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King County's Cloud User Training Program

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As part of Quest’s 2019 Cloud Webinar Series – EPM Cloud Day, James Walsh, Technology Manager at King County’s Office of Performance, Strategy, and Budget, presented on how King County approached, developed, and delivered user training support for its 120 new Cloud users.

About King County

King County is located in the State of Washington and spans 2,134 sq. miles. With 2.2 million people residing there, King County makes up 29 percent of the state’s population, holds 40 percent of the state’s jobs, and makes up more than 50 percent of the state’s economy. It is currently one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States. From its very core, King County is bounding with diversity. In fact, one of every five residents was born in another country. Over 170 languages are presently spoken in the schools in King County, and 12 languages are supported on its website.

King County provides critical local and regional services to millions of people, with a two-year budget of about $11.7 billion, with over 15,000 employees, and more than 60 lines of business. Lines of business include transit, solid waste, water waste treatment, public health, sheriff, prosecuting attorney, superior and district court, and animal services to name a few. Our General Fund of $1.8 billion supports the traditional functions of a county government, most of which are required by law. ¾ of the General Fund is spent on criminal justice and public safety. King County develops a highly engaged, diverse, culturally responsive, and high performing workforce; training is paramount to the success of our businesses.

Objectives of User Training

The objectives of King County’s training program were to:

  • Present a case study intended for enterprise systems managers who need to develop, deliver, and support a training program for a new or existing system or application
  • Provide an example of a training program and approach for a large number of users that can be delivered by a non-trainer
  • Share the experience and learning gained from developing and delivering the training
  • Answer questions on challenges others may be encountering

King County implemented Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) in the summer of 2017. They completed the four-month project in August with a soft open in September for budget office only and later had a full go live in February 2018.

King County developed a change management strategy during a six-month window while developing a training program in the first quarter of 2018. They opened the system to approximately 150 department users in April 2018. They developed training based on their experience and common sense. King County assumed that system users learn through a variety of styles – written, visual, hands-on, practice, and reinforcement through follow-up working labs – and attempted to build all of these learning styles into the delivery.

When developing its training strategy, King County solidified the following key objectives:

  1. Don’t Jump the Gun: Don’t open your system to users without a solid training program.
  2. Many Hands Make Light Work: Build a training team and approach.
  3. On Your Mark, Get Set, Go: Develop your training materials early and plan your classes.
  4. Don’t Forget to Dot Your “I’s” and Cross Your “T’s”: Be prepared and manage details.
  5. “Houston, We Have a Problem”: Troubleshooting on the fly.
  6. “We Have Liftoff”: System is open, continue to support and train.
  7. When All is Said and Done: Most important takeaways.

Strategy for User Training

When developing their strategy, the King County team felt that it was important to begin planning early and to build a strong team for support. It is also helpful to estimate the number of students to determine the number of necessary training sessions. King County spent significant time thinking about the training content and scheduled and locked-in training rooms and lab rooms in advance.

Define Your Scope

When determining a training approach, it is important to identify what is in scope and not in scope and relay this information to the users. You should also identify a system environment to use for the training (i.e. TEST or PROD). Next, you should plan the follow-up communication with users after class:

  • Sending the PROD URLs
  • How to login
  • Providing troubleshooting guides
  • User manual
  • Smart view templates for the user

Scheduling User Training

Create a training record and use a sign-in sheet. Avoid using Outlook to schedule classes. Use Eventbrite, free of charge, to send invitations and manage session attendance. In this forum, it is a first come first serve basis, and sessions close online when full. Publish the training schedule early so users can plan their attendance. Send Eventbrite invitations as early as possible.

Determine User Skill Level

Estimate training content that can be covered (two hours of training maximum). Determine the user skill level. Brainstorm how you can organize your users by skill level, and then target classes for each individual skill level if possible. Avoid training users too early as training materials are rarely retained without the immediate use of knowledge. King County found two weeks to be adequate time.

Handling Change Management

King County explained that the change management system is very important and relies heavily on communication. They have found it significant to engage users in system change decisions. You should document key system/process changes into all materials and present the changes in meetings and materials. Changes should be communicated at standing meetings and in budget instructions, as well as via training documentation. Lastly, summarize and communicate changes in classroom training.

Gather Your Team

After finalizing your training approach, the next step would be to gather your team. Leverage the staff you already have. Make a list of team roles needed (project manager, class trainers, lab helpers, training material developers, exercise and presentation script developers, and system administrators), and recruit staff to fill them. Often times, people play more than one role.

After you build your team, hold weekly meetings to get things accomplished, make people accountable, and keep them engaged. In an effort to maintain consistency throughout the training program, a training script was developed at King County – complete with step and key points for the instructor to ensure that consistent, quality training was accomplished.

Develop User Training Materials and Be Prepared

King County was able to develop its class exercises by identifying the tasks and learning points of the training. Once these were established, they were crafted into exercises, which would teach the concepts to the class.

It is always a good idea to develop training materials early. Doing so allows you time to hold practice sessions with the training team, while simultaneously testing the room AV and computers. Perfection during training is unrealistic. You can, however, obtain some peace of mind having well thought out planning and good training materials. Make it part of your work plan and prioritize it.

King County also highly recommended committing people and resources for training well in advance. Don’t be afraid to delegate but be ready to step in if needed when problems arise, or training staff is unexpectedly unavailable.

Many times, training can be a drag. Do your best to make it fun and bring the user along as a partner. Make support accessible and easy to use after training has been concluded.

Be prepared. This means paying attention to every detail. Prepare the rooms. Make sure computer URLs are updated, check browser availability (IE, Firefox, and Chrome), and ensure Excel/SmartView templates are on all computers. Preparation of the PBCS Training Environment includes:

  • Verification that the training environment has been set up to mimic production
  • Verification that it has the latest data
  • Verification of added security for the connection

Training presentations should be given using the Budget Training Manual for reference with how-to exercises and step-by-step instructions. It is crucial that all trainers use the master script and take note of issues that come up throughout the session and address such issues and concerns in closing.

Be Ready to Troubleshoot

Troubleshooting on the fly means always having a back-up plan for if/when things go sideways. If the system is down, spend time walking through learning steps, have handouts, and reschedule the class if necessary. You may come across user issues, for example, not everyone is logged into the system, so it is a good idea to set aside 30 minutes for login issues, have test IDs for users, and double up on computers with the buddy system. Reminder emails are always a good way to test login prior to class. In the event that you, as a trainer, have a class in which user experience disparity is present, it can be extremely beneficial to assign helpers/rovers to provide additional support for lower skill level users.

Once the system is open with all users trained and knowledgeable about how to use the system, it is then time to reinforce training goals through scheduled working labs. You should be accessible to troubleshoot user issues and survey users at the end of the process. Prepare a Plus/Delta review with your team to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the training.

Post-Training Evaluations

Post-session evaluation is critical for successful training. Using this strategy, King County found that it created an even workload for the team. Helpers in labs were another positive factor as they helped students stay on track and maintain class cohesion. King County found the system to be stable and much more intuitive.

Regarding the PSB training, the timing was right, and the level of training was on point. Trainers were knowledgeable and delivered more than just process and content. They afforded more color and interesting information, all while staying on script. Scheduling was satisfactory, and PBCS training was smooth. King County was pleased with the tiny URL selected for the program.

Areas of Improvement

After completing its user training program, King County identified a few areas of improvement:

  • Scheduling conflicts
  • Outdated presentation materials
  • Practice for trainers
  • PIC – more time/data training trainer to be ‘technical
  • Required training for all agency users without the option for opt-in
  • Making sure practice data is available
  • A necessity for different training outside of system to improve quality
  • Updating description reports
  • Necessity for a “sample” book of reports
  • Consideration for super-users and their needs
  • Necessity for a training plan with different materials
  • Necessity for earlier CIP Training

As a reminder, labs should be utilized for hands-on, follow-up support. A lab schedule should be provided for all users. Clearly communicate lab time as an opportunity for working on your budget. Make sure that there are three or four rovers in labs at all times to ensure one-on-one time for individuals who find themselves needing additional assistance. If a big issue is identified in the lab, prepare to speak to the group, as a whole, to share learning. Most importantly, make training lab a friendly, informal, safe place to learn.

Key Takeaways

  • Non-trainers can create and deliver large training effort
  • The team makes the difference
  • Delegate tasks to the team and manage as a project
  • Plan and schedule are essential for success
  • Limit your scope to include only the essentials
  • Follow up with post-training support
  • Make it fun and enjoy the experience
  • View your student as a partner
  • Remove perfection from your training expectations

To learn more about King County’s Cloud user training, check out the presentation from the 2019 Cloud Webinar Series – EPM Cloud Day. To access the rest of the recordings from the 2019 Cloud Webinar Series, visit the landing page.

Additional Resources

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