Friday, June 16, 2006

Training Value

My team and I are largely people who learn by OJT (On-the-Job Training). We learn about things by running into obstacles that pop up when trying to make them work...once we get around the other side, we have a better understanding of how it's built.

My team is also pretty small; we survive by being able to learn and adapt very quickly. There has yet to be a curriculum offered that is both A) comprehensive, and B) quick-paced...those that come close are usually C) too expensive. We do this for a living though...we can overcome a lack of training with enough 'seat time'.

That said, I acknowledge that there's value to be gained from purposeful, in-person training. The problem is that in-person training largely caters to the lowest common denominator (meaning it's as slow as the slowest student in any given class).

I'm firmly of the opinion that the 'halcyon days' of NAEC's charging $2,000 per student / week for OS and admin training are long, long gone. In Tulsa, for example, there hasn't been a viable training center for at least 4 years. I think it's because the courses are rabidly overpriced.

Even Novell's own ATT courses are priced extravagantly relative to the material being covered. $2,500 to lose an employee for a full week, to get drowned by one product? Is this stuff really that complex?

There has to be some middle ground - cheap, quick-paced "boot camp" training for people who will figure out implementation in their environment if they get a good, thorough overview of the features (capabilities and shortcomings).

I recently talked to BrainStorm about performing end-user training in our environment, for GroupWise 7. Having read their website, it looked like they could perform on-site training for the GW7 client at a very reasonable rate. Apparently, their website was out of date. When I countered the quote I received from their sales group with text from their own site, it was quickly changed to eliminate references to that pricing model. The new pricing model is nearly 5 times as expensive as we were originally led to believe, which completely shatters any value proposition their offering may have had.

The lack of a compelling training story has a domino effect for Novell in particular...if people can't justify the cost of training, it doesn't mean the product doesn't necessitate it. It just means that people can't make the dollars and cents work. Eventually, these people (e.g. Novell Customers) will have to ask themselves if it wouldn't be easier to use Microsoft instead? You may pay more for software, but hardly anyone is willing to hire people that don't at least know Windows and it's associated components.

Lobotomized monkeys can keep most mid-sized Windows / AD systems up and running. College grads with IS majors, however, probably don't even know how to spell Novell.

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it - neither Novell or the partners who work with them will enjoy a renewal of success until the most significant barriers to adoption are removed. Novell should take some of it's cash stockpile and aggressively incent customers to attend training by paying for it. If necessary, they should kick in short professional services contracts to help new customers adopt new products - roll it into the product pricing somehow if they can. As everyone knows, the longer you've productionalized a system, the harder it is to get off of it.

Training shouldn't be viewed as a 'product' that needs to be 'profitable'...that mindset immediately detaches it from the products around which training is based - and it's the real products that pay the bills. This isn't to say that training should be given away - but it should be run in such a fashion that it's contribution to the bottom-line is negligible. I know this will probably offend 'training centers', but honestly, you add no value by getting some can't-hack-it-for-real drone to read stuff out of a book. If you want to charge a premium for your training, that should be off-set by the experience and quality of instruction. Far too often, my team and I have been participants in or audited classes where we were the smartest, most knowledgeable people in the room. No way...not for $2,000 or more a week.

Novell should know that it's hard enough to get in the door - whatever you do, once you're in, don't give people easy excuses to throw you back out. Those are already in plentiful supply.


Fistandantalus said...

Good write up. Another obstacle is the application side using Novell. No major vendor we deal with in the Healthcare industry claims to run on Novell operating systems any longer, when in the past it was 50/50. All are porting or moving to Windows as their primary platform. I also think this is being driven by conglomerate purchasing of desktops and end user devices, most of which are pushing DELL and Windows.

Being a recent IS grad though (well... ok, so I'm an oddball because it is my 2nd degree and I've been in the industry for 15 years) we didn't even mention Novell except as an option, meaning we had no study time needed on it. We did hit Linux and Unix and Windows fairly heavily though...

ZEN Master said...

I just recently hired a new helpdesk tech, who had graduated from Oklahoma State fairly recently. OSU is a long-time Novell customer (interesting history there, too), and Novell products were not foreign to my new tech. He used them to support about four different entities on-campus, in addition to getting exposure during classes. I think it depends a little on where you go, but the broader point is that it shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

As a former Novell channel partner (distribution), independent consultant/trainer, Novell Consultant and now a Novell customer, I have to agree with you.

One of Novell's most successful endeavors, Novell Education, also nearly sowed the seeds of Novell's destruction. What should have been primarily a marketing tool became such a successful profit center that Novell made it difficult for those not involved with the program to provide training and support. Novell pretty much invented the leveraged training channel, a model that was soon emulated by Cisco, Microsoft and others.

Novell Press, although not quite the same profit center as Education, suffered from similar problems.

I also agree about the need to provide a greater degree of included support for the complex products sold by Novell. If no one understands them they won't buy them. A little missionary work, while it would cut into short-term profits, would go a long way. This is especially applicable to moving clients from NetWare to OES Linux.