Taking a week, a day, or even an hour out of your busy schedule for training on technology is tough. Luckily, it is not necessary or even desirable to do ‘forklift learning’ if you are using cloud technology. Back in the ‘old days’, software that you had been using for several years in it’s previous form is suddenly drastically different. Remember the trauma of ‘The Ribbon?’

Iterative Improvement

Purchasing expensive shrink-wrapped software, getting trained on it, then having it remain unchanged for years is no longer reality. Instead, we create accounts online and subscribe to free or low-cost software hosted in the cloud that improves in very small ways almost daily. This incremental approach to improvement is called ‘iterative’, meaning that a small change is made, how it is used is observed by the developers, and further changes are implemented taking user interaction into account. An iterative development team allows all users to have an indirect role in the development process with this method. Iterative development provides a superior product compared to software developed by a small group of designers off in a corner someplace.

Training “Just in Time”

Training has also changed. Instead of the intense, expensive, ‘forklift training’ approach, now a ‘Just in Time’ incremental approach has been incorporated into many of the cloud based tools we use. Frequently today’s user will encounter a pop-up shadow box that notifies us that a new feature has been added and invites us to explore it. It allows us to either select to learn more or dismiss the hint, acknowledging our busy schedules and reminding us that we can always return to help to learn more.

Here are a few tips to take advantage of this robust training environment you have available at your fingertips, but so far may be a little underutilized.

1) Dedicate training time

Schedule training like you would any other appointment on your calendar. Unlike traditional training however, you don’t need to reserve a week or an afternoon, along with travel and other interruptions in your schedule. This can all happen from wherever you are, AND it can happen in as little as a few minutes. In fact, the amount of time you spend will ultimately determine how successful you are. Similar to exercise, you will ultimately see the best results from brief continued activity, not from a couple of long burnout sessions followed by disillusionment and a desire never to try that again. (See the 7 minute workout if you are interested in a workout equivalent.)

2) Get priorities out of the way

Pick a time of day that isn’t stress-filled, before you open your email or other cloud-based software. This may mean you work ahead the day before, so big priorities are out of the way, but it means you can get into your email without having to jump straight to the proposal due in 20 minutes. This allows you to take advantage of that little pop-up shadow box you get on occasion offering to walk you through the ‘new thing’ just added to your software.

3) Get to know the help button

Depending on which software product you are in, some may contain video libraries, categories of functionality, and a search box. Some of your best spent training time is learning where to find stuff. Look for tips on using help, recent release summaries, and other things to help you get a head start.

4) Understand the rhythm of new releases

Cloud applications normally have release cycles, so if you know what they have planned, you can see what is coming up that may be of particular interest to you. Google’s release calendar is here. Each provider varies in their approach, but all share more similarities than differences. Some have early and standard release schedules (meaning you can get the new stuff before everyone else if you want to). Your admin will know what schedule you are on and can help with questions.

5) Invest in a training upgrade

Several products, such as Synergyse, provide a higher level of training that is delivered within the application and at your desktop, maximizing the cloud experience and making just in time training easy to accomplish.

If you think that cloud applications or doing business ‘the cloud way’ is a fad, think again. According to a 2014 estimate, 60% of mid-sized US companies were using Gmail.[20] In May 2014, Gmail became the first app on the Google Play Store to hit one billion installations on Android devices.[21] So, don’t wait for the world to return to the way it once was, make change your friend, and take advantage of the excellent training resources you have available!