Edi Training Tips

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

Training is the single issue most often forgotten when planning an EDI system. We tend to be so eager to get into the "gadgetry" of the system that we may overlook 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 differently. 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 committed to creating the system. To derive the most significant 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 adequately trained and cannot be trained if we have no program 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 training techniques, 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. It would help if you were 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 formally. 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 critical issue is to get the information to those who must use it in a manner they can understand.

Several points must be covered when planning the training phase of an EDI implementation. 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 significance to the success of our EDI system. These points are:

  • The training should focus on the skills and knowledge 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 using the system should receive the same high level of training. This MUST include the staff that will use the system daily, 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 company's senior executives (directors, vice presidents, and the president) 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 regularly so they become part of the normal work routine. Attendance at specific training sessions related to their job should be mandatory for all employees, and supervisors/managers should ensure 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 expended in a training program should equal the amount of increased productivity you expect to get out of the EDI system.
  • Training should not only occur in formal classroom settings or at specified times. Constant on-the-job training should also be part of the plans, and supervisors or managers should be trained in the specific techniques of this.
  • All employees should be allowed to attend the training sessions voluntarily regardless of their company, and incentives for them to do this should be provided.
  • The initial training sessions should stress the company's goals 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." Implementing a new EDI system is just 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 encourage employees to use their creativity to improve the system and not discourage them from making suggestions. The system should never be presented as "fixed in stone." The staff should know that their input into developing the EDI system is essential to the company. As we said earlier, "No one understands a given business procedure better than those doing it." The staff should be aware of this attitude on the part of management and encouraged to assist as much as possible.

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