Continuous development is something that any IT professional needs. We all clearly see the competitive industry we work in, and understand that developing new skills is critical, I won’t say for standing out of the crowd, but to survive in the middle of it.

A huge part of the success of IT departments relies on their people; they have to be well prepared to face the coming challenges, especially in this new digital age where IT is handling more business processes and supporting more functions than ever.

As the New Year starts, most IT organizations start defining their training plans to cater for the development needs of their workforce. In many cases they just allocate budget and allow employees to take any course they want, and many others build their IT training strategy based on what they think each area or role needs. Either way, it is very common that organizations make the mistake of ignoring the business goals, and defining their IT training strategy and plan based on local IT-related needs alone.

Below are some tips to help you define your IT training plan for the New Year:

Take a look into the business goals.

The driver of IT should always be the business. IT is a strategic asset, and as such it must support business goals. It wouldn’t make sense for IT to grow its capabilities in something that will not support the business in any way, or that will provide very little value to it. Depending on what the business needs, IT should define its own training and development needs.

Adopt a top-down approach.

Many IT people are very capable in technical stuff, but it is common for an IT specialist not to know how his work supports the overall process. The value of technical knowledge is limited when people don’t have managerial or IT-process knowledge. For instance, a Service Desk specialist must not only know that all incidents should be logged in the system and how to do it, but should know the reason behind the need of doing it (there are service levels that are tightly linked to customer satisfaction, and there are indicators to measure the service in order to manage improvements, etc.)

Assess the maturity of your IT processes.

The ultimate purpose of having IT people trained and develop new skills should be improving the processes that support the most important business functions/goals. The weakest link in the chain will determine the overall strength of the organization, so focus more efforts on improving activities within a process that needs improvement. Therefore you will need to assess the maturity of your IT processes to determine which ones need more attention, hence more training for people.

Anticipate to new trends and technologies.

Be aware of the new technologies coming, especially if your business is on the services industry. IT being ready to adopt new trends can enable the business to take advantage of changes in the industry and achieving a faster time to market.

Define actionable goals for your training programs. 

A training course should be pursued not only because it sounds cool to undertake it; there should be a specific goal that drives the need for that course, and moreover, people should be able to apply the new knowledge in their environment. Only this way the process will benefit from the capabilities acquired by people.

Look for added value from training vendors.

There are plenty of organizations offering IT training courses at all levels, but most of them are just in the training industry without being on the consulting field. A vendor that is just focused on training will teach you a very good class, but might not be able to help your IT team relate the acquired knowledge to their specific environment. People learn when they are able to relate the knowledge to their job, so having a consultant teaching the class instead of a teacher will increase the benefits obtained.

Look for courses that make sense together. 

A training course is normally not a standalone item. Every skill can be supported by more skills, and having three skills or capabilities that relate to each other is better than having three separate skills/capabilities that are applied in different contexts.

Get commitment from IT staff prior to the training.

A motivated person will take much more from the course than a person who is not motivated. Many people are forced to go through a training program, which is just a waste of time for everybody. Make sure your IT staff understand the rationale for them attending a specific course, and what is expected from them after it.

No matter what approach your organization takes to IT training, these advice can be of help to you.