Blog Posts Process Analysis

Project Delivery Process D780

Blog: Biz-Performance, David Brown

D780 – Support Staff Training

SIIPS Delivery Processes (D).png


SIIPS D780.pngSpecialised training is required for the staff who will be supporting the system.


Although training for support staff needs to meet the specific needs of this particular group, the principles detailed for user and management training are valid for the training activities of 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 support staff.  As such it will cover:
  • the role(s) of support 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 support staff may require training.


Prerequisites (Finish-Start):
  • D850   Define and agree terms of reference for live user support activity
  • D860   Define live support mechanisms
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
  • User manual
  • Terms of reference for live user support activity


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


  • Guidelines to be developed
  • Examples: Staff Management Skill Profiles
  • Examples: Staff User Skill Profiles
  • Example deliverables to be supplied


Understanding the specific responsibilities of support staff
In order to meet the specific training needs of 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, responsibilities assigned to support staff are:
  • identifying user problems
  • solving user queries
  • controlling local IT environment
  • passing on issues from users to operations people as appropriate
  • control use/procedures locally
  • coach users
  • identify best practices, spread tips and hints
  • providing help and help desk facilities
  • setting up new or ad-hoc reports and enquiries using end-user tools
  • checking the system’s controls
  • ensuring errors and exceptions are being dealt with by the staff responsible
  • organise, deliver user training
  • organise set-up of new users.
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 support 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).

Current trends

The boundaries between operations and support staff responsibilities 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’.[1]
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 categories in conjunction with one another to obtain a complete and clear picture of the respective responsibilities and hence training needs:
  • 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.  Support staff are often drawn from the user population (preferably following a user role on the project team).  This means that they will often be unfamiliar with the role, requirements and concept of user support work.

Synergy with user and user management training

The training planning, development and delivery process as described in D760 is largely applicable to training support 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 and support responsibilities.  Moreover, whereas in most system implementations a number of users fulfil the same business role and hence have similar training requirements.  Support 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 competency of support staff to react quickly and effectively to user comments and problems during the startup period will have a significant impact on the effective use of the system by the users and their perception of the benefits it realises for them.
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 support 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 support 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 support 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 support staff it will be appropriate to consider the importance of the following four categories of skills:
  • technical skills
Support staff need to understand how software and hardware operate and how errors can be diagnosed and solved
  • business understanding
Support 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 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
Support people are by the nature of their role experts 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 and 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

[1] Hierarchy of help is an approach to user support whereby access to help is made as easy as possible for the users but consists of different mechanisms each designed to provide a specific type of support and activated by the users in a hierarchical way.  Typical levels are on-line help, user manuals on-line and/or on paper, local expert, helpline.  In case of a problem, users will follow an accepted path through the different mechanisms, e.g. they will first consult the local expert before contacting the central helpline.

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