Copier King gets toner change

Copy machineWhen Xerox introduced its new purchasing software, it wanted to make sure that it was accompanied by a state-of-the-art training programme. Gary Flood reports on how the company went about delivering the multilingual, multi-country blended training programme.

Xerox is not only the company that invented the concept of photocopying, its famous Palo Alto Research Labs gave the world the first truly personal computer, the graphical user interface, the mouse, laser printing and even Ethernet. Its products are still at the heart of many businesses document processes.

But last year Xerox managers had started to think that in some ways the firm was in need of a corporate toner change.

'We had an earlier version of a purchase management system that was fine - but we were not sure we were getting all the benefits we wanted out of it,' Simon Hannaford, Xerox training manager, responsible for all training falling out of business process change work, told IT Training. 'Bad habits had crept in with use and in some cases well-meaning people were passing on misunderstandings about the system that had been around for years.'

As a result, Hannaford and his team looked at the best way to roll out a major new application, the SAP platform, and soon decided the best way to get there would be via a phased approach, where key applications were installed one by one. The first step was decided to be the introduction of SAP's supplier relationship management (SRM) module.

Why? Well, with thousands of suppliers, clarifying what goes on around Xerox's sizeable annual purchasing spend was clearly a priority. And as test bed for the whole transformation project, getting SRM right would be a test for the overall initiative and a prototype for the next elements, too.

SRM involved the introduction of two systems that would support and improve work being done in purchasing: mySAP SRM and an upgrade to a finance package. To get this done right, says Hannaford, also meant getting in some expert help. 'We didn't want to build a training organisation just for this project,' he points out.

This was especially necessary as Xerox wanted a truly blended (e-learning allied with traditional classroom) approach. Not only were there many people to be thus trained, but getting SRM in to Xerox Europe was also always going to have significant multi-country and multilingual challenges.

Xerox wanted to give its staff a state-of-the-art training programme that would instil confidence in - and knowledge of - the new systems and processes.

This was partly to encourage better use of the system, it would also hopefully deliver specific business benefits including cutting of purchasing lead times and processing costs through the mechanism of more electronic catalogue use (ideally from 5 per cent to 25 per cent), cut overall costs by standardising processes and systems, get the firm to experience both better system performance and overall user experience, and finally improve quality and compliance in reporting.

Meanwhile, the overall strategy for the training side of the rollout needed a blended, multilingual training programme that would not just encompass a range of learning styles and techniques, it would also provide long-term support for not just existing employees but new starters too.

Personnel within local organisational units were to deliver the learning events and manage the change awareness programmes while DACG was employed as training provider to supply the core components. Xerox mandated that only training materials that met key criteria would be acceptable, given the importance of the project overall. Thus all training material had to be modular, flexible, robust and easily adapted (customisable).

A key driver was that everything had to be easily transferable (as part of a 'train the trainers' approach), plus quick to update and distribute. Finally, Xerox as a customer wanted to make sure it could track and benchmark employee exposure to the training, and that the training was cost-effective and stuck to budget.

DACG was able to convince Hannaford and his team that its approach would meet these targets, especially around how translation and localisation of content could be achieved in different European countries.

The project kicked off in April 2006 with DACG developing all relevant material for the end of August, with a short, sharp delivery period of just six weeks.

The programme contained a number of elements that Hannaford says were important for the project's ultimate success. As well as e-learning and translation, instructor-led and train the trainer techniques, a wealth of support materials such as step-by-step helpcards and detailed user guides were developed.

Furthermore, to help track the impact of the training, user feedback was gathered using web-based surveying tools, while a special training portal to hold all simulations (examples of how to carry out certain procedures in the new systems) and other support materials was made available.

This was hosted on the training supplier's website but was linked in to Xerox's own learning management system (LMS) for reporting and training administration needs.

The training partner supplied an overall project manager responsible for the development and deployment of the training content, plus three dedicated SRM subject matter experts and a number of technical consultants for the finance side and other aspects. The team included native French, Spanish and German consultants who were able to review and ensure the quality of all the non-English materials.

Over 60 'storyboards' that eventually became e-learning simulations were also created, as well as nine sets of instructor led courseware (for example instructor guides, exercises, data sheets, and quizzes) for classroom use.

In terms of delivery to the actual users, Xerox played a big part, handling quality assurance, translation (using its own internal Xerox Translation Department), while messaging and project progress was communicated to the Xerox community via its own internal corporate communications function.

Train the trainer sessions were run about two weeks into the development phase to transfer knowledge to Xerox representatives and explain how to work with the new training portal. Some 20 internal trainers were selected to deliver the blended training events that were presented to some 1,000 employees across Europe. The first training window started in mid-July last year while the first refresher training took place in early September.

The groundwork in getting this right paid off, thinks Hannaford - training feedback after the project indicated that 90 per cent of staff who'd taken the course felt confident in their skills and knowledge to perform their role.

By go-live day DACG had delivered a total of 206 separate training and support components. SRM as an SAP module finally went live in September 2006.

Given the breadth of this coverage allied to the short timeframe, it's no wonder that the project garnered the prestigious Gold Award from the Institute of IT Training (IITT) in the category 'External Training Project of the Year' for 2007.

This level of prize is for situations where partners (customer and training delivered) have really worked together on a business critical initiative with aggressive timescales.

Hannaford has also insisted that as the SRM rollout was always seen as step one in a multi-step programme of change, what had been learned needed to be captured so as to help subsequent projects. This was done with a structured project review meeting that assessed comments from both formal and informal feedback mechanisms, including web surveys, course evaluation forms, hit counts on the e-learning content and feedback from the wider Xerox community.

Hannaford said: 'It is clear that there are significant reductions in purchasing lead times and much improved visibility of business performance through management of information [post SRM]. Many of the business efficiencies and cost reductions anticipated have already been achieved.'

Does Hannaford have any one piece of advise based on this successful project to pass on to other IT trainers? 'It didn't all go smoothly and there were some bumpy moments. But what I learned here is stick to your guns - if you are sure what needs to be done is right the business will eventually end up thanking you.'

About Xerox

Xerox is a well-known global technology and services provide, specialising in helping businesses to deploy document management strategies. With $15.7 billion (£8.5 billion) revenue, the organisation is ranked 152 in the Fortune 500 and has 55,200 employees globally. The training project around SAP is part of a major simultaneous multi-country, multi-language ERP implementation which is the cornerstone of a four year pan-European business transformation programme. When fully rolled out some 12,500 employees across 16 countries will be impacted.

Assima (DACG) is an IT training firm that combines traditional training and e-learning. DACG recently bought Assima, which had developed the Wizard Training Suite simulation tool.

November 2007