“Know thy customer” applies to T&D as well as it does to any consumer product venture.
For that reason, gathering Target Audience Data is one of the four types of PACT Analyses covered in my book: lean-ISD.
A good starting picture of the target audience allows the project team members to complete successfully the Analysis and Design Phases of Curriculum Architecture Design, Modular Curriculum Development, and Instructional Activity Development.
So far my recent Blog Posts have covered three of the other critical set of analysis data:
1- Areas of Performance and the Performance Model Charts
2- Enabling Knowledge/Skills Categories and the K/S Matrices
3- Existing Training & Development Assessments
This posting covers the fourth set analysis data used in the PACT Processes for T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management. I’ve covered this fourth in the sequence – although I always begin the analysis efforts, even the prior Project Planning efforts, starting on this critical data gathering effort – and often it is the last thing finished in the Analysis Phase – and sometimes spilling over into the front-end of the Design Phase. It simply must be completed prior to actual design efforts. I’ve learned that it must be started early to affect the project planning efforts for the analysis phase – and finished just before the Design Team actually works on the design.
Why Gather Target Audience Data?
The reason for collecting data about the target audience is to understand the customers for the T&D. This ensures that the eventual design (done in Phase 3 of each of the PACT Processes of CAD, MCD and IAD) is appropriate to the learners’ background and the incoming knowledge, skill, and experience/education they bring to the training/learning effort.
Just as marketers need to understand the customers for their products, the PACT project manager and analyst/designer must understand who their customers are. Specifically, they’re interested in the primary, secondary, and even tertiary target audiences. And by that I mean: primary = we intend to meet their needs 100%, they are in the box — secondary = we intend to meet some of their needs but not 100%, they are on the edge of the box/partially in and partially out — and tertiary = might be confused by some as within our target/scope, but they are not, they are outside the box.
Depending on the prior experience the analyst and the ISD organization have with the target audience and the work environment, quite a bit may already be known about the target audience and therefore this component of the analysis effort may be attended to. The more knowledge about the target audiences available at the start of a PACT Process, the less new data is needed. If the analyst’s understandings are based on past experiences, the analyst may simply need to confirm and update those understandings, or just presume that what they know is adequate to their needs. As always, it depends.
Knowing what can safely be assumed and what cannot be assumed is critical. For example:
• Does the audience generally have degrees in electrical engineering and experience working in the manufacturing factories, or is there a mixed bag of educational and work experience backgrounds? Will some need AC/DC Electrical Theory and others not? Will some need an orientation to the manufacturing facilties and others not? This insight will drive modularity at the Event level later in design.
• Do audience members exist as “one-sies” and “two-sies” across the organizational landscape―at the 87 sales offices in 14 countries―or are they all in one building at headquarters? This insight will affect design decisions for deployment methods as well as the design of application exercises (Appos) within the methods/media selected.
• Are audience members all masters of business English? Or will some struggle in their parallel efforts to translate words/concepts into their first language to process them. Will the pace need to be much slower at times for members of the audience suffering from cognitive load issues?
The goal of gathering Target Audience Data is not to pin down audience characteristics 100 percent, but rather to get a good feel for the audience – in order to more appropriately design the instruction to be more effective. Know thy customer!
Downstream Uses of the TAD
Downstream from some upstream, early project discussions and planning efforts…I will need the following, early in the pre-Analysis efforts. But as an external consultant I needed enough of all of this to “plan” my entire project in sufficient detail, up front, to enable me to fix fee price the effort! I quickly learned what I needed for success.
For Project Planning I need Target Audience Data (TAD)…which job title(s) and for which process(es) are agreed to be the “targets” for efforts for the analysis, design, development, etc. And are all targets equal? More on that later. This helps me size my Analysis Team meetings and my Design Team meetings. Should they be 3-day, or 4-day or perhaps a 2-day meeting?
The more Target Audiences, the more “reps” I’ll need to facilitate in those meetings…and while more heads is better than one…it takes longer to get them to discuss, debate and achieve consensus. There are other factors to estimating the length of “meeting time” I’m going to plan for, but this is one key to that educated guess-work.
For Analysis I need TAD to…help me sort out output/task “involvement and responsibilities” in my Performance Modeling efforts. Whose performance do we need to really capture in greater detail, and whose (if anyone’s) can we capture with less detail? And who, if anyone, should we ignore, deliberately? More on that later.
And that Performance Modeling effort leads to next, determining who needs which of the enabling K/S items, as those are derived systematically, using the Performance Model, in the next analysis step.
And when we assess any and all existing T&D content for reuse potential, we’ll need to know who, which Target Audiences, are the ultimate end users.
For Design I need TAD to…determine who to really address fully and partially, as I define one or more T&D Paths (learning continuums) for the target audience.
It also will help me determine how to configure the “shareable” and “unique” content objects into the right number of instructional products to both increase performance impact, and reduce content redundancy’s increased costs for downstream-from-design development, pilot-testing, updating and then ongoing administration, deployment, and maintenance.
Understanding your Target Audience Architecture helps define your required Enterprise Content Architecture for your objects administration, and the various types and levels of packaging (for deployment). An Enterprise Content Architecture ideally also reflects the Enterprise Process Architecture. A mixture if you will. With form following function.
For Development – I need TAD to…determine the number of sub-populations to use to test the instructional materials and process in my Pilot-Test…always referred to also as “the first delivery”…so it doesn’t look like we’re not trying to bring this product to the market pronto and slowing everything down with more testing!
And if the stakes are high for this ISD effort, and there are a lot of eyes on it, my client’s will always try to put their spies in the Pilot to get feedback from somebody they trust. I don’t blame them. So I accommodate them, and even encourage them. We call them both spies and Management Representatives.
But how many Pilot-Tests should I plan for, and what are the other implications to the conduct of Pilot-Testing?
Target Audience Data is covered in Chapter 22 in lean-ISD
The instructional content’s integrity – related to its completeness, accuracy and appropriateness, can be tested using the handpicked Master Performers and SMEs as Management Representatives in my Pilot-Testing efforts. I also call them Management Spies. In a nice sense! Only they can be the judge of completeness, accuracy and appropriateness. But you can’t really measure learning/instructional effectiveness using them. They should already “know it!”
To measure the instructional effectiveness I use members of the Target Audience, and we call them Target Audience Reps. Did learning occur with them? You can measure learning with them – but they cannot tell you if your content was complete, accurate or appropriate!!
This is all further complicated if there is more than one Target Audience. Say, one target is all Product Managers. But if you also include the Market Managers, Engineering Managers, Manufacturing Managers, Sales Managers, Service Managers, and Financial Managers required to represent the enterprise and the “New Product Development” process owned by Marketing, then you need to plan for accordingly for your Pilot-Test.
Then say that there is more than one New Product Development process, as the Target Audiences are from three different business units who haven’t quite accomplished the common-ization of that global process yet. Did you see that one coming early enough? That you were to address not one but three variations of the processes?
For Implementation – I need TAD to…determine who, in terms of the target audience or audiences, and their management, will need to be informed regarding the instructional products availability, accessibility, etc. Or trained as coaches, mentors, etc.
And I use TAD to determine if and then how we will need to roll-out or launch the instructional product or products differently, for those “different” audiences. I’ve found that even a large scale ISD effort aimed at one job title is almost always more complicated than that. There are often Target Audience “segments” that I should have recognized sooner.
For Evaluation – I need TAD to…determine how many distinct evaluations will potentially be necessary. And how many languages, or other/multiple versions for other reasons…do regulatory issues vary for anyone with that same job title?
Components of the Target Audience Data
Components of the Target Audience Data vary depending on the particular project. Data points might include
• Audience job titles
• Audience size, historical trends, and future expectations regarding size
• Audience demographics―where jobholders are geographically
• Audience educational backgrounds
• Audience work/industry experiences
• Background learning styles preferences
Audience job titles and the number of job holders are straight-forward bits of data. Other data is more complicated and nuanced.
Turnover rates and other key data are important in their potential impact to the Design Phase. T&D requesters may say that the population is not growing or will not grow over time, but the analyst may discover that the stable size of the audience hides the fact that the client has an unhealthy turnover rate. The implication for training is that the numbers of new learners will not necessarily diminish over the years, and there will be a continuous stream of folks to train (unless the client fixes the cause of the high turnover). The analyst and project manager need to understand the reality of turnover in order to formulate initial packaging and deployment strategies for the T&D.
The analyst also needs to know the range of educational levels and work experiences of targeted customers. Information on audience educational background is obviously crucial to designing and building T&D. The amount of work experience audience members have in the industry also will affect design and development. So too will the learning styles favored by audience members.
Future expectations regarding the audience size are nice to know. However, getting this data from business leaders may be difficult due to concerns over leaking proprietary business strategies. No responsible business leader will hand over sensitive and potentially damaging data that has a link to critical business strategy, even if withholding the data has a negative effect on T&D. If the business leaders are going to close an operation, get out of a line of business, or build up capacity in a certain area, the analyst may be out of luck in obtaining accurate data on future expectations concerning audience size.
This situation can be dealt with by getting organizational leaders to participate in the PACT Processes via the Project Steering Team. That way, leaders may be able to provide insight without sharing all of their rationale. These decision points occur in the Design Phase of PACT and then again in the establishment of priorities in Phase 4 of Curriculum Architecture Design, Implementation Planning. The implications of not knowing future audience sizes or being guided inappropriately in this area will fall directly into the laps of the Design Team members and/or the Implementation Planning Team members as they perform their roles.
The geographic location of the audience is important for at least two reasons. First, it may affect how the T&D is deployed. And second, if an audience is widely dispersed, it may suggest assembling a geographically divergent Analysis Review Team to ensure input and buy-in from the various locations.
Can the analyst safely assume anything about the target audience? What the analyst can safely assume about audience members and will hand off to the designer will have a major impact on the content configuration created in the downstream activities in the Design Phase!
Sources of Target Audience Data
Where does all of the Target Audience Data come from?
HR may have current, actual figures on population sizes, historical trends, education and experience backgrounds, and records of previous T&D experiences – but –
· A Human Resources Information System may or may not exist and may or may not sort to the analyst’s needs
· Access may be denied
· Data may not be accurate – or reflective of the future state
The typical and logical sources may indeed be Human Resources or the Personnel Department. However, sometimes those sources don’t have the data readily available, and extracting it from their systems can be problematic. And sometimes the T&D requester or leadership of the business unit that will be affected by the T&D resists sharing data unless they understand that the analyst’s need to know, along with the costs associated with the analyst’s ignorance, are neither minor nor manageable. And it at best reflects the current state – not where the data may be a year from now. Only the customer can provide that insight – and they could be wrong too!
Determining who has the Target Audience Data needed within a company has always been harder than I ever imagined it should be. For some reason, HR systems aren’t always able to provide us with the current numbers, let alone historical trends or future intentions.
Conducting the Target Audience Data Analysis
To conduct the Target Audience Data analysis, either the analyst or project manager (assume it’s the analyst) has three main alternatives. The analyst may use one of these or all three.
First, the analyst can ask the customer representatives if they have this data, are willing to share it, or where else the demographic insights can be found. The analyst must be prepared to explain why, where, and when he or she needs this data. Another way to get much of the Target Audience Data is to find out whether Project Steering Team members―as customer representatives―are likely to have it, then to ask them during the Phase 1 gate review meeting.
Second, the analyst can meet with an HR/personnel representative to explain project needs and ask for data.
A third way is to ask Analysis Team members during the Analysis Team meeting.
How much detail should the analyst gather at this point? Knowing that there are 123 sales reps, and that during the next week two of them will be let go and then three hired, is far too much detail. Knowing there are between 100 and 150 is close enough. But knowing that the sales reps are located in 25 sales offices versus two could make a large impact in the configuration, packaging, and deployment of the T&D. And knowing that due to recent acquisitions, job titles vary greatly but job performance is basically consistent will help tremendously in other analysis and later design efforts.
The insights gained from the Target Audience Data effort are used to
• Clarify role responsibilities in the Performance Model effort of the Analysis Phase.
• Impact the design configuration of T&D content.
• Select appropriate deployment methods for Events and Modules later in the Design
Phases of Curriculum Architecture Design or Modular Curriculum Development.
The systems and tools in your Enterprise and clients’ possession may or may not easily give you what you really need in terms of coming to an adequate understanding of the target audience. There may be a lot of work ahead in getting what is needed.
T&D Is Product Management
If you don’t know your T&D customer well, you won’t be able to readily and appropriately figure out how to package and distribute your T&D products most effectively. That’s bad business and, more accurately, bad product management. This is especially true when tackling a CAD – Curriculum Architecture Design effort. Where the modularity of the content, the content configuration, is either appropriate to the diversity of the primary and secondary target audiences – or it is not.
The PACT Processes are covered in lean-ISD – available as a paperback book and as a Kindle book – both at amazon.com — and available as a free PDF.
There are also about 100 other, free references/resources related to PACT – the ISD methodology-set)- as well as to EPPI – the HPT/Performance Improvement methodology-set that is the parent to PACT – which is the Enterprise Process Performance Improvement methodology that I developed concurrent with PACT.
So that mastering PACT would lead to an easier mastering of EPPI!
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