Concurrent Development: Ways to Handle the Documentation Gap
As a part of our instructional design/development services at DSA, we are often asked to create both user documentation and the training programs at the same time. Chris Mueller, an instructional designer at DSA, shares how he has met this challenge in this tips article. Thank you, Chris.
It’s not uncommon. Companies or organizations find it in their best interest to implement a business solution as quickly as possible, even when documentation for the project has not been updated – or never existed in the first place.
For example: A new web-based software application has been developed by a bank to improve its acquisition and construction project management processes. An external vendor was brought in to develop and implement the brand-new application, which includes…no documentation.
Another example: A new and improved product – a hardware component – has been developed in your company. It is much easier to install, and includes many features that will increase sales and customer satisfaction. Some documentation exists… but it is only for the old product.
The faster these applications or products are ‘rolled-out’, the faster the business will see positive results. This likely means training needs to happen. Now.
But what to do with this huge gap in documentation? When you’re short on time and resources, here are two strategies that could help you out:
Tip 1: Scripting for Scenarios
In most cases, with a new application or product – the training will be highly procedural. Each of these step-by-step procedures should be rigorously tested by engineers, developers, and other subject-matter experts. It is in their best interest to test the product or application using several scenarios.
It’s in your best interest to have and use these scenarios! These ‘testing scripts’ are valuable in that they provide not only the procedures that would be included in training documentation, but also ideal scenarios that could be used in your training design.
This strategy was used in the first example and saved a great deal of development time. Scenarios from the scripts were used for a participant workbook, and the recorded procedures were used in the participant guide – which effectively became the technical manual.
Tip 2: Concurrent Development
It can be an overwhelming feeling – without current documentation to rely upon, we feel as if we’re creating both training and a technical manual. Sometimes it’s specifically requested as part of your deliverables. The good news is – there’s a faster, easier, and better way to do it all! Consider the following approaches:
- Build a library. Group the tasks / procedures into chunks or modules that can be reused in your development. This allows you to use or quickly update the procedures as needed.
- Develop multi-purpose job aids. There’s no reason that job aids can’t be used in more than one context. In fact, they can be the core of the training solution – used during scenarios, as an online reference, as workbooks, and certainly on-the-job after training is complete.
These strategies were used in the second example, allowing our developers to quickly build worksheets that were used in lab-based training, in evaluation, and in the field as job aids. When packaged together, the worksheets acted as an effective manual for the installers of this new product.
We hope these time-saving strategies help you as you build your next training solution that’s lacking in documentation.
Until next time,
Article © 2007 Darryl
L. Sink & Associates, Inc.