IPMA News : September 2002

Edited By Mary Ellen Bradley and Bob Monn

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Maximizing Your IT Training Dollars

The State of Technology in Cities in Rural Washington

Project Managers -- Check This Out!

News from Other Sources

News from the Past

(Note: The IPMA Board did not meet in August.)


Maximizing Your IT Training Dollars

-- By Pam Rupert, Department of Personnel

Human Resource professionals maintain that there is a significant value in training.  We believe that the benefits of training employees are well worth the investment. Training not only enhances the employee’s skills, knowledge, and abilities it has been shown to improve moral and reduce turnover.  In a recent survey conducted by the Meta Group, IT professionals consider professional development and career enhancements, such as training, some of the top issues in their decision to stay with their employer. Training, like education, is a lifelong process – a life skill that pays tangible benefits for the employee and the employer.

Typically training is the activity that agencies discontinue first when funding is reduced. But the real question is can you afford not to train your IT staff? Training is an investment and it is often the only way to maintain a competitive edge especially for public sector organizations whom often cannot compete with private sector dollars.  Change is rapid and constant in the IT arena and it is imperative that workforces stay on top of the latest developments.  Asking employees to take on a complex enterprise application with little or no training is like asking a teenage driver—who just qualified for her driver’s license in a car with automatic transmission—to drive up a winding mountain road in a fully loaded truck with five gears. The results of ineffective or nonexistent training are typically employees that not only don’t know how to use a new system but also have no interest in learning it.

An effective training program is critical to meeting your agency’s business objectives.   So what is an effective training program? How do we determine what should be learned, where it should be learned, by whom and when?  What methods of training should we focus on - e-learning or instructor-led courses, or distance learning – or should we choose a mixture of all three?  Should our training be customized or will participation in a public training session be just as effective? 

Developing a training plan takes time and effort, and choosing the most effective options that get results is not a simple process. Begin with a training needs analysis. The most important step in choosing training is knowing what your agency needs.

Evaluate your current training plan. How much of it is aligned with your agency’s business strategies?   Scrap those that aren't supportive and start rebuilding your plan. Identify your organization’s business objectives and your desired performance outcomes. Then conduct a gap analysis.  Compare the strengths, challenges, and readiness of your IT staff to your objectives and desired outcomes.  Target those areas first that will have the largest impact on your agency’s ability to meet these objectives. What skills, knowledge and abilities will be needed in the future?  Determine what, if any, job functions will be needed and identify the competencies required for staff to perform effectively.  Simply put the goal of your training plan should be to present the right training opportunity to the right people at the right time.

Training plans rarely produce a single delivery option.  A blended program will allow greater flexibility for both the IT shop and its staff.  What staff knows, doesn’t know, or what they need to know and how they get that information will help you determine the best mix.  The key is to understand what each delivery option offers and use the right blend to cover all the learning needs of your agency.  Consider the following:

In 1999, Krispy Kreme decided to double the number of its stores within three years.  That meant they would have to find a better, faster way to train their management staff.  They decided to create a blended program combining on-the-job, and online learning with instructor-led training. With a blended approach Krispy Kreme was able to reach different kinds of learning styles.  Prior to the classroom training employees received training on-the-job as well as training via the intranet. Krispy Kreme felt that if they could get their employees in an instructor-led training environment at the same knowledge level they could get them out of the classroom in half the time with better mastery. Not everyone is growing as fast as Krispy Kreme, but we all face the same challenge of finding the most effective training program to meet our business needs.

Once you have completed your assessment and developed a training plan it is time to select a training firm.  Consider the following:

Effective training will always be a wise investment for your agency no matter how the economy behaves. Can your agency keep up with a fast paced and sometimes volatile economy without training?  A recent study conducted by Merrill Lynch found that corporations that employed a workforce with a ten percent higher than average educational attainment level enjoyed eight percent higher than average productivity.  Isn’t it time to look at your training program as an investment in your agency’s human capital and not just an expense?

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The State of Technology in Cities in Rural Washington

-- By Sharon Fasnacht, Municipal Government Analyst, Association of Washington Cities

In spite of the large employers like Microsoft and Boeing, Washington State’s primary industry continues to be agricultural exports. Small cities and towns throughout the State support agriculture and its people. In fact, out of the 280 cities in the State, 180 have populations of 5,000 or under.

According to the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) research in July 2002, 136 cities out of the 180 cities with populations of 5,000 or under, now have web access and email. 

Many have one dialup account for everyone on staff, and there is still one small city that cannot be reached by e-mail or Fax. Everything is sent to them by snail mail (USPS).

What are the barriers? The reasons cities in rural areas do not have access to broadband Internet access are primarily budgetary. However, in some cities, broadband access is simply not available. Dialup access is the only game in town. The same barriers exist for the agricultural farms and local school districts in rural areas.

What is the biggest barrier to rural broadband? Physically and geographically, broadband telecommunications cross city and county lines, property lines, and school district boundaries. However, most technical plans and investments are made without a discussion among interested neighbors. (AWC encourages business, government and education, especially in rural areas, to meet and talk about planning for telecommunication together. Invite your local telephone and Internet service providers to meet with you. Invite people who can tell you what is already available and explore various ways needs might be filled for all parties). We believe there are savings to be had and progress to be made in working together around technology, especially to bring broadband to rural areas.

In order for agricultural farms to thrive, those businesses must have digital access to markets.

Cities and counties, who often serve as the voice of rural Washington in the legislature, need technology in order to communicate with their citizens and speak on their behalf to legislators. Students need the opportunity to learn all they can about technology in order to participate in today’s digital society.

Of course, broadband access doesn’t mean much if you are using a 1989 model computer, so in 2001 and 2002, AWC offered small technology grants to cities for hardware and software, as well as Internet access. AWC awarded a total of 128 grants.

Currently, AWC is offering a grant to help cities acquire IBM software and support so they can build and maintain their own web sites! Cities can choose to keep it simple and build the site as a source of information for citizens, or they can choose to build the site so it is interactive and citizens can actually do business with the city over the Internet.

In an effort to address some ongoing barriers to city staff training, AWC will pilot a series of 9 CD – based training programs this fall. We are able to provide these programs because we elected to join the "Public Sector E-learning Coalition", which is the brainchild of a company called eKnowledge Group, Inc.  300 local governments in four states are part of the coalition.

Subjects include Employee Harassment, Computer Skills (Windows, Word, Excel, etc), and National Driver Safety Standards.

Like private enterprise and schools, cities in rural areas are clamoring for technology that allows them to work smarter and faster and serve their citizens better. They know that technology can help them do that.

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Project Managers -- Check This Out!

-- By R. Kathy Pickens-Rucker, IT Projects Office Manager, Department of Corrections

A new "virtual" network of shared resources for the Washington State information technology project manager has been created.  IPMA has just implemented a Project Managers Special Interest Group (SIG) web portal and listserv mailing list.

The web portal contains information and links vital to project managers.  Interested participants have contributed content and suggested links for the web portal.  Find links for everything related to project management, including:

There is so much information on the Internet that it can sometimes be overwhelming and time consuming to locate just the information you need.  This site does the sorting and sifting for you. 

Find quick links to resources within Washington State, other states, even other countries.  Find resources from private organizations and public companies related to the profession of project management, and specifically information technology project management.

The listserv mailing list is carefully moderated and provides a convenient way to connect project managers across the state with important information.  Check out the new site at: http://www.ipma-wa.com/pmsig/ (link removed), where you’ll also find information on how to subscribe to the listserv mailing list.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for within the portal, e-mail me at rkpickens-rucker@doc1.wa.gov.  I’ll find it and add it for everyone’s benefit.

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News from the Past

5 Years Ago -- September 1997 IPMA Newsletter

10 Years Ago -- September 1992 IPMA Newsletter

15 Years Ago -- September 1987 IPMA Newsletter

20 Years Ago -- September 1982 Association of Data Processing Managers Newsletter

25 Years Ago -- September 1977 Association of Data Processing Managers Newsletter

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Summary of IPMA Board Meeting

(Note: The IPMA Board did not meet in August.)

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IPMA, P.O. Box 1943, Olympia, WA 98507-1943