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Learning to Innovate

By investing in IT training, your staff will be looking for new ways to use IT to benefit your business. Your business won’t just be running—it will be soaring.

Illustration by Gordon Studer

In the business world, IT training is often viewed as a tactical issue, rather than a strategic one. Too often, training is solely focused on learning the basics to operate hardware and software to keep a company running. As a result, the IT staff has cursory knowledge of the system, but no in-depth insight. When a problem crops up it quickly becomes a catastrophe rather than a challenge to be overcome. Without the advanced skills necessary to handle a crisis, IT professionals feel frustrated and overwhelmed. For many struggling IT folks the most expedient solution is to find another job, leaving the previous company scrambling to find a replacement.


Does this scenario sound familiar? Fortunately, the story can have a different outcome. By viewing training as a strategic business goal, your company will be able to keep the right IT people and the right skills within your enterprise, enabling your business to be innovative and prosperous. By investing in IT training, your staff will be looking for new ways to use IT to benefit your business. Your business won't just be running - it will be soaring.

Training Strategically

Training is the key. Just ask Alan N. Thomason, business unit executive, IBM* training, Systems and Technology Group. "The best way to manage growth in your business is to have the right skills in place as your business evolves," says Thomason. "If you want to retain your workforce, you need to make a commitment and an investment to training." If this sounds like the words of a strong advocate, you'd be right on. Thomason believes in promoting training on all levels - to customers, partners and IBMers.

Training is strategic in his view. "Training builds confidence in whatever solution you are implementing. Once your team of IT pros has that confidence, you get up to speed faster and adapt to changes. The most successful companies are those that can adapt to whatever the market throws at them."

The global training market is estimated to be $23 billion and growing, Thomason notes. About 90 percent of workers are employed in industries like healthcare, manufacturing and financial where it's important to have IT skills as well as the soft skills that are transferable to the workforce. Workers need to have good, solid knowledge of their IT systems in order to help their companies succeed. Simply having employees attend a seminar won't improve anything; instead, companies must have employees internalize these new skills in order to sustain growth.

Education has numerous other benefits. It can help your company reap results from your IT investment as quickly as possible. "You usually end up with fewer implementation or maintenance problems because you are doing it right the first time," says Thomason. Having your IT staff "build skills on the products will ultimately reduce the time it takes to deliver new applications and it will keep you on budget. If you don't budget training in, you're probably going to be over budget anyway. Training will never ensure a perfect implementation, but it increases the likelihood that you'll have one," he adds.

Selecting the Right Training

When it comes to choosing training for your IT staff, many options - from Webinars to remote training to hands-on training - are available. The one that's right for your employee depends on the skill level needed. IBM offers many virtual options as well as the all-important face-to-face training with an instructor. In making a decision on what to choose, Thomason says to look for training that's flexible and interactive.

The growing world of Internet-based education is a companion to hands-on experience. Companies find it to be an affordable option. The Internet has opened the door to many new ways to train without traveling. "You must make sure you develop the skills you need. All the Web-based offerings out there can be a little overwhelming," he says. He suggests choosing training that's appealing to users on more than one level. Having multiple activities to engage you helps the learning process go along smoother and easier.


Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at



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