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Database Training and Your Dog
4 November 2010, by , in Data Management, 2 comments

Over the years, I’ve written a whole bunch about training (Click here for all kinds of tips.)

Recently, Donna Dunn, Executive Director and CEO of the Association of YMCA Professionals, emailed me with some thoughts on training. She has given me permission to reprint her thoughts here:

I would argue — as a consumer of an AMS, that part of the training problem is cramming so much training into too little time. When I was part of a switch to a database, we had three days of training and that was it.

We’re getting ready for our latest database training and we’ll get it all in a day and a half.

I’m training my new dog right now. We work on several things each week, practicing twice a day. Then we review the next week and add on to what we’ve already learned (I think they train the owner, not the dog). Why isn’t AMS training based this way — learn the critical items first in a thoughtful way with practice in your own data — like looking up and entering member data, exporting batches and running basic reports. Then, the next week do another hour an a half on queries, and basic configuration. Then, a week or two later do setting up events. If you have tutorials, expect the trainee to have worked through a certain number of tutorials prior to even having training. That way everyone starts at the same level.

Part of the training problem is doing a brain dump during training and then expecting the client to remember and implement. It’s just not the way adults in this country learn.

I agree wholeheartedly with what Donna writes here. I’ve commented specifically on how difficult (and frankly, quite fruitless) full-day training is.

So think about how you’re scheduling training as you implement a new system (or even as you roll out new features of your existing system). Bits and pieces over time may actually serve you better. Just ask your dog!

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2 Comments on "Database Training and Your Dog"

Lisa Junker - 9 November 2010 Reply

I completely agree, Wes! Our designers take advantage of several sites with video tutorials that work really well for them. As designers, they regularly have to update their skills with Photoshop and similar programs; these sites allow them to take bite-sized courses on particular elements of the program in question, as they need them. Even better, they get can stop the video, try something out, and then start the video again--something that isn't always feasible in a large-group, full-day class. I wonder if video tutorials like those might also work well for database training ... or even just reinforcement of initial training that might need to come in bigger chunks.

Wes Trochlil - 9 November 2010 Reply

Lisa, I think you make a great point here. There are definitely some parallels between keeping up with design software and keeping up with your database software. Some (though not nearly enough) of the AMS vendors have been putting training tutorials online for their customers. It's definitely a great way to keep on top of the ever-changing software.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
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“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

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National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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