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Launch a managed services training program in 9 steps

MSPs' internal training resources should be more than a stack of 'how to' documents. Use these best practices to build a successful managed services training program.

While it's beneficial for MSPs to formalize an internal training program, the development and adoption of that program can pose challenges.

The good news is there are some guiding principles that can steer managed services training programs toward success. Follow the nine steps below related to program goals, training materials and staff expectations to get on the right path. These steps are focused on self-paced, technology-delivered employee training programs, rather than instructor-led classes.

1. Set goals

Before starting a managed services training program, determine the initiative's goals and the training processes that will support them. Without specific goals and agreed-upon processes, all you really have is a folder with a bunch of "how to" documents inside, which is not a training program.

2. Name the program

Training Program, University, Education Portal -- whatever works for you. You want your team to know this program is different from your knowledgebase, how-to section and so forth. Naming the program sets it apart from the stockpile of existing reference material.

3. Develop a vision

Decide how formal and polished the managed services training program will be. Maybe you want to start with a small initiative to train new hires. Maybe you have the budget to put together a program that looks like an online college course. Whatever the situation, determine the program's scope.

It's unlikely you will put this together alone. Instead, you will involve team members or, in some cases, outsource the development work to a third party. Without a solid vision for the training program, you will end up with a patchwork of this and that -- and a frustrated development team. Determine whether the program will include elements such as training documents, videos and quizzes, and maintain realistic expectations for the team.

4. Standardize training material

Standardize the look and feel of the training content. While it might sound nitpicky, different fonts, colors, headers and structures for each document or video can create disjointed educational experiences. Create a style guide and make sure developers stick to it.

5. Organize content to make it learning-friendly

Don't put all the content in a flat structure and tell people to find what they need. Instead, organize content by employee roles and specific topics to create an intuitive flow. Bundling content into a series of topics exposes learners to a wide breadth of information. In addition, group content in a way that directs employees' educational paths.

6. Establish access to materials

Figure out how employees will access the managed services training program and related materials. Will content be on local servers, requiring users to be on site to access it? On a cloud server? A website?

Choose whether each employee can access all training content or if access to some topics will be based on employee role. For example, the program might include a video on how to make purchases from a certain vendor, but not all employees have the authority to make purchases. Should employees without purchasing authority have access to those tutorials?

You know your team and what content to include in the training program. The idea is to think about it and make those decisions on a case-by-case basis.

7. Set clear training expectations for staff

Be direct about training expectations for employees. Once you launch the program, don't simply tell your staff, "OK, this is available now," and then expect them to roll up their sleeves and get started. Instead, outline how employees should use the training program.

For example, decide if employees can complete training during working hours. Is the program elective or are you going to set a requirement? You might assign specific training content to specific employees or let them choose a training session as long as they complete X hours per week. Another option is to assign points or credits to the courses and track employee progress. If employees accumulate so many credits per month, or reach other milestones, perhaps they receive a reward.

Whatever you envision, make sure your employees are aware of it.

8. Get feedback

Create a method for employees to provide feedback on the managed services training program. Use that feedback to assess what works and what doesn't, and then adjust the program as necessary.

Users will spot mistakes and anomalies that developers missed. Invite employees to offer suggestions for new educational topics. After establishing the training platform, it will be easy to build out content.

9. Innovate

Don't think the first version the training program will be the last. You can curate content differently, or use a new training platform, to create a second iteration.

To think outside the box, consider replicating the training program for external use with clients. Would your clients enjoy having access to instructional videos or documents that cover common tasks they ask about? If so, replicate the methods, branding and templates from your internal training to launch a program for clients.

About the author
Scott Ford is a member of The ASCII Group, a North American IT community for MSPs, solution providers and systems integrators.

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