05.31.2016 Jeff Thomas

    How Many Combinations Does It Take For Your Training Matrix To Fail?

    At what point does an Excel spreadsheet management system begin to fail for your training program? tootsieroll.jpg

    Variety in Data

    The more data you include in a training program, the more information your management team has to track in Excel. Once a program gets more than two parameters, additional data becomes increasingly difficult for a manual spreadsheet to manage. 

    Even if the number of variables is only of two types, as the numbers of those increase, the information becomes unwieldy and difficult to manage. A small organization training 5 staff on a limited number of SOPs (200) will still have over 1000 entries to manage. Manual data management becomes difficult to do, and even with limited functionality in Excel, a robust training and data management system will overwhelm any spreadsheet used.The point at which a training matrix begins to fail is the point at which it adversely affects your employees, your FDA compliance, or your quality control systems. 


    Your employees need to self-manage their own training on your SOPs. With proper training matrixes, they can. Your training matrix begins to fail when employees receive too much information when they attempt to interact with their training protocols, if they cannot find the right SOP to train on, or if they do not know their training schedule. 

    Any issue of regular miscommunication between your training systems and your employees is a sign that your training matrix is failing. It does not matter if you have 1000 or 1,000,000 combinations at that point in time, all that matters is that your employee's work processes are suffering.


    Not all issues with your training matrix show themselves in internal employee issues. Sometimes it is revealed in the very real external issues of compliance with regulations. If regulatory compliance is slipping and employees are not demonstrating to auditors professional and certain qualifications on your SOPs, this means your training matrix has failed. 

    Compliance issues do show before absolute failure, though. If FDA compliance is getting more difficult to manage each year, this could be a sign that your training matrix is becoming unmanageable. 

    SOPs and Product Quality

    Finally, if overall product quality is decreasing and changing SOPs does not seem to help, it is a sign that your management system is not addressing all your company's needs. Product quality is managed through the protocols employees follow, but these protocols are not understood if employees cannot track and receive proper training at the right time. 

    Managing The 100,000 Plus Combinations

    Big Data is essentially the creation of so much information that it cannot be managed except by software and hardware designed specifically to manage it. Although 150,000 combinations in an Excel spreadsheet are hardly Big Data, they are too much data for people to handle manually. 

    Although this excessive amount of information causes problems for older training matrixes, good software manages the plethora of information and gives you the tools to visualize what is happening in your organization, track training protocol and integrate multiple variables into your training program. 

    A great training program will allow you to enter additional variables concerning your training systems, like location, employee type, and other information to differentiate protocols. Not every employee needs to know every SOP, not every location has the same procedures, and managers often only need to manage a certain amount of SOPs. 

    Your software should be able to deliver a flexible and powerful training matrix without causing confusion through your training matrix system. To get an idea of what your paper based or excel based Training Management System is really costing you, try our free calculator.


    With over 1200 SOPs and over 150 employees, the average Pharmaceutical company tracks in excess of 150,000 possible combinations through their training matrix. If any additional information categories are added to the spreadsheet (location, employee type, etc.) the potential combinations increase exponentially. 
    Published by Jeff Thomas May 31, 2016
    Jeff Thomas