By Cushing Anderson, Program Vice President, Business Consulting and IT Education, IDC
Competition Driving Change
Competition is increasing, causing organizations to transform and respond to customers and competitors. This often requires leveraging technology to improve agility. During the past 20 years, datacenter architectures have shifted from being hardware centric to being software controlled, thanks in large part to virtualization and the more recent emergence of cloud. Server virtualization has transformed the corporate datacenter into a more adaptable and efficient platform for business applications. Virtualization has delivered enormous benefits such as reduced capital spending, greater asset utilization, and enhanced IT productivity. As a result, virtualization is considered an indispensable software component of the corporate IT infrastructure.
Current and ongoing research reveals that initial training improves technology utilization generally, and virtualization project specifically, and that continued training improves ongoing performance by:
- Giving IT teams the knowledge and experience they require to support the business more effectively and efficiently
- Enabling IT teams to deliver resources with greater agility in response to business demand
- Delivering more stable and scalable IT services to employees and customers
- Creating more cost-effective architectures
Small Increase in Skill = Big Success
In recent research conducted by IDC, we asked more than 500 IT managers about recent technology projects. We found that a small increase in team skill correlated to a significant increase in project success. Generally, we have found that a team with average skill (5 on a normalized scale of 1-10), can successfully meet about half of the business and project objectives for a technology implementation project. When a team is slightly better than average, it may achieve 80% of its business and project objectives (see Fig. 1).
Figure 1: Impact of Team Skill on Project Success
Source: IDC, 2019
But What Does That Mean?
For IT infrastructure and virtualization projects, we found that organizations provided about three days- worth of training to project team members on average. But providing as little as one day more of training per IT team member could move project team performance from “average” to the top 20% in performance for all teams. This small increase will lead to the more reliable delivery of the business and operational benefits IT infrastructure projects are intended to offer.
Ongoing training can prevent degrading performance
The need for training doesn’t stop once a project has been delivered. But, unfortunately after deployment, organizations sometimes deprioritize training or overlook it entirely. They argue that the team knows what they need to know. That belief is faulty and ignores many obvious and not-so-obvious factors that suggest ongoing training is essential. Several obvious factors include:
- IT Team members are promoted, depart or change responsibilities. Whether formally or informally, circumstances cause changes to responsibilities, authorities, permissions or routines. Any of these will cause an IT professional to be performing duties or actions that were not his or her responsibility a short while ago.
- IT infrastructure changes. These may be small changes like upgrading versions on a management software, or more significant like reconfiguring a storage architecture or adding an office location. Each may change what tools are used, their scope of action, or a host of other factors that influence what an IT professional must do in their day-to-day job.
- IT processes change. Similarly, an organization may automate particular processes, and require an IT professional to initiate, monitor or confirm actions were taken. Or to routinely perform an activity. These processes frequently change or are modified or adapted to other changes in the infrastructure.
Each of these contributes to what IDC calls “knowledge leakage” which creates a gap between what the IT team is expected to know and do, and what they actually know and do. This is especially apparent when individuals change roles, or when an incoming IT professional doesn’t have the same experience, knowledge or skills as the person being replaced.
We have found that without ongoing training, an IT organization can lose 60% of its capability in just three years because of staff changes, technology and process changes, and insufficient refresher training (see Fig. 2).
Ongoing training of as little as 10 hours per year, per employee, can help IT professionals stay current with their responsibilities and can help improve IT performance by 30-50%.
Figure 2: Impact of Knowledge Leakage Over Time
Source: IDC, 2019
The problem is complicated, but the fix is straightforward: Train everyone, and train them more.
IDC recommends IT organizations develop (and maintain) a robust training program to ensure:
- Teams know how to deploy and use new technology
- Teams understand and adhere to new procedures
- New team members can successfully perform their assigned tasks
Don’t Do It Alone
Leverage training programs, curricula and certifications sponsored by your significant IT vendors to maintain an IT team’s high level of performance. Specifically, we recommend IT organizations
- Provide implementation project team members 4 or more days of training,
- In stable IT environments, provide administrators and managers at least 1 day of training per year,
- When the business or IT environment is changing, or when responsibilities change, fully train all team members to avoid “knowledge leakage” and continually improve IT performance.
To see some specific benefits of training on virtualization infrastructure provided by VMware, download the recent IDC Business Value Analysis: The Business Value of VMware Education and Training.