A few months ago we held a one day management offsite which included some inspiring words from the top, a great (but free) motivational speaker, a Q/A open mike, a brainstorming session and updates on significant projects from across our enterprise. For the project updates, I challenged our infrastructure directors to come up with creative, entertaining and fun ways to present the required information and still keep everyone interested. No one wanted "death by powerpoint" after a big lunch.
The entire team exceeded my expectations with funny skits, short videos, surprising pictures, and yes a few powerpoints slides that got across the information and intrigued the audience. One of the "no budget" videos was extremely well-done with slow-motion, music and more. I was blown-away by the talent in the group, and the teams even used their own home equipment. After the event, I starting thinking about how to capture that energy and continue to motivate and train the rest of our IT staff during these tough economic times when training budgets have been cut and out-of-state travel has been eliminated.
Fast-forward two months and check-out our Michigan Department of Information Technology (MDIT) Service Management Center (SMC) Training Video. This YouTube video actually achieves five significant objectives for us:
1) Offers new staff a short (6-minute) overview of how we manage technology with the SMC processes and procedures.
2) Offers (very low cost) improved training for exisiting staff who are asked to read and understand fairly long (and somewhat boring) manuals on processes and procedures regarding how we manage incidents, what's a critical system, why the "red card" is so important, why we have a morning "day start" call, etc.
3) Shows our customers how we keep an "eye on government" in a 7x24x365 manner. We also discuss emergency response (for situations like virus outbreaks) at the SMC. The YouTube video offers an inexpensive form of communication and marketing for MDIT.
4) Motivates staff. Help them understand the importance of what they do every day. YouTube and other new media channels are now the manner in which information is typically consumed for many in society.
5) Brings our "way of life" in managing technology in Michigan to life for others. Videos with real people portray a story much easier than white papers or training manuals.
From a broader perspective, government technology professionals must be using new media to our advantage during these challenging budget times. Ken Theis, our MDIT Director and Michigan CIO, has articulated a vision for an online "MDIT University" which will provide our staff free (or very low-cost) technical training on various tracks from a myriad of Internet sources. All of these courses and training opportunities can be tracked in one portal to match indivdualized employee career advancement plans and professional interests.
We're living in a time when our children and staff are uploading videos and pictures onto Internet sites every day at home. In my opinion, we can't afford not to use YouTube and other "hot" technology tools at work for training and other professional purposes.
At a time when MIT is offering over 1900 free courses online, we must relook at training. Likewise, Yale and many other universities are doing the same. There is even an iTunes university which enables mobile learning. The number of free webcasts, webinars and other technical training opportunities is exploding right now, and CxOs need to be taking advantage of what is cheap and free.
What are you thoughts on low-cost training? Have you created your own government YouTube videos? Can you please share links in the comments section?
I'd also love to hear your views on our SMC YouTube video. (Remember that it was done in-house with a $0 budget.)