Opportunity Knocks

Written By: Richard L. Whaley of Accolade Publications, Inc.

from September 25, 2012

Training is an on-going issue for users of software. Constant changes in the programs, the procedures, and governmental regulations require users to keep up with the changes that affect their Microsoft Dynamics solution. Add to that the flow of new employees – and training can become a full-time avocation. A constant struggle to keep teams properly trained in the face of shrinking budgets requires firms to search all of the training opportunities for those that best fit their needs and budgets.

A number of training opportunities exist in the Microsoft Dynamics world. These include one-on-one training from a firm’s partner, classroom training sessions, web training, conferences, and enhanced documentation.

One-on-One Partner Training

This is by far the best training option, but also the most expensive. Hiring a consultant to spend a few days on site allows the consultant to present customized training specific to the firm’s business model. Most Microsoft Dynamics solutions have more features than any firm needs to use. One-on-one training allows a consultant to teach only those features needed by the firm or even by the specific team being trained.

Classroom Training

Classroom training offers dedicated trainers and training rooms and is available from a number of Microsoft Dynamics partners. Individuals from a firm can attend a class with users from other firms and learn a broader view of the software. Frequently, during implementation, consultants teach firms what they need to know to run their business “as usual” but overlook other software features that may provide beneficial functionality. Learning the product – or at least having one person from a firm learn the product – through a classroom experience can open doors to additional functionality.

Web Training

Several organizations including Dynamics University, GPUG.com, and CRMUG.com – along with particular partners and ISVs – provide a series of web based training classes. Some of these are available to all users while other classes require an enrollment fee or membership in  the organization. Many of the training platforms require attendees to provide a copy of the software on their laptops. This frequently leads to variations as different firms are licensed for different components of the software. However, attendance at a web training class does reduce the cost of travel and the training obtained through attendance at a webinar is worth the investment.

Conferences

Many organizations offer conferences – ranging from customer appreciation days, to Microsoft Dynamics Community Summits, to Microsoft’s Convergence. Customer appreciation days are held by partners all across the country. Most include lunch, seminars on new products, and training on new features. The Dynamics Community Summits and Microsoft’s Convergence are several day long events held annually. These conferences have a trade show with many vendors showing new available enhancements, seminars, and meetings. The Microsoft Dynamics Community Summits are run by a user organization while Convergence is run by Microsoft and is more focused on the future of the Microsoft Dynamics products.

Documentation

Documentation that a user can pull off the shelf and read is extremely helpful in maintaining the skill levels needed to run software. Some functions, most notably the Year End Closing process, are run less frequently than daily shipping of products or invoicing of customers. The ability to grab a book and refresh the long-ago provided training can help users significantly. Training books provide a broader look at the software and often discuss features that are not being used but could be very helpful. Microsoft provides a set of downloadable manuals that cover the basic entry of data into screens and the printing of reports. Other, more user-tasked based books are available from several sources including Accolade Publications, Inc. (www.AccoladePublications.com). Make use of your Microsoft Partner’s classroom training and make sure that documentation is available to help answer deeper questions.

Designate specific people as trainers for specific topics and always use these people to train new users. When new users join the organization, avoid the trap of having the last new person in the department train the current new person. Each new trainer in a firm will change the story a bit. After a few cycles of this the training new users receive sounds nothing like what was presented in the original training.

Make use of your Microsoft Partner’s classroom training and make sure that documentation is available to help answer deeper questions.

Training is important to the successful utilization of complex ERP and CRM solutions like those in the Microsoft Dynamics family. Not every new employee can attend national conferences like Convergence, but every new employee using the solution should have access to someone in the firm who knows the software and available documentation. After a few months, key new people can be sent to appropriate classes to refine their knowledge while the firm’s IT manager and Accounting Team managers can attend the annual conference and bring back the newest information from Microsoft. The more you know, the more your solution will work for you!