“When you wake, you will know how to use the EARLIER() function.”
Last time, I trailed off and promised some heresy in this, my next post.
But I realized in the meantime that I left out some other important observations, and I don’t want those lost in the smoke if I start tossing grenades. So, let’s get those out of the way first.
Does your org need PowerPivot Training, or do you need Consulting?
Traditionally, the role of consultant loosely translates to “I will perform the required tasks for you.” (Or in the case of pure “talk” consultants, “I will tell you what *you* should do” – ironically, these people usually charge the most).
Trainers, by contrast, have a different role: “I will teach you how to perform the required tasks yourself.”
To the customer, there are advantages to each, of course. But with PowerPivot, given that it’s a self-service BI tool, training is a natural fit.
You should not equate “training” with “go sit in a classroom,” however. In my experience spinning people up on PowerPivot, the best training involves a lot of “collaborative consulting.”
Hybrid: Training Against Your Own Data and Biz Problems
My preferred approach:
- Cover the basics – there are some fundamentals that you just need to absorb, whether we are talking about PowerPivot for Excel or PowerPivot for SharePoint. I have a few areas that I like to focus on specifically, rather than trying to cover everything. The goal here is to get everyone on the same page for step 2, where the real learning takes place.
- Pick a business problem and dive in – once the basics are in place, we pick a business problem and start building a model. Typically this means *I* am building the model, but unlike a consultant, I build it in front of you. This is a means of explaining the principles learned in part 1, and fostering retention. It also becomes the natural agenda: I introduce new techniques and principles when they are needed, rather than up-front in some abstract format.
- Repeat on a few more problems – Pick another business problem. Or a different approach to the first problem. And dive in. Repeat.
- Backfill the remaining “patterns” – There are about 10-20 useful patterns that I use in my own work, over and over again. Naturally, steps 1-3 cover a subset of those, but at some point it also makes sense to take a break and make sure the rest get covered as well.
The Changeover is the Proof
Invariably, at some point in this process, after we’ve covered enough ground and been through the cycle a couple of times, “it” happens: The clients take the keyboard and mouse. You almost don’t notice it, because it’s such a natural transition. And at first, there is still a LOT of interaction between consultant/trainer and client, as I guide, explain, help troubleshoot, introduce new techniques as needed, etc.
The movie goes on and no one notices
But an hour or two later, I typically find myself sitting quiet for minutes at a time. And that is how it is supposed to be! You know your data, business rules, and needs better than anyone.
If you (or your designated Excel pros) are not “driving” before your PowerPivot consultant/trainer leaves, something has gone wrong.
Summary of Why Hybrid is Better than “Pure” Consulting or Training
- Greater Relevance – PowerPivot offers a lot of power, for a lot of different situations. You are not realistically going to sufficiently cover every aspect of PowerPivot in 1-3 days, nor do you need to.
Using your own data and problems is a natural way to focus the training on the features and techniques most relevant to your business today. You will naturally learn more over time.
- Better Retention – it’s a fact. Human beings are just much more engaged with things that directly affect them (like their own data, problems, and questions).
- Troubleshooting Skills and Agility – especially when you first start out, you will make mistakes. Figuring out how to fix mistakes, or even just finding a better solution, requires constructive skills that you just don’t learn in a classroom.
When you have encountered even a handful of real-world problems, and participated in solving them, you are in a mindset that prepares you much better for the next unknown. (This is very much like normal Excel or any other computer skill).
- The Artifacts are Templates – the natural product of hybrid training is a collection of working models that speak your business language. These are by far the most powerful kind of templates and references for future work. As a bonus, they also serve as “proof of value” for colleagues who come along later and ask if PowerPivot can help them.
- Validation of Value – A subtle but important point. How do you know, after sitting through classroom training, how much you have really retained? Similarly, if a consultant comes in and just builds something for you, how do you know you can extend it later? If you train on your own data, however, and are part of the process, there is little room for doubt.
(Plus, I suspect that only PowerPivot pros who really know their stuff are willing to conduct a rolling, dynamic training approach like this, whereas the quality level of classroom trainers and consultants who work out of sight will vary quite a bit.)