If you want to get me excited, talk about productivity and how to increase it. Here I’m going to discuss your accounting software. I’m speaking from experience as a software developer who has supported more than 40 client hospitals and as an accounting software trainer and consultant. Most of the clients in my accounting business realize only a fraction of the benefits they purchase with their software. I hope that once you fully realize how powerful your software programs are, you’ll share some of my excitement.
Let’s get to the heart of the issue: Learning takes time and costs money. If you want to maximize your software programs, you’ll have to invest in training for everyone who uses them. You want to see that there will be a significant return before you make that investment for yourself or your employees. So here are the questions you need to ask and answer in doing a cost-benefit analysis:
What functions does the application provide that you aren’t taking advantage of? You need to start with an overall vision of what benefits the application brings to your industry. Talk with an expert in the application who has gotten that vision through learning and experience. A small investment in expert analysis will save time and will probably result in the most cost-effective training solution. Although you may need to invest more time, look for local application users groups as a source of advice and information. Experts usually form these groups to seek referral business and, along with other users, will freely offer advice.
Most applications are regularly enhanced to keep up in a competitive environment. It’s a good idea to stay current with software enhancements, some of which come with program updates at no additional charge.
In what ways are you or your employees using the application in an inefficient manner? Work up a list of employee frustrations with the application — these are often due to a lack of training. Identify the types of accounting errors that occur and those functions that you think take too long to complete. Consult with your expert to separate training issues from application software issues. In addition to training, you may discover configuration issues that can be easily corrected.
What’s the cost of training? To evaluate the cost you need to establish the merits of the specific training. As a trainer, I can offer the benefit of my own experience. Hands on training in a computer lab is going to result in more learning and retention than simply listening to a lecture and watching a demo.
Most students will walk away from training remembering a small fraction of the class content. Participants need to keep reference materials they can refer to as the need arises. My primary objective is to give students a vision of what they can do and provide them with an exercise workbook with accompanying training data so they can repeat specific exercises as needed in the future. As long as they know they can do something, they have the tools to re-learn how to do it.
I offer both classroom training in a computer lab and individual coaching because each has it’s place. Group training is generally less expensive but less tailored to specific individual needs. I recommend a “foundation” class to give users that important vision of what the application can do for them, familiarize users with the program interface, and to teach them how to use the most common program functions.
I offer function-specific group classes because the knowledge a corporate controller or external certified public accountant requires is more comprehensive than that required of someone managing inventory or accounts payable. I also recommend individual coaching as a follow-up to the foundation class. I do this because I can devote the entire time to specific individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses.
It takes about 30 days to create a habit. A period of review and coaching can reinforce learning until it becomes a habit. With many accounting applications this can be done remotely over the Internet, thus creating a substantial savings.
What will be the savings or additional revenue that results from the training? You’ll be in a position to answer this question yourself only after you’ve answered the previous questions. A consultant with expertise in the application and experience in creating competent users can bring the benefits to your attention, but the benefits are truly realized in the implementation of the training.