Penny Burrows is a veteran IT training consultant with more than 25 years’ experience in the field. Boasting a vast array of experience across a wide range of business applications, Penny is an expert at tailoring IT training to the needs of individuals and businesses.

In this guide, Penny covers the most common mistakes businesses make when procuring new IT assets, the changing business IT landscape and how best to get staff up to speed with new software.

What’s the most common problem you have to deal with?

Fear. People's fear of coming on a training course and being made to feel stupid. They think other people always know more than they do, so that's the first thing I deal with - making people feel comfortable, giving them the opportunity to tell me what they want to achieve and why they want to do it.

People are frightened of saying they might not know something in front of other people. They’re bamboozled by new technology and they’re so frightened, they’ll prefer to carry on doing tasks the same way they have for years, instead of taking advantage of new features or learning tricks to make life easier for problems at work

What’s changed most about the IT landscape over the course of your career?

What’s changed most dramatically is that people aren’t as frightened of using computers now. Virtually everyone has a computer and the smartphones they carry can be as powerful as a desktop was five years ago.

When I first started out, computers were quite novel - not every company had one and everything was a lot slower. Now everyone’s moved with the times and technology is part and parcel of doing business.  Everyone expects everything to be delivered quickly and the working environment has changed to reflect this pace.

What are the most common mistakes businesses make when sourcing new IT tools?

They assume, because they’ve bought new (or newer versions of) software that people will automatically know how to use them. It’s a common misconception that because people are internet savvy that they’ll be program savvy when they’re usually not.

So companies will provide people with industry-leading tools, but won’t back it up with the training they need on how to use it properly, so it’s something of a false economy. If you’re investing in a new software package - you need to also spend time and money getting your people up to speed with it.

How can businesses best align their IT strategy with their business goals?

When you’re looking at your business needs, you have to take into account what you’re looking to achieve at the end of the day. You also need to be realistic about your staff and how they’ll use the software in the course of their work.

I do a lot of work with construction companies and one client was looking to invest in a new project management system. They’d previously used Microsoft Project, but it’s a difficult program for people to get their head around.

The director had grand ideas about incorporating this new project management software into his company, but I urged him to consider the people that’d be using it. These are hands-on construction staff, not IT experts and they’d never be able to use this program in the way he wanted it. You need to give people an IT solution that’s going to make life easier for both them - and you.

You’ve got to know your people and give them something that makes it easier for them to give you what you strategy at work

How can businesses pick the right IT tools for the right job?

It’s only possible by taking advantage of knowledge and experience. You’ve got to have somebody who knows what the job entails, what people are expected to produce at the end of the day and have enough knowledge about packages that are out in the market to be able to pick the correct ones for both your people and the end result you’re trying to achieve.

How will companies cope with the growing amounts of data they’re producing and storing?

Data's a funny thing. It's not about what you put into it it's about what you get out of it. Databases are there to store information so that when you ask a question, you get the right answer. So it's a question on educating people on how to ask the right questions then determining the best way to present them with the right answers.

So yes, vast amounts of data are stored - but do you really need it all? People are obsessed with putting things in their database and saving it, but a lot of it is actually superfluous, which is why we do a lot of work on dashboards. The manager or director at the top of the tree only wants to see the headline figures, but it’s front-line staff who have to do all the donkey work to give him the big picture.

Making the most of data is all about educating people to visualise what their stakeholders want to see then finding ways to present that to them in the most user-friendly way.

And you?

If you’ve got a burning IT-related question you’d like Penny to answer, don’t hesitate to fire us over a tweet, get in touch via LinkedIn or drop us a line.

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