Blog Posts Process Analysis

Project Delivery Process D770

Blog: Biz-Performance, David Brown

D770 – Operations Training

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SIIPS D770.pngComputer operations staff must be trained in running the application.  They must be familiar with the normal interactions that are required and what abnormal conditions they might be expected to handle.


Although training operations staff needs to meet the specific needs of these particular groups, the principles detailed for users and user management training are valid for the training activities of operations and support staff.
For that reason this process description has been conceived as an ‘exception’ description and should be read in conjunction with D760 (Plan, prepare and deliver user and user management training).  This process will not repeat any generic principles relating to the training activity, but will list the issues that are specific to training operations and support staff.  As such it will cover:
  • the role(s) of operations staff
  • the typical skill sets to be considered
  • the current trends in organisations
  • specific items that need to be taken into account for the different roles.


This process is optional.  It is used where operations staff require training.


Prerequisites (Finish-Start):
  • D720   Prepare and instigate operators’ instructions, procedures and manual
Prerequisites (Finish-Finish):
  • D730   Identify human and organisational issues
  • D740   Plan and activate human resources and organisational change
Dependent procedures (Finish-Finish):
  • D870   Plan and instigate phased transition to live operation and support and phasing out of Project Team support


  • Organisational impact implementation paper
  • Operators’ instructions, procedures and manual
  • System Handover Plan IP
  • Transition Plan


  • Training approach implementation paper
  • Skills/training profile matrix
  • Outline course/specifications
  • Tactical training plan
  • Training courses/materials
  • Training notes


  • Examples: Staff Management Skill Profiles
  • Examples: Staff User Skill Profiles


Understanding the specific responsibilities of operations and support staff
In order to meet the specific training needs of the operations and support staff it will be essential to have a complete overview of the responsibilities assigned to these groups and the distribution of tasks amongst the different people involved.  Typically, computer operation responsibilities may cover:
  • processing batch operations
  • operating machines, software and networks
  • monitoring of operations
  • system tuning
  • hardware maintenance
  • software maintenance
  • monitoring system usage
  • network monitoring
  • data and database maintenance
  • configuration management / release management
  • user set-up
  • report distribution management
  • control and processing of interfaces.
Every organisation will allocate responsibilities in its own particular way.  It is therefore useful to start by analysing in detail what the current responsibilities of the operations functions are and how these might change due to the introduction of the new system. Some of this analysis might already have been done in R090 (organisational impact) and D730 (identify human and organisational issues).
Where the new systems involve new systems architecture, the existing responsibilities and ways of working may change substantially.  For example, when changing the technical platform from a mainframe-oriented platform to a client-server oriented platform, skills will have to be developed to handle the more distributed environment.  This would include knowledge of:
  • the handling of personal computers as a part of the business application solution,
  • supporting network services,
  • changes in operating systems and utilities normally expected.

Current trends

The boundaries between operations staff and support staff are different from organisation to organisation and depend upon the degree of centralisation and specialisation the organisation wants to maintain.  Current organisational trends tend to move more and more responsibilities away from the central DP department closer to the users.  This is usually the result of one or a combination of the following:
  • cost control
  • distributed processing
  • distributed IS functions
  • increased user ownership
  • first line support needs
  • outsourcing
  • support systems based on the principle of “hierarchy of help”.
Especially in multi-user systems this will lead to the existence of a variety of operations and support roles.  It may therefore be useful to consider the following roles in conjunction with one another to establish clearly how responsibilities will be shared and what training needs result from that set-up:
  • Central Computer Operations
  • Central User Support
  • Decentralised/local IT Administration
  • Local User Support/Experts
Whereas the central roles are usually allocated as full-time jobs, the local responsibilities will not necessarily take up a full-time job and the people involved are likely to have other workloads than just the local administration or support role.

Synergy with user and user management training

The training planning, development and delivery process as described in D760 is largely applicable to training operations and supports staff.  The main differences that need to be noted are:
  • different roles and responsibilities, hence different training needs
As identified above user responsibilities are different from operations responsibilities.  Moreover, whereas in most system implementations a number of users fulfil the same business role and hence have similar training requirements, operations staff are more likely to have specific responsibilities and hence specific training needs.  It will therefore be appropriate to mix traditional training sessions with sufficient levels of one-to-one coaching, shadowing and expert support techniques.
  • higher criticality of their full understanding and competency to carry out their tasks once the system is implemented.
The activities of the operations staff have a major impact on the system performance.  Any errors generated by the operations staff are likely to be highly visible and cause difficulties for a large number of people, hindering the normal functioning of the business and potentially generating major user resistance.
It will therefore be appropriate to give a lot of attention to monitoring and testing the training effectiveness and provide sufficient reinforcement and catch-up training to ensure the right service levels can be met by operations staff
  • the importance of IT in their job motivation
For most users the IT system will be seen as a tool to perform their job responsibilities.  The real performance criteria they will use to judge themselves and/or colleagues will not be how well the IT system functions but how good they are at delivering customer service, production, sales or whichever process the IT is there to support.  For operations staff however the IT system is not so much a means to an end as it is the main focus of their job and therefore crucial in their job motivation.  Replacing a system is therefore likely to have a profound impact on their jobs, and will need to be supported with sufficient training and communication.
  • the accent on technical training
Technical training will be more important for operations staff than for the users. This will make it less relevant to involve in-house trainers or train-the trainer techniques than for user training. Typically third party expert training will be called for.
There will however be common training needs for users, support staff and operations staff. It is therefore recommended to develop the training approach paper to cover all three areas (user training, operations staff training and support staff training) in order to understand the potential synergies and the inevitable dependencies between the different training plans.

Specific skill sets to be considered

An effective training needs analysis will take into account all skills aspects of the role that the trainees will need to perform.  For operations staff it will be appropriate to consider the importance of the following four categories of skills:
  • technical skills
Operations staff need to understand how software, hardware, networks and databases operate and how errors can be diagnosed and solved.
  • business understanding
Operations staff need a sufficient level of business understanding to be able to devise urgent solutions to critical problems and to help them interpret the importance of certain problems for the users.
  • communication and people skills
In order to maintain a smooth operation and efficient problem solving, it will be vital that operations and support staff interact in an effective way with one another and with the user community, especially since a significant proportion of their interaction with the users takes place when the users are under stress because the system is causing problems for them.
  • role profiling skills
Operations people are by the nature of their role experts of (part of) the system.  They can play a crucial role in the realisation of potential benefits by the business users.  This will however require a specific skill set enabling them to profile themselves and their role in the right perspective and using appropriate influencing skills and techniques to ‘sell’ potential opportunities to the user community.

Operations and support staff training issues list

The table below highlights the main issues specific to training operational staff (and support staff).  It can be used as a checklist to assess whether all aspects have been considered on a specific training programme.
The first column describes the issue to be taken into consideration.  The next four columns allow for an assessment per subgroup (central operations, local operations, central support or local support).  The last column allows comments to be logged.
The table can be used as an initial assessment tool helping to identify which issues are applicable to which subgroups.  It can also be used as an evaluation tool once the training approach is defined to assess whether all the relevant issues have been taken into account.

Timing of the training
Does the training provide sufficient time to:
– learn
– try it out
– detect and correct errors
– acquire expertise
– acquire coaching experience
Critical success factors
Are the critical success factors for each of the areas below understood and identified:
– technical skills
– business skills
– people skills
– role profiling skills
Has the impact of errors on the overall system functioning and user commitment been identified
Have testing mechanisms been set-up :
– during formal training
– after formal training during learning period
Will staff be made available for necessary training?
Will current workloads be reorganised to accommodate training needs and transition period?
Will new recruits be brought on board in time for training.
Is sufficient involvement/ communication taking place with people whose current technical expertise is no longer going to be relevant
Is it clear whether people will be retrained, relocated or replaced by outsiders with right skill levels once the system is implemented
Are skill profiles for new recruits properly taken into account the new skill levels required

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