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This is the On-line companion to my monthly column in
Enterprise Reengineering
The National Publication for BPR

Training With a Net
(From the June 1996 issue)

This month I would like to talk about Internet training. We have all heard negative comments about the Internet like:

  • "I can't find what I am looking for."
  • "It takes forever to find what I want."
  • "Our employees spend their time just fooling around."
  • Many of these bad experiences can be traced back to inadequate training for Internet users. Just imagine the following scenario:

  • You place a bunch of cavemen in running automobiles
  • Perhaps you tell them about the gas pedal and the steering wheel
  • Do not tell them the rules of the road
  • Do not provide any kind of road map
  • As you walk away from the cars, you can easily visualize the results. One might (incorrectly) conclude that cars and roads are worthless. Yet this is exactly what happens every day on the Internet.

    When working with organizations, I explain why Internet training is different and more critical than training for other computer applications.

    For example, if you give someone a word processing application and don't train them, the worst that will happen is that they make ugly documents slowly. The word processing user probably won't spend days (or weeks) "playing around" with the font sizes. However, If you give someone Netscape and walk away, you may loose them entirely to the Net.

    I have witnessed many disastrous Internet implementations where a company gets a T-1 connection, and Netscape proliferates on everybody's workstation. Thousands of employees then wander aimlessly on the Net in all the wrong directions.

    The Internet is very different from most other applications because it includes interactive capabilities. Organizations should recognize that untrained Internet users represent a potential liability to the organization. Users will waste a lot of time, reveal trade secrets and can embarrass the organization in a very public medium.

    With one corporate client, I came across a Usenet newsgroup about investing where the company's own employees were commenting on where they thought the company's stock price would be in the future. Clearly, if the Securities Exchange Commission sees this, the company could be in trouble.

    Once you decide to invest in Internet training, you want to make sure that the training goes beyond the software mechanics to helping ensure that your employees will use the Internet to support the goals of your organization. Here are several elements that I think are necessary for successful Internet training.

    One final consideration for Internet training: The Internet is evolving very quickly. Therefore, training must be thought of as an ongoing process. This investment more than pays for itself when compared to the wasted efforts the average employee expends on ill-fated browsing.

    Russ Haynal

    Please be sure to visit my Archive of BPR articles.

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