A rule of thumb says that 50 percent of all IS projects fail or never go into production. People, not technology, cause these projects to fail. Without skilled applications developers, systems engineers, and trained users, the risk of failure in any IS migration project is high. To help ensure that your migration project doesn't fail, you need to provide the proper type of training and level of training for your staff and users.

In the case of Microsoft migration projects, the variety of training options and abundance of training resources make substandard training inexcusable. IS managers need to know that many training options are available for deploying and maintaining large-scale migration projects. Once you understand the issues (e.g., budget considerations, training methods, and levels of training) that you need to address while building a Microsoft migration training program, you can begin to deploy such a program.

Budget Limitations
To stay within your migration project training budget, you can distribute your training dollars wisely and set up volume-discount training contracts. First, layer your training so that you spend your training dollars where you need them most. For example, spend extra money to give your mission-critical staff quality classroom certification training, and provide economical self-paced and on-demand instruction for your remote staff and light users.

Second, for large migration projects, you can develop volume-discount contracts with international IT training companies such as ExecuTrain, Global Knowledge Network, New Horizons, and Productivity Point. If you have regional or local requirements, contact your Microsoft branch for training recommendations or visit VUE's or Edusearch's Web site.

Training Methods
The Microsoft education team and other Microsoft divisions provide training for operating and managing a wide variety of Microsoft products. Microsoft-sanctioned training options include Authorized Technical Education Centers (ATECs), Microsoft authorized courseware, the Microsoft Online Institute (MOLI), Microsoft TV, and Microsoft Press. In addition to Microsoft's offerings, thousands of independent schools and curriculum developers offer Microsoft training materials.

As you prepare for your migration project, you need to select the right training format for your users and staff. IT training comes in three fundamental formats: instructor-led (either classroom or online), self-paced (computer-based training--CBT, video-based training--VBT, satellite, or Internet), and on-demand (Help desk support and software). Table 1 lists the Microsoft-sanctioned resources available for each training format.

In addition to implementing the standard methods of training that Microsoft supports, many companies are beginning to assess employee skill levels using competency management techniques. These techniques let you assess the employee's skills and build a custom training curriculum to fit the employee's needs.

Instructor-Led Training
Instructor-led training is still the most popular and most thorough form of training--it's also one of the most expensive. Combined with a certification program, this type of training is the best path for individuals whose knowledge is mission critical for developing applications or maintaining systems.

Classroom and certification programs force the students to learn every available product feature rather than let the students skip to the material about the product they think is relevant. When your systems go down and your department is on hold, you want these mission-critical employees to have comprehensive knowledge to restore the system as soon as possible.

Self-Paced Training
Self-paced training is more economical than classroom training and can be an on-demand training vehicle (e.g., an intranet-based training library). This type of training is excellent for users who need a basic understanding of the technology or who can't find time to attend formal classroom instruction. Self-paced training is also excellent for users and IS staff who are not directly involved with the migration process, but still feel its effect. For example, a project to install Windows NT on the desktop in a Novell network requires that the Novell CNEs be familiar with desktop NT technology. You can set up a CBT or VBT library for individuals who are part of the migration but whom you can't afford to train in the classroom. Self-paced training can also help you answer power users' requests for training.

Self-paced training plays a large part in the way many companies train their employees. For example, CBT Systems has a concept of an internal university that is accessible to anyone in the company through the intranet. Self-paced training is so economical that Manpower, an employment agency, uses take-home CBTs to train thousands of contractors every year for free on everything from NT to Oracle.

Another type of self-paced distance learning involves the Internet. Neville Gordon Carol of Microsoft took MOLI from a vision to reality two years ago. Just as its name implies, MOLI is a virtual online learning campus with online instructors and classes. This technology is the future of global training and can deploy everything from interactive seminars on the Internet to certification training. Although MOLI is a brilliant and useful training architecture, few users are aware of its capabilities.

On-Demand Training
On-demand training comes in two formats: crisis (such as Help desk support) and desktop software support tools. Help desk staff need the most extensive certification training possible because they directly influence company productivity. When a user is stalled, the business is stalled.

In addition to providing good Help desk support, you can use online assistants such as those in Office 97 to get users out of a jam and train them to be more creative with their business applications. CBTs on an intranet can also provide on-demand training.

Competency Management
The acid test of exceptional migration or re-engineering training programs is whether the users (i.e., engineers) can demonstrate competence in using the new technology for the business processes they are responsible for. Competency management in IT training is a three-step process. The first step is to test a user's soft skills, understanding of the business processes, and use of the technology. The second step is to deploy a customized curriculum for each individual based on a competence model. The last step is to test and track the level of competence in all areas. "Only competency management ensures that the user is competent in using technology for a specific business process. It is what most training programs miss," said Shelley Couch, global alliance manager for Global Knowledge Network.

Because competency management is a very expensive, custom form of training, most companies use it only on re-engineering migration projects with sophisticated training from organizations such as Global Knowledge Network and KPMG. Critics who complain that IT training fails to link technology with the business process are often unaware of this type of training or are unwilling to pay for it.

To see a simple form of competency management at work, go to CareerAgent's Web site and take a competency model test. Then check out CareerAgent's training schools and job database. This type of training may be the wave of the future and replace many college degree programs with virtual authorization programs.

Levels of Training
Migration programs typically have three layers of training: application development, systems engineering, and desktop user. Understanding these layers is important because they dictate how much and what type of training (budget) your IS staff and users need. Microsoft had the insight to fragment its certification program to fit these IT support layers three years ago when it introduced the Microsoft Roadmap to Education and Certification. (Microsoft re-cently changed the name and focus of the Roadmap to Microsoft Training and Certification. To find out about Microsoft's Training and Certification program, visit the Web site.)

Application Development
The application development layer is for individuals writing code or scripts with languages such as SQL, Visual Basic (VB), and C++ for client or server applications. These individuals need to receive core classroom technology training in the Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) certification program. You can supplement this training with economical support documentation from Microsoft Press.

Systems Engineering
Systems engineers build and maintain IS infrastructure components, including networks, network servers, application servers, and operating systems. Because these components are mission-critical resources, training based on a certification track is important.

Microsoft provides training for these systems engineers through its Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) program. Although many companies realize that certification testing ensures a baseline of core knowledge, they don't generally appreciate the constant flow of current information on Microsoft technology in terms of updates, fixes, and techniques that an MCSE taps into. Certification testing forces a fledgling engineer to explore a broad base of technologies. You can be sure an MCSE will not attempt to generate an NT system without knowing what's involved.

Desktop User
Pinpointing the appropriate amount of training for desktop users in any organization is difficult because different users have different needs and varying degrees of understanding. In addition, the quest to make training relevant creates the requirement of customizing these classes to fit the needs of the business. For example, suppose you need to provide Microsoft Word training to a legal department using the company's legal templates. You might give the staff a half-day jump-start class to help acquaint the users with the upgraded features of a migration (such as a Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 upgrade) and later provide select users advanced training through CBTs.

You can even purchase easy-to-use skills-assessment tools to go with CBTs for desktop users. "ExecuTrain CBTs come with skills assessment tools," says Kevin Brice, ExecuTrain's vice president of technical training. "After the users take the test, the courseware highlights the sections they need to study and thereby eliminates wasted terminal or classroom time."

Developing Your Plan
Table 2 presents a matrix of training options by job definition to help you decide what level of training each user needs. After you've applied this matrix to your users, you can turn this analysis into a budget for your migration training project and begin to look for a local, national, or international training provider to deliver these services.

Qualifying and Finding Training Providers
When you're searching for a training provider, try three approaches. First, call your local Microsoft branch and ask the regional education manager for referrals. Second, call the Information Technology Training Association (ITTA) and ask for a list of member companies. ITTA is a trade organization that meets annually to discuss ways to improve the quality of training. Finally, visit Microsoft, Edusearch, or VUE online to find a training provider over the Internet.

To do justice to the topic of selecting a training provider would take several white papers. My primary advice is to test drive before you buy. Visit local training companies to get a feel for their facilities and review their evaluation logs. For CBTs, have your users try several vendors before you buy multiple licenses. When dealing with customization, ask for references from the training provider's previous three engagements (this step will help ensure that you don't get the vendor's best three references).

Only some of the thousands of companies offering training on Microsoft technology are certified Microsoft ATECs. Again, certification of instructors, schools, and courseware is your insurance that a training provider is willing to invest in quality. Knowing that a training provider is certified is a good start, but not a replacement, for obtaining detailed references.

Take advantage of all the options to optimize training

TABLE 1: Microsoft Training Solutions

Instructor-Led

Self-Paced

On-Demand

Update

Microsoft Authorized Certified Technical Education Centers (ATECs), Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses, Microsoft Authorized Academic Training Program (AATP), Microsoft Online Institute (MOLI) Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses (Companies that develop CBTs and courseware to Microsoft standards), study guides, Microsoft Press, Microsoft TV (MSTV) Microsoft Office 97 Help features, improved Help features in Windows NT and other products, Worldwide Customer Services Information Microsoft Professional Programs, MSTV, conferences, branch conferences, branch seminars, user groups

TABLE 2: Training Deployment Options by Job Definition

Job Definition Instructor-Led Self-Paced On-Demand Update

Users/business processes communications Custom instructor-led training Custom computer-based training (CBT) or video-based training (VBT) Help desk CBT on intranet Internal

Users/desktop application Remote satellite and in-house classroom instruction Standalone and intranet CBT and VBT Help desk add-on support applications Internal mini-courses and communications

Systems engineers, network administrators/ BackOffice network and installation and support Standard classroom training based on Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer program CBTs and self-paced books based on Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer program CBTs on your intranet Publications, Tech Ed conferences, user groups, Microsoft branch technical briefings

Application developer/ desktop and server application development Standard classroom training based on Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer program CBTs and self-paced books based on Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer program CBTs on your intranet Publications, Tech Ed conferences, user groups, Microsoft branch technical briefings

School and Certification Program Resources:

CareerAgent
Web: http://www.careeragent.com

CBT Systems
* 415-614-5900
Web: http://www.cbtsys.com

Edusearch
* 303-694-0777 or 888-694-0777
Web: http://www.edusearch.com

ExecuTrain * 770-667-7700
Web: http://www.executrain.com

Global Knowledge Network
* 800-332-5656
Web: http://www.globalknowledge.com

Information Technology Training Associates
* 512-502-9300
Web: http://www.itta.org

Microsoft Online Institute
Web: http://moli.microsoft.com

Microsoft Press
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/mspress

Microsoft Training and Certification
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/train_cert

Microsoft Training Provider Database
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/isapi/train_cert/locator/locator0.idc

New Horizons
Web: http://www.newhorizons.com

Productivity Point
Web: http://www.productivitypoint.com

VUE
* 612-897-7999
Web: http://www.vue.com