As the TrainingPros Vice President of Enterprise Learning Solutions, David Amborski serves markets and clients throughout the United States. Over his long career, he has developed extensive experience in the information technology, manufacturing, oil & gas, utilities, financial services, healthcare, higher education, pharmaceuticals, mining & metals, transportation, and retail sectors. David’s primary areas of learning & development expertise are leadership development, executive & career coaching, project management, change management, performance consulting, Six Sigma quality, Business Process Improvement and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
Prior to joining TrainingPros, David worked for Union Carbide Corp, IBM, Deloitte Consulting, Bank of America, Ciber Consulting, and Virtual Consulting Solutions. He is active in the American Society for Quality (ASQ), Association for Talent Development (ATD), Lean Process Improvement, Six Sigma, Certified Master Training, and American user groups for SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and Infor. David’s passions are spending time with his family and friends, classic car restoration, traveling, and enjoying good food, a cigar, and a Scotch. With his prowess in ensuring organizations get the most out of their ERP investments, TrainingPros is delighted to have David on board to serve our clients’ needs.
: Broadcasting live from Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it's time for Learning Insights, featuring learning professionals improving performance to drive business results.
: Welcome to another exciting and informative edition of Learning Insights brought to you by our good friends at TrainingPros. Stone Payton and Lee Kantor here with you this afternoon. Lee, you ready for this?
: I am. It's exciting.
: Hey, this really is going to be a lot of fun. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast VP of Enterprise Learning Solutions for TrainingPros, Mr. David Amborski. Good afternoon, sir.
: Good afternoon. How are you guys doing?
: We are doing well. We're excited to have you in the studio because it has come to our attention that you are spearheading a brand-new initiative for the folks at TrainingPros called Training as a Service.
: That's correct.
: Can you tell us a little bit about your vision of that? What exactly is Training as a Service?
: Training as a Service is an answer to a lot of the activity in the enterprise resource planning space where people have put in large scale computer systems, and everybody did all the preparatory work to go live and getting the system live. And then, after the system is live, people kind of drift back to their normal jobs, and things kind of slip away. And, unfortunately, training is one of the things that slips away the quickest because there's not as much emphasis on it after go live.
: Because, sometimes, they think that just by implementing the ERP system, then their work is done.
: Yeah, that's correct. And, certainly, with the onset of some of the new approaches that these systems developers are providing, like moving to the cloud, that means that there's going to be many more changes that are going to be coming at a more rapid pace. And when those changes occur, of course, that trickles down to changing someone's job, which means they have to change the training that they're going to prepare people with.
: And then, when they're buying the system, training isn't included usually, right? It's the system implementation that's included.
: Yeah. Normally, there's really three components. There is the system software itself. There's the integration of the software into the business process, which can be done either by the software company or an outside consultant. And then, there are the change management and training aspects to prepare people to be users of the software.
: And then, like, back in the day, before the cloud, pre-cloud, the software would physically be there. And then, an update would be actually more software. You would just kind of replace, and plug in, and it would update. Now, like you said, it's in the cloud. So, those changes happen instantly.
: Really automatically.
: In real time, right?
: They're happening constantly.
: Yup. That's the interesting part. And some of the misunderstanding that people have with the movement to cloud is that back in the initial implementation days, things would show up on a disk, and that people would read it, and you see what the changes were that the software companies were proposing. And they had a choice whether they wanted to load it or not load it in the cloud. There's not a choice for that.
: It's happening. It's happening.
: It comes whether you want it or not.
: So, when these changes come, does it often mean that my job is changing as well? Why the emphasis on the whole people side of things?
: Well, yeah. Yeah, definitely. It's the job is changing because if the software changes in how you — and I'll make something up here. If how you prepare a purchase order, or something gets modified in the system to make it different, then that trickles down to what somebody is going to be doing on their job, and how they have to retrain themselves or re-skill themselves to be able to do work in the new environment.
: And they love that, right?
: Yeah, yeah. Occasionally, they love it. We try to make them love it because that's the beauty of what we do.
: So, now, this Training as a Service initiative, is it going to be for every ERP system primarily, or like what are the main ones that it's going to focus on?
: Yeah, we're going to focus on, really, the four main systems. And that's SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, which is now a combined system, Infor, and a couple of other smaller ones, but those are really the main ones.
: Those are the main ones.
: And then, what are the areas of learning that it's going to cover?
: It will cover the full spectrum of what somebody has to know to do their job. What we do is we really prepare training to be an activity-based training event. So, it's really based on what you need, not just what keys do I have to press to make things happen, but what's happening in my job that when I press those keys, where's the data going, what's it doing, how does the process work. So, it's really activity-based training.
: So, this whole change management human thing, it fascinates me, right?
: Mmhmm (affirmative).
: As a kid, my dad was a basketball coach. Coach Pete Payton, at home, his change management leadership methodology was because I said so.
: Right, right.
: He eventually became superintendent of schools for a pretty large school system. I suspect that in that role, he probably had to employ some different strategies and tactics, you know, for however many thousand employees to get them all going in the right — But it seems like a very involved endeavor because, again, I really don't know but I can imagine that it's not even like everyone is reacting the same way at the same time to whatever the changes are, right. They're all over the map, yeah?
: Right. Yes, yes. And it's interesting because as the ERP software has evolved and moved to this new place called cloud, in the very beginning, it was exactly what you said, executives would look at this process and say, "We don't have to spend a lot of money or do a lot of things because they have to do it, or else, they can't get their job done, and they'll do it because we're gonna make them do it."
: And that made, initially, for lots of unhappy people and a very difficult time because we know the technology works because thousands of companies use it around the world. We know that we can put the best business process in place. But unless the people embrace it, and really adopt it, and make it their own, then they're the ones that breathe life into the software. Otherwise, it's just processes and technology.
: And they cannot embrace it and not tell you that they're not embracing it, right?
: So, that could be fun to deal with. Like you don't even see it, or you'd really rather, if they're not embracing it, at least, tell you, right. At least, you got something you can deal with.
: Yeah. As a matter of fact, through many of the projects that I worked on, I had a term, and people used to chuckle at it when I said it, but I really meant it. There is such a thing as a covert agreer. And a covert agreer on these projects says, "Oh, yes. I embrace it. I love it. I'm going to do it." They smile at you when they walk out of the conference room. They just look at you, look back, and say, "I'm not doing that." And those are the worst kind of people to deal with because they'll scuttle a project faster than anybody.
: Okay. So, with those kinds of dynamics at play and with the stakes so high, is some of your training or your methodology focused toward the on-site, I don't know, manager, supervisor, leader because they got to-
: Oh sure, oh sure.
: They got to be cognizant of all these things and factored into their day-to-day leadership.
: Well, actually, they're the lead group. I mean, if you don't — The whole premise of the training and change movement in these projects is that the leadership has to buy in. They have to not only buy in, but they have to demonstrate that they're going to help, and they're going to reward people for doing the right behaviors.
: And so, you've got to get what they call leadership alignment done first. And then, you start working on the middle managers and the lower level managers. And then, finally, you get to the end users that are really going to be doing the physical work, and they'll see that leadership is behind them, and that they're leading the charge.
: Now, how does Training as a Service to integrate into the learning department of the client?
: That's an interesting question because my vision for that is that many companies, over the last few years, have really downsized their training activities and have used outsourcing for other kinds of training. For example, HR classes and, you know, sexual harassment classes, you know, how to do payroll, some of those kinds of things, management leadership classes, some of those things are online now.
: What we're trying to do with the ERP classes is do the same type of thing is to say, "Look, we can outsource those things. Even though you have a custom system, we'll provide people that will come back on a routine basis, and check your system, make sure that all look — the courseware and the things that you're training people on are gonna match what your system is for the present day and make those changes. And either give it to you to teach it to some of your resident experts, or we'll teach it for you."
: So, you're going to just flex to whatever outcome that they desire.
: Yeah, exactly. And it's a pretty open format. There are some companies that have a very strong training and a group. And they're usually attached to the HR organization. Very rarely are these training activities conducted by IT. And so-
: I think maybe that's good. Yeah?
: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
: Is that unfair to say?
: Yeah. No, it isn't. Yeah, actually, it's right on point because with the onset of ERP, that was the transition point from people having an IT shop that would come in, and listen to what the business had to say, and say, "Oh, yeah. We can make a custom piece of software to do all these different things."
: And then, they were kind of in charge of everything, and its role reversal these days because the business people now say, "I'm going to buy this piece of software, and I want it configured in this manner, so that I can conduct my business the way I want to do it." And so, it's kind of a reversal of roles, which, in essence, really changes the job description quite readily of the IT people as well.
: Vetted. Well, let's talk about business case for a moment because it strikes me that establishing and articulating business case for what I would call compliance training, right. You've got to have the sexual harassment training. You've got to check that box. You got to do the diversity training. You got to do the safety training.
: I suspect capturing, documenting, articulating the business case for that, easy enough, straightforward, but there's probably little more art than science to crafting the business case for some of these things that you're talking about, right.
: And the ROI. Can you speak to that a little bit?
: Yeah. You bring up a great point because calculating the business case for the things that you outlined is pretty easy because trying to avoid fines and –
: Right, screwed up math.
: … many things are pretty easy to change, but when it comes to the business aspect of things, you know, there are some clients that I've talked to recently that they say that, "Well, gee. You know, after go live, we've added to people's job descriptions that they have to do training editing or documentation editing. And, number one, they don't like it because it's not part of their main job description. So, they're unhappy about it. And, secondly, they're not really trained professionals at doing that. So, they don't do as good a job as maybe somebody that's a professional instructional designer, for example, would do.'
: And so, it's kind of easy to ROI some of that because of the cost avoidance that you can get on taking people away from their normal job. And I'll say normal kind of in quotes. The job that they do on a routine basis, and take them away from doing the training work, and give the training to a training professional that can do it, number one, faster most likely, and also the quality of work is usually higher where it doesn't have to be reworked or reedited.
: And so, everybody, it's really a win-win-win because the people that don't like doing it don't have to do it, and the people that want the work done correctly are going to get it done correctly. And then, it's going to be cost-effective because we'll do it in less time.
: And then, haven't you found that by, in the past, implementing this kind of Training as a Service for other groups that the company gets the most out of the software. They're really kind of getting more out of the investment, the multimillion dollar investment they made in this software to begin with.
: Yeah. Yeah, that's true. And, of course, everything revolves. Once the go live happens on the software, then everything really reverts to a business case of what's the cost of ownership of this over a long period of time. And if you can diminish that cost of ownership for the training piece of it, that's a big piece because that's an ongoing thing that's never going to go away because changes are going to be there forever, right.
: I mean, the definition of going live is you're just beginning the change journey, right, because there's going to be new things, new functionality, new ways of doing business. You're going to add businesses. You're going to add people. You're going to do a lot of different things. And the training aspect of it is so important because you need to meet all those goals along the way.
: And so, having this kind of flexibility where we can bring people with the right skills at the right time to bear on fixing some of these things is really the essence of the value of Training as a Service.
: Now, for the companies that are thinking about Training as a Service is something for them, like, is there a way, a baby step to get in there to try it out? Like what's that process look like from an onboarding standpoint?
: Yeah. I think, what we're looking at right now is offering some clients an assessment phase where we come in and really do a look. So, you kind of look under the hood a little bit of their system, and see how they're running, and what they're doing, and where there may be some mismatches in some things.
: And then, getting at the heart of asking some questions of the management team. You know, are you having some heartburn over this aspect of the business not running well, or are there some problems? And that will stimulate us, at least, starting the ROI business case process to tell them what we can do for them and at what cost.
: And then, what are some symptoms that they might be having that Training as a Service might be the solution for? What are some of the, you know, pains that might have bubbled up that this might be a good fit to solve?
: If there were some changes in the software that have been made where certain things needed to be done in a certain sequence, and then the process changed, and it wasn't — And we find this to be many times is that's not well-communicated across the organization, we end up having to go in in what we call delta training or do a delta to the original training package to make sure that the training really demonstrates what's going on in the system today.
: And so, the advantage that you have is that because we're going to be doing periodic reviews because we come back every three months or every six months to review your system to make sure the training matches it, we're going to catch these things, and where and catch them quicker and/or a company can say, "Hey, I'm having a big problem. You know, my payables department is not paying things out at the right rate, or we're slipping behind. Maybe we need some help, and have people reeducated on some of that stuff." And we can go in and do that.
: This assessment that you're describing, it seems like it has standalone value in its own right. I mean, even if I were on the back side of that to hire my brother-in-law to do the Training as a Service or try to pull it off on my own, it just seems like that would be a good foundation in and of itself. And then, you would certainly want that as foundation going forward if you're going to do the work. Is that accurate? It would have standalone value, wouldn't it?
: Absolutely, it does have standalone value. As a matter of fact, we think it's so important that it's the cornerstone for the ongoing work. So, you know, it's not a one-and-done assessment. You can go in the first time and say, "Hey, here's what the courses look like versus what the system looks like." But on a period of every three to six months, because of the way cloud is changing, you have to go back in and see what has changed in the system. And so, you really have to do a mini assessment, if you will, you know, every time you put in-
: Periodically, yeah.
: Periodically just to make sure that everything matches.
: All right. I'm going to shift gears on you because I'm getting kind of curious. I want to know the back story. How in the world does someone end up being the grand poobah of whatever it was I said, enterprise learning solutions now for, like, TrainingPros. Obviously, you must have some background in this arena. Walk us through your career path a little bit, if you would.
: Yeah, I started out a long time ago with the IBM company. I worked for them for 18 years.
: I've heard of them.
: Yeah, they're a little computer company. And I was fortunate enough to be trained in SAP software at the very beginnings of the whole ERP movement back in the early '90s.
: Before it was cool.
: Before it was cool and before everybody wanted it, and before Y2K, right. And so, I got involved with SAP software. And I have a pretty deep manufacturing background because I did some plant work for the IBM company in semiconductor plant.
: And so, I have always been very pro making sure that people know what to do, right, because what I learned in a manufacturing plant is people might not have known, you know, why things happened in the manufacturing process, but they could sense that something smelled funny, sounded funny, you know, looked funny, and to talk to engineers like myself was very important.
: So, I really respected people very early in my career. And that's what got me involved in doing change management training as I moved into this ERP world because I felt it's the people that really have to know what the software is capable of doing and how to do it. Otherwise, it's not going to work.
: That's where it always comes off the rails, right, with the people?
: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
: Or it sticks very nicely if managed properly.
: Yeah. Yeah, it's an important aspect of it. And many times, when you go to talk to clients, they say, "Oh, yeah. You know, technology guys were here, and the software guys were here. Well, what do you do?" Well, we work with the people side of it, right. I mean, that's what we're all about. So, it's really important.
: And then, after I left the IBM company, I went to work for Deloitte & Touche. And I was a director for Deloitte & Touche, partner director. And I ran the training and change management practice for Deloitte for the US for a number of years. And, again, that just reinforced the things that I knew were important as far as dealing with people.
: And so, we developed many, many techniques. And I worked on probably 23 plus projects that have implemented this stuff. So, I know some of the pains and some of the joys that people get out of this. Sometimes, more pains than joys, but I know how some of those things work.
: And I've talked to — I've done a lot of research in the last two years around clients that I have worked on and have implemented in the last five to seven years. And one of the things they always talk about is, you know, we never spend enough money on our people. We didn't do enough change management. We didn't do enough training. I wish we could have done more. And, now, we're faced with how do we not fall into the same trap in maintenance of this system.
: And so, I've had people come up to me at trade shows and stuff and say, "Hey, do you guys do upgrades of training? Will you come in and help us do that kind of stuff?" So, a couple of years ago, the whole Training as a Service idea kind of blossomed in my head. And this is really the finale of it. It's working with TrainingPros to get this thing launched.
: And it works hand-in-hand with the Software as a Service that these ERP are utilizing. So, it makes perfect sense to have training aligned with the software.
: So, if the software is going to be updated and changed regularly, doesn't it make sense that the training should be as well?
: Yeah, absolutely. And it's kind of interesting because as the whole service economy has kind of blossomed, right, with people outsourcing things and going to outsourcing ways of doing business, it's becoming more normal, if you will, to do it with the training aspect of things because, frankly, when there were downturns in the economy, and there were things that were going badly, and I hate to say this because I was part of the old training world back then, but we were the first ones not to be around because people thought that, "Well, it's just training. Let's cut them right."
: Right. And then, they put themselves in a hole by doing that.
: There's a cost.
: Yeah, absolutely.
: The timing just seems perfect. It seems like the market is probably as coachable, if that's the right word, as they've ever been right now, right, because they've lived through it, they've skinned their knee. Some of them are coming out and asking you. And you're out there letting folks know, and framing this up for them. Is that accurate?
: Oh yes, absolutely.
: The timing is good right now. So, how are you going to the market? Or is it really, are they just coming to you, or you have some grand, I don't know, plan to get out there and have these conversations?
: Yeah, there's two things there. I think, you hit it right on the head. I mean, the whole aspect of doing, not only just training, but skills management of people and the retainment of people in today's world, people are finally figuring out it's cheaper to retain people and re-skill them than it is to go out and hire new ones.
: Than to find a new one. Right, absolutely.
: Yeah. And so, we're — And I've always been a proponent of that. And so, we're going out, and we're doing some things around that. But, also, it's important to know that, you know, this is top of mind in a C level office. I mean, I have had CEOs, CFOs, CTOs come to me and say, you know, "I get all that technology stuff, and I get all that implementation jargon that these guys are babbling, but what are you going to do to help my people learn that stuff? How are you going to help me?"
: And I literally, in a couple of instances, and I chuckle about it once in a while, but when I think about it, but I have had the opportunity to hijack a couple of orals presentations when we were trying to win some business because they would ask the right question, and then I would get up and talk about it. And the technology guys would all be sitting down going, "Why are they talking about this stuff? We're here to sell software, you know." But if they don't know how to work it, it's not of any value. So, that's why we're talking about it.
: So, now, your vision of Training as a Service, what is going to be the deliverable to the client then?
: So, the deliverable to the client is, number one, in the first phase, we're going to do the assessment. So, there'll be, obviously, a written report and a whole outline of the assessment of what we find, and where the holes are, if you will, between the training and the system.
: And then, we'll give them — take a look at how are they remedying that today. And if they build their own stuff, we'll give them a business case to take a look at to say, "Okay, do we build, buy, or modify, the courses that are required?" because you can buy some standard stuff on the market, and we wouldn't be wanting to reinvent the wheel. So, we would do a build, buy, or modify strategy.
: And then, we'll do a run strategy that says, "Okay, if you buy into that, and you want us to work with you, we can both build it and teach it. And in an ongoing basis, we'll send the same team to you that knows your system and knows as much as we can. Of course, in a consulting environment, people move around a little bit but-
: Yes, they do.
: … I'm used to that. But we're going to try and put a team together that's going to have the responsibility for specific clients, so that they know the system, they know the people, and they can come in. And that will speed up the assessment process on the follow-on.
: Now, what you're describing right there, putting a team together, deploying seasoned people with specialized expertise, I mean, this is TrainingPros. That is their wheelhouse. I mean, that, they're already good at that.
: Yeah, absolutely.
: That's fantastic. What an exciting time for you.
: I know. This has just been a dream come true to start working on this. So, I'm thanking Steve and the team there for all the support they're giving me because we're getting this launched. And I'm just really, really, really happy at the way things are going. It's progressing very well.
: So, now, the ideal client for you are somebody who has just implemented a new ERP, or, like, where are they in the ERP kind of life cycle?
: Well, the beauty of it is that this whole process is very adaptable and can be adapted in both directions. So, obviously, our initial target base is going to be because there are so many people that have implemented and have implemented since the Y2K effort, right, there's lots of people that are 10-15 years into the process, and some of them are the worst ones as far as the training world goes, right.
: And so, our target market is really people that have already implemented, and go in, and say, "Here's the ROI. Here's how we can save you money by you doing it yourself." But it doesn't preclude us from going into even a company that, say, wants to implement for the first time. Our people are seasoned enough and know enough about how to do this type of work that they can work on either side of the ball.
: All right. So, where can our listeners go if they want to speak with you or someone on your team about these topics, maybe set up one of these assessments? What's the best way for them to connect with you?
: They can either go out to the TrainingPros website, and there's a way for them to contact us through the website.
: Right. It's Training-Pros.com.
: Yeah. And they could also give me a call. And my direct contact information is at 770-335-9061. And I'd certainly be happy to answer any questions that anybody has or any of those activities. And they can, also, contact me via email at DavidAmborski@TrainingPros.com.
: Well, congratulations on the momentum, man. Keep up the good work and keep us posted. And I think there's probably some wisdom in maybe sitting down with you periodically and sort of tracking your progress. I think that would be interesting to do that. You'd be up for that?
: I would be very happy to do that.
: Fantastic. All right. Until next time, this is Stone Payton for Lee Kantor, our guest today, David Amborski with TrainingPros, and everyone here at the Business RadioX family saying we'll see you next time on Learning Insights.