Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Office 2010 – Addressing the User Training Problem

With any new product comes the need to train the end-user. When the product you are changing is something as significant as the Office Application Suite, this fact goes from need to NEED.

For those in organizations lucky enough to be moving to Office 2010 from Office 2007, the process should be relatively simple. The Ribbon Interface is already a familiar concept. There are only 2 major differences:
  • The Office Button (Orb) is gone, being replaced by a File "Tab"
  • The Ribbon is now a full part of every application, including Outlook
For those faced with the challenge of upgrading to Office 2010 from Office 2003, the training portion of your migration can seem daunting because of the significant end-user change required to move to the Ribbon. I know this was the case for a previous employer of mine. We were technically ready for the migration for nearly a year before we could find an avenue that would allow us to address the training challenges.
Let's be honest, finding time and training dollars for a significant portion of your organization's staff is not likely to happen in an economy such as this, so we need to find a "shortcut" to the training process to get users over the hurdle of adjusting to the ribbon interface. While the learning curve for the ribbon is not terribly long, it is steep. Many users are simply frozen in their tracks when they don't see the familiar menu structure that has been a part of the Office Family for over a decade, and the last thing that any of us need is management frustrated because deadlines were missed due to software unfamiliarity. For Microsoft, this underlying problem has resulted in much slower than anticipated adoption rates for both their newer Office products and their newer operating systems. In fact, many organizations I deal with are simply planning on skipping Vista and Office 2007 altogether in favor of migrating to Windows 7 and Office 2010 directly.
If we can't rely on the traditional training methods to get us over the Ribbon hurdle, where are we going to find our "Get Out of Jail Free Card" for this situation? Luckily for me, a past colleague found a simple solution to this training conundrum in the form of the Classic Menus system by Addintools. This system adds a new custom tab called "Menus" to each of your Office Programs that contains a menu and button layout that almost identically mirrors the Office 2003 layout. They have a number of affordable packages available to mirror which Office package you are going to rollout and you can control where the tab appears in the tab list. Addintools has been very smart and has offered aggressive volume discounts across their entire range of products, so licensing costs will not blow your entire training budget.
One thing to keep in mind though, is the need for people to actually "learn" the new product. In our initial testing of the product, we were tempted to simply make the "Menus" tab the first and default tab of the ribbon interface. While the product did what it was supposed to do, we all found ourselves simply using the familiar interface offered and didn't even look at the new features offered by the Ribbon Interface. We eventually decided upon a strategy that placed the "Menus" tab at the end of the Ribbon as the last tab and formally announced early in the process that the menu would be removed 3 months after rollout. While we did also provide a number of "Brown Bag Lunch Sessions" to help educate the user community, the custom menus still provided the bulk of our training strategy. This strategy ended up working out very well for our staff in that it provided a "safety net" to help get people over the initial shock of the new interface without breaking the bank in terms of initial costs or productivity impacts, yet still provided significant incentive for the user community to "explore" the new features available to them.
The only long term support problems we had with the product was a tendency for the PowerPoint menu to not load on some of our machines, even though the installation showed no problems. Normally, a reinstall of the product was all that was required to truly fix the problem, but for most users simply disabling the Add-in within PowerPoint was the most common request. They found they had learned enough what to expect within the other Office programs to not need the "crutch" within PowerPoint.

1 comment:

  1. You will also want to take a look at the Business Productivity Blog on MSDN. They have posted a set of guick reference guides for migrating to Office 2010 from Office 2003