone entering the room has immediate access to easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions. These support documents should be written by training professionals so they’re simple to understand and offer only essential information.
“Effective user training improves productivity and reduces the number of phone calls made to my help desk staff,” says Vincent Carroll, IVCi’s client services manager. “There will be a boost in productivity because the end-users will be able to resolve minor issues on their own and only call for help when there are more complicated problems.”
In the end, it’s important to monitor the effectiveness of any training session. Surveys provided to participants soliciting valuable feedback should always be included. By including employees’ advice in making improvements, they become even more incentivized to use the system, and support its adoption.
Embracing new technology can be challenging for many. With a carefully defined and executed training and adoption strategy, this transition can go smoothly. Outsourcing this key step is a great way to secure the success of any expensive implementation. Don’t forget that technology is nothing without people using it. By working closely with a professional educational services provider, employees will be given the instruction they need to use new AV rooms and solutions effectively.
Diane Hagan is a Marketing Content Specialist for IVCi in Hauppauge, NY. She has over 20 years of experience in Marketing Communications.