aPriori: The Guide to Onboarding and Product Adoption
Mentoring and engaging new aPriori users is not always easy. We share three insights that will help to improve your approach when deploying aPriori to your organization and learning to use aPriori yourself:
- How to establish basic training on concepts
- How to implement applications-focused mentoring with aPriori Applied Services workshops and applications-focused onboarding
- How to reinforce the use of aPriori through strategic change management
Follow aPriori’s intentional change management approach and your team will be up and running with aPriori in no time.
Elliot Wiegman: Hello everyone and welcome to Three Insights to Improving Adoption and Onboarding with aPriori. My name is Elliot Wiegman. I am a senior expert services consultant at aPriori. In my time here, I’ve worked with many clients across a variety of industries as well as a variety of use cases and applications of aPriori and during those time working with my clients, I spent hundreds of hours in support of mentoring and adoption programs of aPriori both helping to build it out as well as helping to enhance them. From those efforts, I’ve been able to draw a lot of insights around what works really effectively, as well as collect data from user surveys around key skills and methods that we use to train most effectively. And so I want to share this with you today.
I’ll break these down into three categories: Establish, Relate, and Reinforce.
Establish core concepts that we can use to sort of understand what’s going on behind aPriori and how we can leverage it.
Relate the data and information coming from aPriori to our current role in solving current problems we have.
Reinforce: we’re taking a lot of new skills and methodologies and applying those to challenges. How can we continue to do that on a regular basis and for future problems? Change can be really hard. So this is a really important concept. Throughout this session, I’ll cover how we do this. A little bit of background on why and then how. Let’s jump in.
The Onboarding Process for New Employees Using aPriori
Let’s start with what we train and how we train to create the ultimate onboarding experience for new users of aPriori. So on what we train, there’s a few things we can kind of train with aPriori. One of them being picks and clicks of aPriori. So learning where buttons are, how to set up a cost, how to set up a scenario and cost it, where to look for the information, how to use certain functionality, leverage cost, insider reports, things like that, right? And then there’s core concepts that go with that. So these conceptual skills that help team members understand how to automate and do this more repetitively and for different scenarios and how we understand the information coming out of aPriori. And a few of those skills I’ve seen highlighted are things like data literacy. So how we read and interpret and communicate data. Building assumptions: how we are able to break down a problem. And then sense-making. So again, we have some information on how we make sense of what we have and apply it to a problem.
Effective Onboarding: Creating A Great User Friendly Experience
And so those three areas and those three skill sets, we’ve seen a direct correlation between confidence in those skill sets, these conceptual skills, and success with aPriori. They’re really important. How do we train new users and what are some onboarding best practices to consider for the best user experience?
How we train. I want to introduce to pedagogical sort of theories for different types of questions we can use when training. Those are procedural and connection-making questions. To explain a little bit more, procedural questions are going to be something like this, that maybe a typical math problem we’ve seen before:
In this example, you have a rectangle where you’re given the length and the width and you’re asked to find the area and perimeter. It’s that simple. We have a formula for that. We take the length and the width and we apply it to the area formula and then we take the length, and the width and apply it to the perimeter formula and get the answer, right? And we can repeat that over and over again. Just keep giving us rectangles with different sides. And so this is procedural. It’s sort of like calling a recipe if we use that analogy.
The second methodology is connection-making questions. This is like if we’re given the same rectangle but we are told the area and perimeter and are asked to find or propose potential combinations of both length and widths for this rectangle. And so this is a little bit challenging. Using the area and perimeter formula isn’t necessarily going to give us the answer in this case. We have to understand some of the underlying reasons for how these two variables connect. We also have to use some other skill sets such as factoring to get this answer. And so this is like to use the recipe analogy, sort of understanding why you use these different ingredients when baking a cake. And once you understand why you can also go bake some cookies without having a recipe. So the idea behind this is we’re understanding a bit more of the concepts through making connections between different skill sets and different core underlying reasonings behind these theories.
And so a lot of times the connection focus, connection-making questions are much more effective in learning, but I think a little more time procedural is pretty straightforward. Pretty straightforward in terms of teaching from a teaching perspective, whereas connection-making questions take a little more time both to teach and to absorb. And so they might not be as efficient in the front end in terms of a time perspective, but they pay off paid dividends in the long run. And so focusing on that connection based questions, I’ve come up with a set of what I call, “Thinking with aPriori Trainings.” So to showcase one of them, I have the building assumptions exercise. So you guys might be familiar with Fermi problems. So a common one that gets tossed around is, “How many piano tuners are there in New York City.” It’s a really broad topic. I’ve used this one several times in some of my sessions. “How many people are employed for delivering mail in Vancouver?” And what this allows us to do is sort of break down a problem and build muscles around doing that and understanding our assumptions. So we can give this one a swing.
aPriori Onboarding: Employee Experience Workflows
“Okay. Where do I start here?” Well, first I might kind of ask, “What’s the population in Vancouver? How many people are there?” I know it’s probably similar to Seattle, and Seattle’s similar to Boston, which is where I live. So I know there are probably roughly 600,000 people. Pick a round number. And I might ask a question like, “Well, we typically deliver mail per household and how many households are there?” Might make a little bit of an assumption there around there are probably several households with families and then a good number of households with single or two occupants. And so we’ll make an assumption around three on average, which would lead to 200,000 households.
Then we go down and we might think about, how quickly can we deliver mail? And we might start asking ourselves questions around how spread out Vancouver is, and how much mail is delivered per day. So volume. We might start breaking down even this problem or this sort of aspect of the problem here in order to come up with an answer. From doing that, we might come up with an assumption of around 30 households per hour, a mail person can deliver to you, which should bring our total to 833 employees. And so as we just demonstrated, we get an appreciation for taking a problem that we probably have no experience with or no background on. And starting to sort of break it down, take guesses, make assumptions, and understand the weight of those assumptions as well as the validity of them. Which one do we need to go find out more information on? And I find this relates a lot to sort of how we do things like cost refinement or understanding how the analysis assumption from aPriori is coming out of aPriori and how we make sense of those. These types of examples help to streamline employee engagement in the use of the new tool, right from the first day.
Another example is the data breakdown exercise. So what I’ll typically do here is give a chart or some type of graphic and leave it a little bit open-ended, maybe focus the question a little bit. For something like this example, I might ask, “Identify opportunities for value engineering based on this graph.” And one of the first questions to really understand is, “What does this chart show in the first place? What does this analysis show?” Then from there, be able to understand what parts might be candidates, why those parts are candidates, and where would we start? And so we are digging deeper and deeper into unpacking a dataset and understanding the various applications a dataset can have. And so there’s no one right answer here, but helps folks kind of think through an ambiguous problem and build some skills around data literacy.
The third example is situational examples. So given a situation and understanding the multiple different approaches we can use to solve that, right? A situation you might find yourself in. Something relevant to aPriori. So this is an example of proposing a prompt for making a determination on where to source certain parts. Doing a regional logistics analysis. Do we source a part in the US or China? Break down different questions within that problem, things we need to answer, and use the resources at hand. So taking a broad application, something that doesn’t require a lot of prep, and starting to break down against some of the assumptions that go into that decision, as well as some of the tools we can use to solve that.
We also have similar ones such as giving a prompt around suppliers unwilling to disclose data behind a quote. What would you do? And I find that especially questions like these lead to a lot of shared knowledge across the team that we’re working with. So you get a lot of folks sharing their own learnings and wisdom with each other, which is great. This also help folks to look ahead, look around the bend, and put themselves in a situation that they might see themselves in and their use of that aPriori. And so it helps that sense-making muscle that we want to build with these skills. Next we’re going to focus on the relate. So we’ve established some core concepts of how to use aPriori.
User Onboarding: How to Relate aPriori to Your Current Role
Now we want to try and make this more relevant. So how do we relate this to our current role? One of the best methods I found for this is taking an Applications-Focused Mentoring approach. So my typical process for this is broken down into sort of four steps. Starts off with like some level of business process mapping. So understanding what’s the day-to-day or the process that whoever I’m working with is going through. So what’s the role and what business process are we looking at? This might be an NPI Stage-Gate Process. We would dig into that, understand the steps, and understand the opportunities within that process where we could be more effective or more efficient. And that’s where we sort of focus the use of aPriori as a tool on certain analysis for instance, such as finding DFM analysis and eliminating manufacturability risks in NPI.
It helps the user when we find a relevant project. We then pick a project that folks are using or are working on today. Like a relevant challenge or something that’s relatively fresh, even doing something retroactively, but that’s at least fresh and relevant to folks there. So really bringing it to something that we can have an impact on. Once we’ve identified that project, we’ll review the methodology. So methodology could be fact-based negotiation for a call data initiative for design, for manufacturability assessment, for NPI projects or using manufacturing and cost data to identify value engineering candidates. And so we go through workflows and methodology and identify that value and this is where we can find true value during the onboarding process.
A lot of times when we do this, folks come away with something tangible that they say they’ve done or impacted the business by or are pretty close to impacting the business by, right? Then we repeat the variety of projects and repeat over time. A lot of this stuff doesn’t necessarily get as scale because we’re repeating on kind of relevant projects and kind of rehashing the skills as we’re doing that. And so Applications-Focused Mentoring is a really great vehicle for the repetition that’s required to solidify concepts.
The Different Types of Onboarding Program for Key Stakeholders
And so how can we take advantage of this in the short term? Two things I’ll suggest. One is, Applied Services workshops. aPriori has a really incredible Applied Services team made up of professionals just like yourself who joined the aPriori team and who have many years of experience doing things like fact-based negotiation or manufacturability assessments. And they work with your teams to run a workshop, evaluate a project, parts that you guys have for a certain initiative, and the output of these workshops more often than not pays for itself, not only in the learning, but in the value recognized for the business.
The second is applications-focused onboarding. So many of you might already have an onboarding plan that you’ve set up or that you use as part of what your organization has set up. That onboarding plan is really crucial, both for engagement and learning aPriori from the jump, as well as solidifying some of these skills. A lot of what we’re talking about here, this Application-Focused Mentoring, incorporates a lot of proven methodologies, some of what we just talked about in the previous slide, but proven methodologies for knowledge or retention as well as engagement. And so incorporating an application-focused approach in your onboarding plan can be really helpful in reducing time to value getting folks lined up on the tool and applying it.
So one thing I just wanna reinforce here to, or emphasize here on this… On Applications-Focused Mentoring and this related step is kind of the impact that it has. That we’ve seen it have on users. And so from some surveys we’ve done across a variety of customers, we’ve been able to correlate a confidence in these application skills. So things like fact-based negotiation, design for manufacturability, using this manufacturing and cost data to define things like value engineering opportunities, right? So this application’s confidence, and as that increases, folks on average realize more savings, see more value from the tool. So confidence in these methodologies relate to value from the tool. The second piece is what we found was that as folks continue to use aPriori, their confidence in these applications increased.
And so the big takeaway here is that, we shouldn’t take for granted that folks are coming into using aPriori or using this new tool with these methodologies already kind of locked down. These are often a little bit underrepresented skillsets that we need to kind of be intentional about training. And so we saw the correlation to value. We really need to be intentional about training on these because they’re not always helped by everybody coming in to use aPriori. A lot of times these are somewhat new methodologies, especially with the data available that aPriori is giving. So those are two things I’m gonna leave you around the importance of applications focus in the mentoring.
Onboarding Tasks: Reinforce
In the third piece around reinforced, so we talked a little bit about kind of the change and how as the change management and how when we implement a new tool, new methodologies, new skills, a lot of times that that comes with the need to be intentional about the change management that’s going on here. And helped folks kind of adopt these new strategies and tools. And so even if we’ve gone through and established these core concepts, apply these and related these to your role, your team’s role, you might still find that there isn’t this long withstanding adoption of the tool always. And we don’t… Again, not taking that for granted. And so I wanna share one of the potential areas I’ve seen kind of take place or one of the potential barriers to that change taking place.
And how we can kind of work around that is that barrier has to do with priming. And what I’ll do is I’m gonna share a quick anecdote around priming and then do a quick exercise to kind of make a little bit of sense of what priming is. So the anecdote has to do with forest firefighters. And over the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, there’s a lot of research and studies done on the death of forest firefighters. And one particular example of a particularly tragic forest firefighter, the South Canyon firefighter… Forest fire. Excuse me. In Colorado, 14 firefighters lost their lives. And as they studied the results of this fire, the tragic results of this fire, they found that the firefighters, they hadn’t been able to cover 6-9 more inches per second.
o if they’d run a little bit faster, they would’ve made it the safety zones. They’re relatively close to safety zones. Some even like 250 feet away from safety zones. What they also found that these firefighters were all carrying their tools. The firefighters that perished were all carrying their tools, these heavy tools like oxygen tanks and big chainsaws and 5 gallon water jugs, things like that. Running away with these core tools that are essential to their job. And upon analysis of that and some of the reasons why that happened, one person sort of… One expert in concluded that telling a firefighter to drop their tools and run is like telling a firefighter to forget that they’re a firefighter and run for their life. It’ss so tied to their identity, these tools and these skills they have or these tools that it’s so hard to detach from that especially in moments of challenge and stress.
And this same effect has been studied not only with firefighters, but across many of industries with pediatricians, NASA engineers, air force pilots, investment bankers, you name it. This is a repeated sort of phenomena that occurs. And one of the contributing factors to this is is the psychological barrier of priming or the psychological phenomena of priming. And so this is when we sort of relate concepts to each other. We sort of prime ourselves with a certain concept and it kinda gets stuck in our brain. And so I’ll give a couple examples here to sort of showcase kind of what this looks like, and hopefully it’ll be a little bit fun for you guys. So what I’ll do is I’ll show three words and you’re gonna try and think of the one word that ties all three of them together. So the common word between the three words I show. I’ll give a quick example. So blue, knife and cottage.
What’s the common word? Cheese, right? Blue Cheese, cheese knife, cottage cheese. Okay. I’ll try again. Stick, maker, point. Match. Somebody might have got it right. Match stick, match maker, match point. Now what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna show three words and I’m also gonna show a word next to each of those words in parentheses. But don’t pay attention to the word in parentheses. Just focus on the three main words and try and do the same thing. Find the common word in between. The heart, feet, bitter. Little bit harder this time around probably, right? Cold heart, cold feet, bitter cold, right? And we have these words next to here. Our brain kind of attaches to them. Let’s try one more just to see if we can kinda improve here. Dark, shot, sun. Quite a bit harder, right? We kinda get tied up to these sub words, right?
That we’re not supposed to pay attention to [chuckle] So it’s dark glasses, shot glasses, sunglasses. And so what’s going on here is our brain, when we see this association here, goes down this associative rabbit hole, if you will. And it’s almost impossible to pull it back out. Like the only thing, like even covering up these words once we’ve seen them, won’t do the trick where we’re kind of stuck, right? And the only thing that can really help us is time. We need to take a little time away from these words and come back to them. And so that’s sort of like why we get good ideas in the shower? ‘Cause we take a little time away from all these things that are priming us around us and we get those light bulb moments. And so what these researchers did, this is one of the tests that they ran to sort of prove out the effects of priming.
They also did this to understand this, “Can priming be tied to expertise?” And so they did the same exercise. And one of the test groups was a group of baseball fanatics. So baseball experts. And they purposefully tailored words that would kind of trigger their expertise. So baseball-centric words. Some of them. And so I’ll give another example here. Let’s see if you guys can get it. So strike, white, medal. Gold. Strike gold, white gold, gold medal. And so I kind of just intentionally… Unintentionally or intentionally [chuckle] Primed you guys. Negatively primed you guys there to thinking about baseball. And so what they found here was that the baseball fans performed worse than non-baseball fans, right? And when the baseball fans were asked if they used their expertise in this exercise, they said, “Nope. No. Not at all. That had nothing to do with baseball.” And so kinda defining there is that not only is it unconscious, right? Is it something that we’re not conscious of that we’re doing this priming, but it’s also automatic. We can’t get rid of this expertise that we have.
And so a lot of times with these expertise, we’re kind of stuck there. It’s always priming us, right? Whether we like it or not. And so you might have heard this analogy before but I think it fits sort of the definition of what we’re talking about here with priming and priming around our expertise and skills. But it’s when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right? You’ve probably heard that one before. That’s kinda the explaining of this. If we have this expertise that’s priming us like the firefighters do with their tools, it’s incredibly hard for ourselves to detach from that. So how is it relevant to aPriori? I talked a little about change management and I talked about firefighters and priming and a bunch of words. But to use a little more relatable example, I’ve worked with many folks who are in supply chain and sourcing.
And one of the strategies that typically gets deployed is, gather three quotes and negotiate. That’s how we maybe drive out some cost in our current spend. And with aPriori, we’re using a slightly different methodology that in fact-based negotiations. So we’re taking some detailed information around that cost and using that to determine where some opportunities are. And how to negotiate using more details of that cost. And so this is something that I find, I’ve seen, observed, be really challenging for folks to sort of drop and pick up. So drop this idea of taking a few quotes, triangulating a cost, that should-cost and then negotiating and picking up completely fact-based negotiation. And in fact, a lot of times I’ve seen folks kind of use aPriori as one of those three quotes.
Which is effective. It still works in some cases, but especially as we get to a little more challenging situations, it’s less effective. If we don’t fully adopt this new methodology, this new tool, right? And so how do we train ourselves to drop our tools? How do we train ourselves to put down a tool that works, that helps us solve our problems but doesn’t quite do it for some of these maybe new challenges we’re facing or to be even more effective? We can use the approach that involves comparison, awareness and refinements. Those are kind of the three steps in the approach that has been used to kinda help un-prime our expertise and help us drop our tools in order to pick up new ones.
And to use the firefighter example, the comparison would look what they did to train firefighters to drop through tools was first run a comparison. So they had them run a obstacle course with and without their equipment and tools. So they’d run it around without their equipment and they’d run with all their heavy chainsaw and air tanks on and things like that and they time them to see which one’s quicker. It’s a pretty stark difference between the two. But it’s really, in your face, direct comparison of like, in this case efficiency, right? And speed. And then it comes to awareness. So being mindful of when you use the tool, what situation? So this is a little bit more of a black and white situation. Mindfulness of dropping tools when escaping a fire, but still using tools to fight the fire. So it’s still more separating them out. So when I’m fighting the fire tools, when I’m escaping a fire that’s gone bad, I’m dropping my tools. So a little bit more of these stark differences of when and where.
Onboarding Workflows: Refinement
And then finally the refinement. So that includes kind of mixing in a little bit of gray between those two. So instead of having it be so black and white, it’s looking at, “Okay. What tools should I maybe keep as I’m running away? I’m gonna drop all the heavy ones, but I might carry a small brush just in case I need to remove some debris outta my way and escape maybe a collapsed brush.” And so we’re finding that approach. So including a little bit of tools used before with this new tool or methodology, right? And so that might look for this three quotes and negotiate to be something like comparing, identifying cost set opportunities. One by getting three quotes for 20 different parts and running those parts through aPriori and then bulk cost in those. Analyzing the cost set reports one might take a couple weeks. One takes all the day or 20… A couple hours, right?
And so we’re more efficient, we’re probably a little more effective actually in identifying those opportunities with fact-based negotiation methodology. And then we might say, “Okay, well, for an MPI project when I just have a one-off part, I’m gonna go get three quotes anyways ’cause I wanna just see what the supply base is and you can handle it. But for these costs out opportunities, I’m gonna stick to fact-based negotiation.” This methodology. And then in refinement, we might say, “Well, for fact-based negotiation, identifying cost and opportunities, I’m gonna use this methodology. But when I’m ready to go negotiate and I have my points around what I wanna ask my supplier, I’m also gonna go get one more quote just to kinda have little backup and reinforcement to the cost I’ve generated.” That’s a little bit of maybe how that relates back to learning to drop our tools and merges in with the tools we have today. And we’ve spent a lot of time building these expertise we have.
Onboarding Flows: Takeaways
So takeaways. To just leave you guys with a parting thought as we wrap up here, a little quote from philosopher and education legend, John Dewey, he said, “A problem well put is half solved.” And so thinking about that, I think it kind of sums up what we’re talking about here pretty well. And we think we take one giant step back from what we just talked about today. We’re gonna look at the problem of how do we implement an onboard aPriori right as a tool. And we can look at that problem as, “Hey, we need to implement aPriori.” There’s a lot of ways to do that, but if we be a little more specific about what we’re trying to do, right? We’re trying to give our team or ourselves new tools and methods for solving these pretty complex problems we’re working on. By the way, one of those just happens to be aPriori, but we’re really focused on giving our team new tools and methods to tackle these problems more effectively or more efficiently.
And so if you look at it like that, the problem like that and defined like that, it’s a little more clear of what we have to do. We have to establish some concepts around these new methods. We have to apply those methods to our role, right? We have to apply them to these challenges. And then finally, we have to reinforce that. It might not stick right away. We might be a little bit prying with our old tools to continue to use them in all these situations, but reinforce when we use these new methods and using those continuously for future challenges. And so hopefully, this was helpful just kind of helpful insights for you guys and gives you guys maybe a few tools of your own to take back to your own work with after growing your own teams and definitely feel free to reach out to me after the conference.