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Auldhouse training supports major technology overhaul at Downer

To ensure the success of a new operating environment Downer enlisted Auldhouse to bring 2200 staff from 70 locations up-to-speed with the latest Microsoft technology.

How do you upgrade your IT systems without causing major disruptions to your business as staff come to grips with the new technology?

This was the challenge Downer faced as it embarked on one of its largest and most significant transformation projects, dubbed Downer Refresh.

The engineering firm was upgrading its desktop systems to Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office 2013 from Windows XP and Office 2003, along with its backend infrastructure in order to equip its people with an up-to-date operating system and applications.

Skipping several generations of technology in a single leap represented a big and potentially unnerving change for many in the business. The Refresh project team had to ensure everyone in the organisation was comfortable with this transformation, while keeping disruption to the business to an absolute minimum.

The need for fast and effective training on the new systems was identified as central to the success of the project from the outset.

"Training is absolutely essential in a big transformation project. It was never negotiable," says Downer programme manager Lesley Campbell. "A lot of people were nervous at the start of project because this was going to be such a massive change. Being able to assure people they would be trained on the new systems took away a lot of that nervousness."

After a competitive tender process, Downer selected Auldhouse to conduct the training component of the Refresh project. This entailed training over Downer 2,000 staff from 70 locations around New Zealand on the new features of Windows 8.1 and Office 2013.

The defining factor for Auldhouse in the selection process was its geographic reach and the calibre of its local trainers in each location, says Campbell. "Because all of the trainers across the country were Auldhouse's own people rather than subcontractors, we had consistency of training and control over what was offered."

The challenge

Downer set Auldhouse the challenge to deliver a training programme that met an exacting set of criteria.  It needed to cater for staff with various skill levels, had to be specific but not time consuming and needed to be delivered to a tight schedule.  

"We wanted as little disruption as possible," says Downer business support manager, Paul Vester.  

"It was critical for people to know how to use the new systems from day one - this meant the training had to be tailored and thorough but could not take too long, to reduce the amount of time people were away from work.

"Our objective was also for people to return to work after their upgrade and do their job just like the day before, so there couldn't be too great a gap between people receiving their training and their desktop upgrades or they would forget what they had learned."

This meant each person needed be trained no more than two weeks before their upgraded system was deployed.  Auldhouse helped Downer overcome the logistical challenges of the project by having the flexibility to move trainers around to adjust to any changes to the deployment schedule. 

"It was a very difficult  schedule, but Auldhouse always managed to make it work - we were never held up by the training," says Campbell.

The Auldhouse approach

To meet these requirements, Auldhouse delivered a one-day training programme with modules for different needs. This included a 90-minute classroom session on the key features of Windows 8.1, Office 2013 and other programs being introduced such as Microsoft Lync, which was compulsory for all Downer staff.

Auldhouse also developed e-learning modules and a series of videos on particular features of the new systems - all customised to Downer's Refresh brand and made available on its intranet.

These resources were an important part of the training programme, says Campbell as they enabled anyone who missed their training sessions to catch-up.

Before the general roll-out of the new systems, Auldhouse also provided super-user training to a number of "change champions" at its Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch offices. Selected from Downer offices across the country, the change champions were trained to assist colleagues at their branch who might be having issues with the new systems.

Results

The training programme achieved its goal of alleviating any concerns Downer staff had about moving to the new systems, giving them the confidence to easily continue working as normal following the upgrade, reports Vester.

"Auldhouse worked closely with our team to develop the training and to make sure it was right for us.  They were flexible enough to deliver the kind of training we thought would suit the diverse range of knowledge and skillsets of our people," he says.

"An indication of the quality of the training provided by Auldhouse was how quickly people got up and running on new system after their training."

The quality of the training and trainers meanwhile helped attendance at sessions, says Campbell.

"Our people found the Auldhouse trainers to be very good - they used the right language and no one felt intimidated by the training, despite their technical skill levels. That spread around the business with people encouraging others to do the training because it was good."

Meanwhile, feedback about the Refresh project was uniformly positive, says Vester.

"This reflected not only what we had delivered, but how the roll-out had been done and the quality of the training," he says.

"People were saying how easy it was for them to carry on and do their jobs. The fact that we didn't disrupt the business was a major outcome." 

 

About Auldhouse

Auldhouse is New Zealand's largest privately-owned provider of IT training and is Microsoft New Zealand's only Gold Learning Partner.  With more than 25 years' experience providing high quality training across IT and professional development; Auldhouse has become the partner of choice for many of New Zealand's leading organisations as well as the world's largest software vendors.   Auldhouse have national training facilities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. 
For more information: www.auldhouse.co.nz