IT Boot Camps Offer Training, From ERP to Linux and More
IT managers have to evaluate such offerings on a case-by case basis to be sure they are legitimate, he said. "Differentiating vendor training, certification training and boot camps would go a long way in helping IT boot camps become more useful and draw greater groups of companies—but as soon as that happened, the term would no doubt get hijacked by marketing firms to get people in front of vendors and products again." Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said that the right boot camps for the right employees can hold a lot of promise for training tech employees in both big and small companies. "With the boot camp approach, employees have a chance to be immersed in a particular tech environment, free from the day-to-day distractions and IT firefighting that is rife in today's workplace," he said. "One of the biggest problems in trying to learn on the job in IT is that employees typically have to quickly learn a new skill to tackle a specific task, and they only learn enough to get them over the hump, then it's back to business as usual. They seldom get the time to practice a new skill enough to really learn what they're doing. With boot camps, they get in-depth information plus the time and opportunity to play around with their new-found expertise." IT managers should be sure to choose workers who are anxious to improve their skills, "rather than those who are mostly punching a time clock," said Olds. "I think it's a great way to get targeted training to the people who need it. But the boot camp approach isn't right for every IT topic. They are best when they're focused on well-bounded areas of technology, like a particular programming language or application. This is where the hands-on aspect of boot camps are most valuable." Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Enderle Group, agreed. "If it is well-staffed with people who are practitioners, it is a great way to get a good initial idea of how to deal with a new technology or concept," he said. "The greater value, though, is meeting the experts and forming relationships with peers who you can work with collectively to solve individual and mutual problems."With those experiences in mind, he said that IT managers should establish specific criteria to measure the quality of a prospective boot camp program before sending employees. "Focus on ensuring quality and put in place solid measurements to assure that quality and you'll get a good result. If you focus [only] on the frequency of boot camps or any other [criteria], you'll likely find they are a waste of time and money."
Enderle said he's attended several boot camps as a participant and that he's often "learned things that I likely wouldn't have been able to learn on my own."