If your company has recently adopted agile methodologies in project management and software development, your documentation and training plans may need to change too. Without comprehensive requirements, design documents and specifications, you might be asking yourself how you can start planning training when you don’t know in advance what is being developed, and there’s no documentation phase.
The Agile Manifesto (published at http://www.agilealliance.org/the-alliance/the-agile-manifesto/) states that in an Agile managed project, you value working software and responding to change. Individuals take precedence over processes and tools. This strategy enables faster product development and acknowledge changes, but it does pose some challenges for training professionals.
Agile strategies dictate that you spend all your time developing the product to add value to the customer and avoid wasting time on tasks that add little or no value. The main focus is just-in-time planning. To prevent wasting time, documentation should occur only when it is necessary. To define this, your team should agree on the purpose of documentation, such as to support users, how it will be used. You will also need to define who will produce it and when it will be completed. The key is to document just enough and just in time. The same applies to training, as well.
The main principle of Agile development involves developing robust software rapidly, with minimal up-front design. Iterations or short development cycles (usually two or three weeks) enable rapid software development, making it tested and documented for continuous delivery. Problems are quickly discovered and users learn from previous releases how to use the current release so, in theory, training gets delivered in short segments that don’t overwhelm the user.
If your training team traditionally relies on comprehensive specifications, user documentation or presentations, you will be disappointed to learn there’s no big picture of the product. There’s no document that describes what it does and how it works. Project managers often rely on Agile planning software to list the descriptions of software usage, known as user stories (such as customer service representative creates a purchase order) to define tasks. As a training professional, you’ll need to allow time to interview a wide variety of people in order to piece together the information necessary to generate a comprehensive training program that shows the end-to-end picture. You should also question if your customers require comprehensive training at all. Maybe they don’t.
Collaborative environments value the contributions of writers and trainers and make them part of the team from the start. Reporting out daily may take some getting used to but helps tremendously. Use a topic-oriented approach, such as information mapping, and leverage user stories so you can participate as an active team member to produce task-oriented documentation and training packages. Creating meeting minutes, policies and procedures, presentations and documents in a clean, consistent and effective format can be daunting. Set up a structure for each type of document required (such as task, concept or reference), as this can alleviate some of the confusion. Applying the Agile methodology to training takes a different approach to traditional documentation and course development bur reaps many rewards in terms of lower cost and less wasted time.