Managing the Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail Whirlwind – Effective end-user training

By - May 20, 2013

Ask anyone who has been involved in a retail store opening and they will attest to to the ever-increasing cyclone of activity that occurs during the final 2 weeks before the store opening.  How does a software implementation manager survive in this chaotic environment, where the (already) limited resources become even tighter as every project, from IT to building construction, comes to fruition at the same time?

The first step to surviving this whirlwind of activity is to understand your position in it.  You have a hard deadline – the Open Date – and this is not going to change.  Too many marketing buys, ad drops and media spots have been purchased at this late time to move the date now.  So, you cannot adjust the time remaining on the project, and your resource pool has dropped due to the numerous emergencies and the infamous “other priorities” that always seem to crop up as these resources get drawn thin.  You are not going to sacrifice quality -what good project manager wants to do that? But you still need to complete your project on time.  Now is the time to do a quick assessment.

At this point in your Microsoft Dynamics AX project, you have finished all development, should be done with all user testing, and just need to Go Live and compete end-user training.  Checking with the site manager, the General contractor and the IT system administors will provide you with the best calendar for the remainder of your time.  No one wants to be updating the local database or trying to run a training session during the safety inspection or testing of the fire alarms!  Check with the other project leaders – is the merchandising of the store on schedule?  Will they be needing to pull your training class off for 2 hours to hang tags or stock a new shelving unit?  Use this information to build your schedule for the remaining time.  Don’t be greedy!  Take what you can get, and then hold firm on those times.  If you have 2 hours of training scheduled, you get those hours and people for those 2 hours.  Make no exceptions, and make it clear to all that this is your time – you waited your turn patiently, now they need to apply the same courtesy to you.  Announce that training is occurring, and that interruptions are not to be tolerated, and that noise levels need to be kept to minimum.  These are reasonable requests, and surprisingly, people will police themselves and others for you.

Use your time wisely.  Know the material to be covered, verify the machines are working properly, and your data set is installed.  Don’t let technology hold you back when you can mitigate that risk through detail work ahead of time.  Finally, try not to cram too much information into each session, and make sure to allow 50% or more of the scheduled training time for hands on practice by the end users.  Adult learners need to touch and feel and do to “get it”, and this is your chance to have them do so without the pressure of a customer and while under your supervision.  At this point in training, mistakes are your friend.  Use these to show the user what they did wrong, WHY it is wrong, and the correct method.  Your support team afterwards will bless you, and your own personal trustworthiness is solidified for being able to teach rather than simply regurgitate information.  

When the store manager does a quick hire the day before open to replace the salesperson that bailed after the “terribly difficult” POS training session, use it as an opportunity to bring in Human Resources and the System Administration groups to run though an employee add.  Granted, they too are tied up in last minute printer adds and making sure that the proper personnel paperwork is in place for the store open, but putting them into the mode of quickly adding employees that can happen in a retail store can reinforce training that took place many weeks ago.  With the easy to use worker form in the Human Resources module in Dynamics AX 2012, hiring a new employee and managing POS rights on the same form is a quick exercise. 

Your ability to provide effective end-user training at this time can make or break the success of an implementation, as ultimately, it is the end-users attitude and proper use of the system that determines the eventual success the project.

By: Chris Macy and Randy Haar – National Microsoft Dynamics AX Partner

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