EDI veteran R.T. Crowley writes in his book "EDI Charting A Course To The Future" the following about EDI Training.

Training is, the single issue that is most often forgotten planning an EDI system. We tend to be so eager to get into the "gadgetry" of the system that we may overlook the fact that we need to have people trained to use it. We can make our EDI system as close as possible to the paper-based procedures that staff is accustomed to using, but it will still be perceived by them very different. We will therefore need to arrange for training in EDI operation and theory...

Plans for training the staff that will have to use the EDI system should be started as soon as we have made the commitment to create the system. In order to derive the greatest benefit from the system, our company should be prepared to use it from the very first day. We will not be able to do this unless the staff is properly trained, and they cannot be trained if we have no program in place to do it. Training should be an integral part of the EDI system from the outset. It should not wait until the system is ready to be implemented.

The specific techniques of training in general would be best left to your company's training manager, that part of the Personnel Department concerned with training, or a professional training consultant retained by your company, and you should be prepared to work within that structure to provide information on the way the EDI system works and the theory behind it. The trainers will need this information to prepare course materials and lesson plans if the training is going to be conducted in a formal manner. If a more informal setting is envisioned, you may find yourself working with the professionals to develop means by which you will train your company's staff in either small "classroom" or one-on-one settings. Either method is valid. The important issue is to get the information to those who must use it in a manner they can understand.

When planning the training phase of an EDI implementation there are a number of points that must be covered. We will present them here in no particular order, for they are all of equal importance, and that is to say that all are of PRIMARY importance to the success of our EDI system. These points are:

  • The training should focus on the particular skills and knowledge that the staff will need to deal with the EDI system. This should also include some discussion of the theory behind the system.
  • The training should include a detailed discussion of the goals and objectives that the company is trying to accomplish with the system.
  • All employees that will use the system should receive the same high level of training. This MUST include the staff that will use the system on a day-to-day basis, as well as temporary and new employees, and all SUPERVISORS and MANAGERS that will be dealing with that staff.
  • A training program on the EDI system must also be set up for the senior executives (directors, vice-presidents, and the president) of the company to teach them what the company is doing. This should include some hands-on training in the operation of the system.
  • The training should be regular. Training sessions should be scheduled in advance, and held on a regular basis so they become part of the normal work routine. Attendance at a specific set of training sessions related to their job should be mandatory for all employees, and supervisors/managers should be tasked with insuring the attendance of those who report through them.
  • The training should be ongoing. Training sessions should never be a one-time event. Constant retraining and crosstraining should be a part of the program for the EDI system just as it should be for ALL training programs in your company.
  • The amount of time and money that is expended in a training program should be equal to the amount of increased productivity that you expect to get out of the EDI system.
  • Training should not only take place in formal classroom settings, or at specified times. Constant on-the-job training should be part of the plans as well, and supervisors or managers should be trained in the specific techniques of this.
  • All employees should have the opportunity to attend the training sessions on a voluntary basis regardless of their specific job within the company, and incentives for them to do this should be provided.
  • The initial training sessions should stress the goals that the company has set in implementing the EDI system. The eminent management consultant Tom Peters has said, "Training [should be] used to herald a commitment to a new strategic thrust." The implementation of a new EDI system represents just such a strategic thrust, and the training program should reflect that.
  • The staff should have a hand in the development of the training program. The employees should be aware that they have a real stake in the successful implementation of the system.
  • The training should be used to encourage employees to use their creativity to make the system better, and not to discourage them from making suggestions. The system should never be presented as "fixed in stone". The staff should be made aware that their input into the development of the EDI system is important to the company. As we said earlier, "No one understands a given business procedure better than those who are doing it". The staff should be aware of this attitude on the part of management, and encouraged to assist as much as they are able.

It is impossible to stress training enough in any discussion of any type of management methods. The amount of knowledge that we give our staff about the tools and techniques that they will use in their jobs is directly proportional to the production we can expect from them. The statement is an absolute. If we expect people to do a job, we must give them power to do it, and there is no other way to do that other than to TRAIN them!

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