Resellers call for improved training

Resellers call for improved training

Some resellers are turning away from traditional classroom training amid claims that vendors are not delivering satisfactory content and often fail to provide technically adept trainers.

ITPros director, Gary Oliver, said the integrator had cut back the number of training courses its engineers attended each year because it had found sessions were not delving into relevant information on technical issues.

"One of the problems seems to be that vendors choose what they think is the lowest level of knowledge in the class and direct the course at those people," he said. "We have done training courses where trainers are not qualified at the level at which we sit."

Another issue was that course content was often based on products that were almost out of date, Oliver said. But he admitted the dynamic nature of the industry made it difficult to keep courses fresh.

Oliver claimed the issues stemmed from a lack of highly skilled technical trainers in the industry.

But Cisco's regional manager of channels, Suzanne Hansen, refuted this idea.

She said its biggest problem was too much course content due to the increasingly complex nature of its technologies.

"We suffer from having too much to train people on," Hansen said. "If you look at our partner learning site, there's miles of training. Some courses are good and some are not so good. People's time is also short and we do have an engineer shortage. They don't have time to deal with bad courses." Hansen said Cisco was now assessing what skills base its partners maintained to present them with a specific training roadmap.

"Instead of having a shotgun approach, which is typical of vendors, we are trying to be more targeted," she said. "We want to say to partners 'you need these courses' and show them how to achieve that."

Cisco was also revising its curriculum globally to reflect the switch from straight technology sales to solutions selling. It would also work to create more sales training programs - something almost all vendors were still relatively short on, Hansen said.

For Aspire Computing's Chaim Lee, a core concern was the way technical and hands-on training was delivered. While some classroom presenters had technical nous, he claimed the problem was a lack of communications skills. He cited six different vendor and distributor seminars he had attended where conveners had struggled to impart information.

"What hope is there for this vital technically-based industry to prospering in Australia when bosses can't even bother to ensure that the staff they rely upon to train their channel partners aren't properly qualified to do the job?" he said.

Clariti managing director, Bruce McCurdy, attributed ineffective communication to trainers lacking practical experience.

He said the Queensland-based integrator's engineers did not bother attending classroom training because it focused predominantly on theory. "Vendors will have a correct way of deploying software but they won't be real-world scenarios," he said.

"For example, a trainer will say you should have the software on a single box with nothing else. But in reality, a customer will have 32 applications on it because they can't afford multiple servers."

McCurdy said resellers wanted concise, practical information, as well as the ability to access full course content if needed.

"We don't want to sit in a classroom for four days and be bored," he said. "That's OK for the newcomers, but the guys who've already got the t-shirts want short and relevant information."

Aspire's Lee also called for vendors to divide classes into beginner and advanced levels to ensure the needs of the entire class could be met. Microsoft partner director, Kerstin Baxter, said it was introducing more practical elements to courses.

This included exams where students were required to solve software scenarios rather than just recite theory, she said. Training for its new market specific competencies would also be based on this process.

The vendor was also branching out into more virtual course content, and could offer partners a suite of online training and workshops. "Partners can do an online assessment, which provides them with a framework to figure out the training priorities for their organisation," Baxter said. "They can also do a self-assessment to gauge their knowledge."

All trainers were required to be Microsoft Certified Trainers and were reviewed regularly, she said.

3Com distribution and volume channel director, Dean Vaughan, said it was attempting to avoid shrink-wrapped courses by using its own helpdesk and technical support teams to run partner training nationally.

It had also looked at some of its longer courses, including an extensive 10-day voice class, and halved it for partners with convergence skills. It was trying to provide more one-day and Web-based training.

Both ITPro's Oliver and Aspire's Lee applauded the rise in online-based training modules as a way of overcoming the problem of classroom time. "You don't end up battling someone who doesn't know what their talking about," Oliver said.

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