I just read a great post by Abby The IA about using social media to create products or processes. I’m hoping that she’ll forgive me for borrowing her thoughts, but I can’t help it. She’s got some great ideas here and I’m using some and will use more as I work on training materials for Conductor, our proprietary content management system.
You see, Conductor is a great product. I use it, and I love it. Lots of clients use it, and most love it. But there are some downsides to it. One of those is training.
I recently got back into training on Conductor when a coworker left the University. And so much has changed in the time I was off, that I find myself feeling inadequate to train.
And, on top of that, we’ve recently started sending out surveys to find out how to better train users.
If you ever want to be brought down to size, try asking people what they really think of you, your product, or your service.
And that’s why I am going to follow Abby’s advice. Among other things, Abby advises:
Use Your Product.
Well, that’s a no-brainer because I use Conductor almost daily. But I need to learn to see it from the eyes of those who don’t have immediate access to our developers. I need to remember my struggles with it as a novice.
Google Your Product.
That’s not really an option for me since the product is used only by ND folks. However, I can continue to read the surveys; I can continue to encourage folks to contact me with issues, complaints, or their wish lists.
Pay Attention to Bias.
Yes, I must admit. I’m biased toward Conductor because my coworkers create and improve it. But there are a lot of users out there who are just as biased toward Contribute or Dreamweaver because they are familiar with that product. I need to listen to why they are biased; what is it about their product that demands that loyalty? How can we make Conductor better in that regard? Or, in my case, how can I teach them to use Conductor in a way that meets those same requirements?
A lot of times it’s not that the product doesn’t do what they want, but merely that I haven’t taught them how to work with Conductor to do what they want.
Play Devil’s Advocate, Not Naysayer.
Sometimes I want to scream when a trainee asks “Why can’t Conductor do such and such? My product does it!” Or “Why don’t you show us everything about our site? Generic training doesn’t work.” My gut reaction is to defend our product/my training and say something like “Deal with it!” or “Can’t be done!”
But who am I kidding? I’d say the same thing given similar circumstances!
So, instead of screaming, I need to stop and ask questions. Just what is it that makes your product better? Or, if it’s about training, I need to ‘fess up and admit that I need to cover more site-specific details and not try to cram everything into a one-hour session.
So now that this has finally been drilled into my feeble brain, I’m trying to address this. I’m working on handouts to be given to trainees showing them how to edit certain portions of their site that may not be obvious or may not work according to the generic plan. I’m creating “maps,” if you will, to their site.
Will it work? It’s too soon to tell, but I’m asking for feedback on this, too, so that instead of saying “I don’t have time/budget to cover all this,” I’m saying “Here are some concrete examples of how to work on your site. And let me know if you need anything else.”
Have No Toes on Which to Step.
This is a hard one. My toes tend to be sensitive when coworkers or others try to tell me how to do my job. But I’m learning to dance with them. I find that sharing the spotlight (and work) with others and giving them credit for their input makes for a better product. And if I’m saying I want a better product, then I’d better be willing to dance with others, including users!
Make Things Bigger and then Smaller.
This is what I had planned on doing when I approached my supervisor with the idea of creating these handouts. I figured, quite frankly, that he’d say that we couldn’t spend the time on this–that it wouldn’t fit into the training budget for the sites.
He fooled me. Seems he’s as committed to doing what’s right for the users, as well!
So, in this case, I started with a big idea, but didn’t have to shrink it down. Win-Win!
Admit When You Have No Skin in the Game.
I should be used to this, right? I mean, I’m an IA and (temporarily, at least) a trainer. But it’s difficult to admit to clients (users) that I can’t make decisions as to increasing the amount of face time; that they need to call support, not me, each time they have a question since we have to bill for our time. But I have to admit this.
And in the long run, users tend to understand there are restrictions (even they know I’m low in the food chain). And that way, no one has expectations that get dashed or feel they have been misled.
Am I doing all this? Heck, no.
Am I working on doing all this? You bet! Whether it’s Conductor training, website best practices, or just learning everything I can about my career, I’m trying my best. And isn’t that what our clients want, after all?
So whether you’re working on training materials, new websites, or some other service or product, I’ll wager you can find a way to use Amy’s points to make your work better. Let me know what you think. Personally, I’m glad hers is one post I got around to reading!