This article describes a training innovation that combines research on advances in information communication technologies (ICTs) and leading-edge training techniques. It also extends an evolution of traditional organizational change management (OCM) approaches and integrates technology more fully than current traditional change management practices. This new approach to training is based on concepts that have been utilized in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This approach merges traditional project communication and project training together to form a continuous ‘stream of training’ throughout the life cycle of the project. This technique is an advanced combination of both training and communication. Rather than utilizing a traditional linear training model, in this technique, training becomes a stream of learning incorporating pretraining communication (screen prints of new applications), ‘push’ training that can be electronically distributed through really simple syndication (RSS, also referred to as resource description framework, site summary, or rich site summary) to key stakeholders just-in-time (JIT) and electronic performance support systems (EPSS) that reinforce new process/technology changes. Some of the potential advantages of this approach are that it is less costly than providing separate communication and training functions and that utilizing an integrated or streaming approach to communication and training may lead to less conflict and confusion among key stakeholders about the current status of the project team. A discussion of the background and the benefits achieved by this approach are described in the following sections.
The idea of a ‘stream of training’ data or information evolved from the literature on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (see references in Atkeson, Moorey, & Schaalz, 1997; Rosario, 1992; Utgoff, 1989; Utgoff & Brodley, 1990). In this research literature, a ‘stream of training’ or a continuous flow of data/information into a program permits learning to occur from the relationships present in the stream. The programs used in this research usually rely upon very sophisticated algorithms or models (such as a variant of the Hopfield net) to interpret these relationships. This stream or flow of data/information is possible today because of the speed of the processors and the capacity of the neural network (approximately 14% of the number of nodes in the network according to Goertzel and Troianov, 2005).
In the project management ‘stream of training’ approach, both training and communication are merged together. Separately, both training and communication are critical aspects of an overall project management approach to successfully implementing new systems or structures. Utilizing this approach, the project team combines training and communication into a steady stream of data/information to all relevant stakeholders throughout the life of the project.
The importance of good project management (PM) in an implementation project is obvious. In order for a project to be carried out in a logical and rational way, good project management is critical. However, good project management may also be responsible for the strategic differentiation of the organization. In a recent enterprise resources planning (ERP) conference, Ritchie (2005) stated that “project management has become the critical linchpin between strategy and operations” (p. 13). Often, the bridge between the successful implementation (thanks to good project management) and successful operational excellence (a strategic differentiator) is the communication and training received during and after the project (particularly on processes and applications). In support of this, Ritchie (2005) suggests five essential dimensions of project management expertise that will generate results: (1) project management knowledge (e.g., scope management or project planning); (2) application area knowledge (e.g., business, functional, or technical expertise); (3) an understanding of key project environments (e.g., cultural, social, political, or physical factors); (4) general management skills (e.g., planning, staffing, executing, and controlling ongoing operations); and (5) interpersonal skills (e.g., communications, influencing practices, motivation, and managing change). All of these areas of knowledge can be communicated or trained in order to assist the stakeholders and customers of implementation projects (see Figure 1).
Project management-operational success model
Key Terms in this Chapter
Project Management: A methodology undertaken by a project team and led by a project manager to minimize the risk of failure and maximize the chances of success in a project. The project team under the leadership of the project manager defines goals/targets, determines how to efficiently utilize project resources such as time, money, people, materials, systems, and so forth during the course of a project.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS): A relatively new format for distributing news headlines and other content on the Internet. Other names for RSS are RDF (resource description framework), site summary, or rich site summary, or really simple syndication. It is found on many Web sites, portals, e-zines, and electronic databases.
Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP): These are typically integrated systems that can provide the infrastructure for a wide range of processes including human resources, procurement/supply chain, call-center/sales-force automation, and financial/accounting. Usually this refers to packaged software provided by vendors such as PeopleSoft, SAP, Oracle, Lawson, JD Edwards, and Baan. The advantages of these systems are that they typically allow for improved enterprise application integration and are part of an overall business process reengineering (BPR) to improve the company’s processes.
Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS): These systems support a worker so that they will be more successful and productive in their work. It can be any type of electronic system that supports workers with flows of data and information. These systems are very important in the new age of work because workers have become inundated with data and information, and it is imperative that they learn how to organize and consolidate it quickly and accurately. The payback for EPSS lies in its ability to adapt, change, and evolve to meet the changing needs of workers who utilize these systems.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): Generally accepted to mean intelligence as exhibited by a computer program or other artificial entities. This is an area of computer science dealing with fuzzy logic, intelligent behavior, machine learning and adaptation to new stimuli. Applications of AI systems are primarily found in military and commercial systems concerned with control, planning and scheduling, answering diagnostic and consumer questions, and handwriting, speech, and facial recognition. Closely aligned with robotics, it aides in the production of autonomous machines that can perform automated tasks requiring high levels of intelligent behavior.
Organizational Change Management (OCM): Describes the multidisciplinary/ multidimensional process of managing change in an organization. Often involves understanding the communication flows and structures/processes that exist in the organization. Usually, the objective of OCM is to minimize the risk of failure of implementing the change by maximizing the collective efforts of all people involved in the change.
Web-Based Training (WBT): This is a form of computer-based education or training where the training material resides on the Internet and is accessible using a Web browser. This form of training typically incorporates multiple types of media elements into the content including text, graphics, animation, audio, and video. May be facilitated by a trainer or be in a self-directed, asynchronous format.