I’m Ryan Blunden and during my career as a Developer and Educator, I’ve learned a lot about the development of technical training for organizations, teams, systems and code bases.
In this multi-part series, I will illustrate how L&D and R&D teams can best work together to produce quality, maintainable and scalable training materials that meet the very specific needs of each company’s software development team.
Having spent over 15 years of my career as a Developer, I understood what Developer’s needed from their L&D Departments. However getting L&D and Talent Management (HR) staff to understand the nuances of what Developers need without overwhelming them with technical details is very challenging as the complexity grows rapidly. It’s not as simple as defining the learning requirements with stakeholders and find a training course to match. Easier perhaps if we’re talking about the compulsory training required by law. But is it this simple with tech training? Come on this journey with me to see.
This guide presumes the following:
- You have an in-house software development (R&D) team.
- You have a person or team responsible for the creation, sourcing and/or installation of technical learning materials to support the R&D team’s requirements.
In large companies, these will be separate teams with many people, but in smaller companies, it may be in one team. In the end, it doesn’t matter as your technical staff will always need learning resources, it’s just the person or people fulfilling these needs may not have that listed in their job descriptions.
Who Is This Multi-Part Guide For?
This guide is useful for companies of any size because it doesn’t speak about specific roles or responsibilities, but simply the strategy and model to use to create useful learning materials.
Part 1 – We Need a New Operating Model for Working Together
It starts with a single question.
I want to provide you with an example of how even a single question related to a training for a piece of technology gets complex fast.
Let’s say Engineering comes to us and says “We need Docker Training (Docker is one of the fastest growing technologies in the history of computing). Our staff says they don’t know how to use it but Operations are telling us we have to.”
Some obvious and quite fine questions might be:
- Desperate need? Future need?
- What modality?
- Local, national, international?
- Simultaneous or staggered rollout?
- Does the organization have the budget for both the development and on-going maintenance or just the initial deployment?
But a developer will more likely be thinking something like this:
- What version of Docker? Past, present or future?
- Do all R&D teams have the same requirements? Does it differ per team? Or is it a combination of both?
- Does training exist for this version?
- If so, is it good quality? If not, who can develop it?
- If a training course does exist, do we need the whole course or just parts?
- If just parts do other parts need to be custom developed to fill the gaps?
- If gaps need to be filled, are these advanced generic concepts that are missing or company specific implementation details?
- What is the rate of change? If changing quickly, materials should be lo-fi and chunked as small as possible to keep costs down and reusability high.
- Who will be in charge of continually reviewing the content to ensure that what it recommends is still current or worst case, that it still works at all?
I don’t blame you if you didn’t read the above! It’s complex and no L&D professional is going to be tech savvy enough to drill down to the required amount of detail.
Not only that, but there is also not a single Engineer that could drill down into enough detail across every piece of technology used by any one company!
So What Do We Now Know?
- This tells us that a “provider” model of supplying off the self-software can only work for the most basic and introductory materials.
- L&D folks know how to put the materials together but they don’t have the domain knowledge and don’t have the time to learn it.
- R&D folks know the domain but don’t have the time and headspace for time intensive collaboration with L&D.
If the need is desperate, immediate and that will help enough, then perhaps the conversation ends with “Well, we have this subscription to this portal, and they have a Docker course there”. That usually represents where most companies are at.
But we know this isn’t really getting R&D what they need and we know the only way to develop truly great resources is for L&D and R&D folks to combine their knowledge somehow.
What the team responsible for L&D really needs, is a stand-alone, step-by-step system for designing, developing and maintaining learning materials that they can give to R&D, just like what DevelopIntelligence offers to clients. Essentially, training for how to develop training.
And although that concept is hardly new, this guide will explore in detail:
- The best and easiest products for Engineering to use to develop learning materials.
- Why “documentation” and “learning” are synonymous for Engineers.
- Examples of questions that Engineers need to ask themselves when developing technical learning materials.
And much more.
Along the way, I’ll also be interviewing the best and brightest minds working in L&D spaces at companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft about how they scale quality learning materials and how companies of any size can go a long way to replicating their model to achieve similar results.
Stay tuned for Part Two shortly!
Latest posts by Ryan Blunden (see all)
- Running Linux? You could still be exposed to WannaCry - May 19, 2017
- How and Where Engineers Learn - April 26, 2017
- L&D and Engineering – Let’s Work Better Together! - April 12, 2017