Leading independent provider of digital transformation services finds a like-minded training partner
Informed Solutions has been a leading independent digital and management consultancy practice since 1992, providing digital transformation, technology, data analytics and systems integration services.
Informed embraces diversity and inclusion, believing that this leads to broader skills, outlook, productivity and innovation. In practice, this means that Informed’s consultants join the company from a range of personal and professional backgrounds, and a key priority is to provide training, coaching and mentoring that develops talented people into well-rounded professionals with strong technical expertise.
Q4 2018 was the first run.
Informed Solutions initially approached Framework Training to shape and deliver a two-week Software Engineering ‘Bootcamp’ in 2018 that would give technical and non-technical Graduates alike an accelerated introduction to software development best practice. We were thrilled with the opportunity, and after preliminary discussions around what programming language the client wanted to base the scheme on, we delivered the course just a few months later.
Tom Weeks, Informed Solutions Technical Director, stated:
“Consultancy is a challenging career to get to grips with and Graduates have a lot to contend with in terms of understanding their client, the clients sector and the particular problem space they’re working in. When you add the need to learn new technical skills in to the mix, particularly if you’ve come from a non-technical background, that’s no small feat and so we wanted to give our people a structured training programme that helped them with this journey.”
For Informed Solutions, the key aims of the programme were to bring in a graduate intake group, embed them into the culture and support them in moving into a technical sales consultant role or work with development teams.
The main goals of the training were to:
Informed is a technology independent company, with tech at the core of everything it does, meaning that they deliver solutions using the technologies that are most suited to the client and problem at hand. Therefore, it’s crucial that their employees can speak in a technical way, and their graduates need to add value fairly quickly; moving on from the graduate training scheme into one of a number of projects. With the right support, they are expected to start coding on real commercial projects straight away.
Whilst the training would be based on Java, much of what the course would cover had to be programming language agnostic and focus on general software development practices such as how to design, write, test and debug high quality code. This, coupled with a practical understanding of Java, would give trainees the skills they needed to learn new programming languages, tools and technologies when they needed to.
From the outset, we shared a very constructive dialogue. Informed Solutions seeks to create alliances with well-regarded organisations that share their values and principles. As such, from the start of the engagement, Informed were keen and willing to consider our experience-driven contributions, such as how best to measure and pace the training in order to strike the best balance between breadth and depth. They also acknowledged the importance of providing sufficient time outside the classroom for practical exercises and exploring mini projects.
It was clear from our first discussions with Tom Weeks that he was passionate to encourage budding talent from various backgrounds to embrace software engineering as a career.
Together we composed a programme consisting of two 5-day blocks of instructor-led training sandwiching a period of self-study (three weeks) covering Java basics, software engineering principles and the fundamentals of web application development — in a modern, fast-paced, yet easy to digest context.
Framework Training's Managing Director, Ian Watson, says:
“Previous experience has made us aware of the potential pitfalls where clients have initially wanted us to deliver as much content as possible. On paper a brimming syllabus can look impressive but this is not how people learn most effectively."
The initially requested set of high-level topics for the graduate training programme was quite content-heavy so we felt some simplification was in order. We could see there would be major benefits if the programme introduced aspects of Design Principles and Patterns in tandem with hands-on coding. This would provide immediate practical context for the theoretical elements.
We identified early on that there were significant variances of technical knowledge within the audience. This disparity can have a potentially disruptive impact on the efficacy of a training course. To address this imbalance, we suggested a Pair Programming approach to the practical elements of the training — bringing together those who could share their knowledge with a less experienced partner to work on the exercises. It sounds strange, but teaching someone is a great way to find out how much you actually know, and both people can benefit greatly as a result.
Our suggestion to include a planned period of consolidation/self-study between the two tranches of classroom training would allow the delegates to really explore the first half of the content, improve their comprehension and find (and fill) small gaps in their understanding. True learning takes time!
Another innovation we proposed was to conclude the programme with a two-day group project aimed at bringing all the elements of the training together — simulating the real-world experience of working in a team to produce a functioning software prototype.
As with all strategies, there is no better way of measuring success than to implement them in the real world and monitor carefully. The training program was well-received overall and was considered a success. The event did highlight some areas that could be improved to enhance subsequent deliveries of the training programmes.
As the audience also included graduates from a non-technical background, somewhat simplified content could have proven a little more accessible. In the delegates’ words though, the instructor did an excellent job to tailor the training on the fly to be as inclusive as possible for all the participants.
always keen to inspect and adapt, so it is important for us to embrace
constructive feedback — this refinement leads to ever-better training
programmes. The opinions gathered from the participants have been a huge
assistance in terms of identifying the successes and areas of potential
improvement for future runs of this exciting programme.
Framework Training has been proudly partnering with Informed Solutions since we delivered their first graduate training scheme in 2018, and we have successfully delivered a scheme ever since, generally running two streams each time and four on an annual basis.
This has given us ample time to reflect. We recognised that, although our rich and meaningful content is always fit for purpose, there would always be room for improvement.
For example, we learnt from our initial Software Engineering ‘Bootcamp’ that it would be beneficial to deliver the course via a series of smaller ‘bite size’ modules that can be more easily tailored to the needs of technical and non-technical trainees.
When we first began working with Informed Solutions, we trained a combined group of technical and non-technical graduates, and then extended the course for the technical delegates. However, we listened to the feedback and realised it would work better to extend the two groups from the start and run parallel schemes — this ensures we cover individual skills gaps and needs and we’ve never looked back.
We also recognised that a more detailed pre-assessment would be a useful tool to help identify how the audience might be brought into closer-aligned groups, in terms of existing technical experience (this would not be a reflection on aptitude) — and so this is something we now implement.
The technical scheme now involves around three weeks of training with some initial classroom-based training interspersed with project work — which involves effectively working together in teams, coding together and with group work and discussion encouraged. The graduates are provided with ample opportunities to get stuck into coding and learn from any mistakes with the guidance of their instructor.
By the end of our Graduate Training Scheme, the delegates are where they need to be… on their way to becoming a trainee and ready to be part of a commercial development team. We are delighted that Informed Solutions are a regular, returning and much valued client and that we continue to assemble robust, specialist instructor teams of genuine experts who can deliver training on relatively niche technology, despite the challenges that COVID-19 has thrown at us. We’ve loved every minute of it!