Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"I Need to Learn Adobe!"

Rough transcript of a phone call received today.

I talked to you a while back. Our office needs to learn Adobe.

What application?

You know - Adobe!

What are you trying to do with "Adobe"?

We use it for pictures and stuff. You know - adding text to pictures, that sort of thing. I know The Desktop Ap trainer doesn't teach it and the online tutorials are not available.

OK - so you are using it for editing pictures. Photoshop, right.

Yeah - Adobe. We want to start using that.

You have a project in mind?

Well - we need to learn how to use lots of these desktop applications. Our manager is trying to get us more computer savvy.


I have learned from hard experience that if I try to learn a new application without having some sort of use in mind for it - I've wasted my time. The application goes into a mental library of "things I might use one day." I think I've pulled 2 items out of that library in the 5 years I've been doing the "Instructional Technology" thing.

Case in point - Microsoft Access. I figured it would be useful to know how to use Access and put together a database. Mind you, I didn't actually have anything I needed to database at the time. 4 years later - I STILL don't have anything I need Microsoft Access for. I know its available. I also know I will have to re-learn Access. I think it's gone through 3 or 4 major versions since I last looked at it.

I know that the Desktop Ap trainer has been out to this site multiple times since I've been here - teaching various applications to this group. And that conversation set alarms off in my head - was that time actually well spent?

Here's what I did in my attempts to help.

- Since I know the online tutorials won't be available for another month or 2 (and I'm not sure this would be the best approach), I sent them a link to the Visual Quickstart guides. I found these to be very well written, easy to follow, and serve as a useful reference for when they need information on particular items. My argument to them was that they could work on their own projects while they followed the book - essentially killing 2birds with 1 stone.

- I informed them (both during that phone conversation and in e-mail) that they really need to think about the types of things they wish to accomplish with these tools and to focus their training on mastering the applications they need right now for the projects currently on their plate. I offered our assistance if they needed advice on accomplishing particular tasks and possible tools available within the organization.

I'm not feeling entirely confident about that 2nd piece of advice. First, I don't want to discourage anyone from learning something new. Second, I'm afraid it sounded like I didn't want to help them (the Desktop Ap trainer has them very spoiled, but that is a whole 'nother issue).

Should I have handled this differently? Is there a better way?


sleepycat said...

If they just want to add text to pictures I would ask why they want the overkill of Photoshop. Piknic will do that for them quite easily. Also SnagIt by Techsmith has much more intuitive photo editing features for someone who just needs the basics.

Wendy said...

Now that you mention it, I'm wondering that myself. SnagIt would be a much easier beast to use.

Of greater concern (to me) is that they really don't seem to have a clear project or reason to use these tools. They only know they "need to know how to use Adobe."

To complicate matters, the directive seems to come from a Director level mucky muck (but I'm not confident of that either, I'll give the caller the benefit of the doubt).

That's why I didn't do too much analysis as to whether Photoshop would even be the best thing for them. If the director wants them to learn "Adobe" - I'll give them the tools to learn "Adobe."

They'll either decide that Photoshop is overkill and call back, find a use for it, or put the book aside and forget about it.

Tony said...

Hi Wendy! First off, I've got to congratulate you on a wonderful blog - without a doubt one of my favorites!

I can completely relate to your post. Most of the training I'm involved with is of the "I need to learn such-and-such", but there ALWAYS has to be a work-related objective involved in order for the training to stick.

Our company specializes in SAP and Oracle implementation and support services, so our consultants have to be very knowledgeable about the tools they are using. The approach we take for practically every project is process-centered. By focusing on specific company processes (order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, record-to-report) we make sure each person understands WHAT they have to accomplish, and then it's easy to transmit the mechanics of the specific tool.

Every so often we are retained to train employees on a system prior to roll-out, and the difference is tremendous. Because the specific business processes to be carried out are still not in place, and in many cases have not been fully defined, training is based on simple generic scenarios. Needless to say, once the system is in place there is a good deal of retraining to be done.

Karyn Romeis said...

I think I smell a box-ticking exercise!

I would suspect that "our manager" is not particularly computer savvy him/herself - hasn't done a proper needs analysis, and wouldn't know how to start. It's very difficult identifying appropriate training for your staff when you don't have insight into the tasks that they do and the skills and apps they need to do them.

It would be interesting to know how many licences are currently available to them, too. Perhaps the manager is gaily copying "Adobe" onto all their systems. Trust me - you do NOT want to bring down the wrath of Adobe on the company - they pursue the whole copyright thing very vigourously and (as far as I know) reward whistle-blowers fairly handsomely.

I would suggest a chat with the manager before moving this one forward.

I've had this very same conversation before. I once had to train 60 people from a single organisation in basic Excel skills because it was one of those things on the to do list of some person in some dusty office somewhere. Half the people I trained were going to use it in the future, and they really ran with it. The other half... sigh. One of them was the tea-man/cleaner who didn't even have a desk, let alone a computer, and was barely literate. But the HR people had made a commitment to the union and that was that!

Wendy said...

Tony - that's why the alarms went off in my head. 5 years of training Electronic Medical Records (and pulling teeth in an attempt to get some sort of "process" or context out of people) taught me that.

Of course, during major implementations, there really isn't avoiding some level of retraining as folks begin to optimize use of the new system.

Thank you so much for the kind feedback.

Wendy said...

Karyn - Thankfully, this same group went nosing around for "free" licenses and I reported them to our "license keeping division." IT also has access to those computers - so they can erase any "illegal" downloads pretty quickly.

This is why we lock down machines. And probably why I haven't heard from this particular person in awhile.

I'm not entirely certain what is going on with this particular department or the political background. All I know is that they have developed a reputation as "needy troublemakers" with no clear direction or purpose.

Their focus seems to be "how much stuff can we get" rather than evaluating whether that stuff has any real value (or getting their actual work done....).

The manager or our group and I are trying to (slowly) convince the Desktop Aps trainer to stop spoiling them and ask questions so they can have some sort of training direction. That way - everyone's time is better spent.

But, yeah, this may be a political "box-checking" exercise.