Poor user training stymies IT investments

A lack of user training is to blame for investment in IT not being fully realised, Qantas chairperson Margaret Jackson warns.

In the wake of CBA chief executive David Murray's public lambasting of the IT industry in his address to the World Congress in IT in March this year, many organisations are looking critically at whether their IT investments have delivered on promises.

However, Qantas chair Margaret Jackson said it is "unrealistic" to expect technology alone to deliver on its promises. Instead, organisations need to educate users to see investment values realised.

Jackson, speaking at the Panviva CEO breakfast in Sydney on Wednesday, said learning was the "X factor".

"In all the companies with which I have been involved, the investment in IT has been significant," she said. "IT is a key plank of our business. We need to look critically at IT for growth and competitive advantage."

"Unfortunately, after the [IT] installation is complete and the processes are in place, we too often find that people can't use the system. If people can't use it, then your investment cannot be fully realised. It is through the interaction with people that technology is able to release the full value of the vast investments made in it," Jackson said.

Jackson's view reflects the user perspective. She described herself as a non-technical person. For Jackson, IT is like her car, she said; she doesn't worry about what is under the bonnet but when she puts her key in the ignition and turns it on, she expects it to work.

Similarly, users rely on the Internet and their IT infrastructure and grow frustrated when things go wrong.

"My expectations for IT are high, but I think it's reasonable," she said. "Successful use of IT is about education and learning. It's about supporting people at work."

Also speaking the briefing, Fenella Fields, learning and development communications manager for the NSW Department of Public Works and Services (DPWS), heralded the benefits of user education, particularly e-learning.

A Government mandate to reduce operating costs drove DPWS to implement an ERP system, Fields said.

But a review 12 months later found that the system was under utilised. People not entering data led to information gaps within the system. Furthermore, people did not understand the policies surrounding the system, she said.

"And, like any Government bureaucracy, we have a lot of them," Fields said.

Fields said although users could perform tasks when they were shown how, the knowledge became "unstuck" when they had not used it for a while.

"We could train till the cows came home, but people still wouldn't be using the system properly," said Fields.

This drove DPWS to implement an e-learning platform, so users could access information when they needed it.

"Any ERP system is a difficult and complex system," said Fields, adding e-learning improved usage.

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