20 February 2023

Presentation, Code, Budget

Formal classes in a lecture-lab style format. External-direction = training about the product/service, sometimes sold (income), often provided as part of a partnership deal. Internal-direction = training about the product/service or topics designed to improve the company's engineering teams.

Also Known As:

Problem: Your product/service is complex enough, or feature-rich enough, that there is concern that developers will not be able to learn how to use it from written documentation or presentations. Perhaps there are complex concepts involved, or new concepts that developers have not seen before, or perhaps the configuration of the product/service is complicated due to a high level of dependency or interaction between configuration settings. In some cases, just getting started can be complicated enough to merit concern.


Solution: Provide training classes, ranging in length from half-day (four hours) to full weeks (40 hours or more) in which an expert in your product/service (a member of your DevRel team, or perhaps one of your Ambassadors) provides a presentation describing some part of the complexity, then monitors the room for questions and provides support while the attendees do some hands-on exercises ("labs").

Consequences: Training is expensive in terms of time and expense, both to the customer and to the provider (you), particularly for in-person training. (Virtual training is only slightly less expensive since there is no travel and associated expenses, but many companies find virtual training to be less engaging than in-person.)

On the provider side, materials must be developed and calibrated, to ensure that there's not too much material to cover in the allotted time, or that the labs for the students to do are within an acceptable range of time to carry out. In a typical 8-hour business day, three lecture/lab pairs are common--lecture for 45-60 minutes (sometimes as much as 90 minutes) followed by a lab on that same subject for 30-45 minutes. Three of these, plus lunch and a few breaks, makes for a full day. (If you shorted lectures to 30-45 minutes each, you can often get four in, two before and two after lunch.)

If your team is responsible for the logistical support for classes (finding a venue and/or a conference room in which to conduct the training, organizing attendee signups, sponsoring guests on the company network, and so on), strongly consider dedicating one person on the team to coordinating all of this, particularly if the training class is going to be repeated and/or become a staple of your team's offerings. While it may seem efficient to let each instructor handle their own logistics, one person taking care of the logistical burden can often have some efficiency benefits as that individual learns "tricks of the trade" and builds relationships with other logistical sources.

Note that effectively supporting attendees during training means there is a hard limit on the number of attendees--in general, companies that provide training set this number at 25-30 people per instructor. This limits the reach, but maximizes interactivity. Note that if your team is looking to increase its reach without hiring new team members, consider Ambassadors conducting training on your company's behalf.

When calibrating labs, keep in mind that what takes you (an individual experienced with the product/service) n time will take participants usually 2n or 3n time; thus, if it takes you 10-15 minutes to write the lab (from scratch, no cutting/pasting from prepared files), then it will take your audience 30-45 minutes, minimum.

Note that it's often possible to take the labs from a training class and release them as Hands-On-Labs, albeit with some form of "lecture" to go along with it (either a recorded video, Guide, or perhaps in conjunction with an Article). Alternatively, feedback from your customers about your Hands-On-Labs may lead you to conclude that offering a training class is necessary.


Tags: devrel   patterns