How to Learn New Software
- Dedicate time and resources.
- Believe in what you’re learning.
- Be open to changing processes.
- Start by learning an overview of the system.
- Realize that there will be frustrations.
- Commit to additional and ongoing training.
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Review reference material.
Congratulations! You’ve found a new software system and you’re partway through the implementation. The long process of researching systems, evaluating different vendors, watching demos and finally signing a proposal is done. However, you have now started the very important implementation stage. How well the implementation goes will have a direct impact on how quickly you are productive on the new system, and how soon you start to realize a return on investment. One important aspect of the implementation is user training. Each vendor will have its own process for training users such as classroom-style training with practice modules and supplementary documentation and resources. But, if it’s been a while since you’ve learned something new or have been in a more formal training program/school, you may have forgotten some of the good learning habits you used to know. We’ve put together 8 tips and tricks to help you learn new software to get you and your business operating as efficiently as possible, as soon as possible.
Dedicate time and resources.
This one might seem obvious, but it can be easy to get distracted with more pressing projects and tasks when trying to learn new software. When you embark on learning something new, set aside specific times on your calendar and throughout your day when you will be able to completely focus on learning. Shut your office door, close your email and even mute your phone to remove any distractions. Just like you would schedule an important meeting, schedule the time to learn a new system.
Believe in what you’re learning.
It’s a lot easier to feel motivated to learn something new when you know how it can benefit you specifically. This is why it’s important to involve end-users in the software search process – you want to get everyone involved in finding a new system to help improve each person’s job role. When you begin training, instead of just learning how to use the system, make sure that you also focus on how the new software can help achieve your end goals - such as the ability to reduce manual work and human error.
Be open to changing processes.
Just because you have always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Be open to completing tasks differently, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense from the beginning. There is often a learning curve with new software and sometimes it's hard to see how you can benefit from new processes until you're fully utilizing the different areas of the new system.
Start by learning an overview of the system and the general navigation/process flow.
Trying to learn step-by-step instructions for each task or screen can be exhausting. Instead, start by learning the system’s basic process flow and navigation. Once you feel comfortable with this part of the system, it will make it easier to navigate between different areas of the software and help you feel confident that you know why the system works the way it does. This will help you as you begin to learn more detailed processes.
Realize that there will be frustrations.
When learning anything new, it will take time and there will inevitably be some frustration. However, don’t let any of these things stop you from continuing the learning process and always try to focus on the end goal and how the system will eventually make your life easier.
Commit to additional and ongoing training.
It will be impossible to learn new software in its entirety the first time around. This is especially apparent when you’re moving from manual processes and introductory software to an all-in-one system. But, this is also one of the benefits of a more robust solution, as you have the option to add on more features as your business grows and changes. Schedule regular training every year to help you learn about new features (and to refresh your memory on existing ones). This will also help to ensure that you’re correctly using the system to get the most benefit for your business.
Practice, practice, practice.
If possible, talk to your software vendor about setting up a test server, or find out if they have practice modules as part of their training process. Learning a new system is easier when you can immediately practice some of the new tools that you will be using regularly.
Review reference material.
Everyone learns differently, which is why most software vendors will provide different training resources (such as in-person, classroom style, videos, and documentation). However, it’s also a good idea to take notes during initial training in case there is any particular workflow or process you don’t understand. It can be easy to forget everything once you first learn it, and while there is no need to duplicate the training resources that the vendor has already created, if you do get stuck, you can easily compare notes with your colleagues to work together on figuring it out.
Learning something new can be scary, but if you did your due diligence, the rewards and benefits of using a new software system will very quickly outweigh any frustrations during the training process. Also, learning new technology and processes makes it easier to continue to learn in the future – an inevitable part of business operations with how quickly technology changes in the 21st century.