If you are an L&D professional or involved in building capabilities within an enterprise context, chances are that you have been asked to take the lead on learning products or join a project group that has been tasked with launching and scaling a learning product within the enterprise. This could range from learning management systems, mobile learning apps, virtual classroom platforms, enterprise social platforms, sales-enablement apps and the likes. Here are some aspects that facilitate the successful implementation of learning products within an enterprise.
Expert level knowledge of the product
What is needed is a deep understanding of the product, not limited to just being able to articulate the value proposition to business stakeholders. Learning professionals should not limit themselves to the key benefits/features rather explore the product in a comprehensive way. Most platform providers do ongoing product education webinars (also works for them as a marketing/outreach collateral) and this is an easy way to stay informed about the product and how other customers' leverage it. Another way is to have the vendor’s customer success team/relationship managers do monthly check-in calls on product updates. A quarterly business review with the provider on how you are tracking adoption, use cases and possibilities is also another way to maintain deep understanding of the product. This level of understanding provides L&D professionals the confidence they need to navigate within the enterprise and maintain a level of thought partnership with the vendor.
Strong understanding of the domain/landscape including the competitors
It’s also important to track the landscape and competitors with similar offerings. As an example, I rely on the outstanding research done by Craig Weiss on evolution of LMS, Josh Bersin’s narrative on learning, work done by Jo Cook on Virtual Classrooms and Jane Hart’s research on modern workplace learning practices. This ensures that solutions within the enterprise are bench-marked to the best and informs the product roadmap of the vendor. I have seen many of our vendor platforms evolve with us as we co-create to solve unique enterprise problems. Much of these improvement ideas had origins in the research done by the said leaders.
Ongoing education for the teams & embedding
This is true for all but probably more significant for L&D professionals. Most large learning product implementation cycles highlight the varied levels of capability within L&D teams across the enterprise as a key risk. Personal development should not be limited to just the person and should translate to stronger teams and organisational capability in terms of a robust L&D structure. To this effect, scheduling monthly check-ins, establishing an internal learning community of practice are all great ways to create an ongoing culture of learning in the context of products that you are trying to embed within the enterprise. It also ensures that all stakeholders leverage the learning platform to solve business problems and not as shiny new tools that L&D is trying to push.
Marketing 101 for learning
Learning teams must leverage marketing tactics to create excitement and momentum for learning. Think of how employees can be drawn to learning in the same way marketers draw attention of customer segments. This involves thinking through the entire cycle of communicating the value, clear call for actions, reward mechanisms, reporting and sustaining the engagement levels. An easy way to get going is to run your project plan through colleagues in marketing and internal communication and get their feedback. The other thing to learn from marketers is their ability to use data and analytics to inform future strategies. The basic idea is to know what worked so you can industrialize it, and know what didn’t work so you can optimize your efforts.
From a value proposition point of view, learning professionals must remain invested in knowing the landscape and seeing what is going on. They also need the skills required to champion new ways of working. All this must be built on a robust understanding of learning products and platforms and their organization’s internal reality and context.
Sunder Ramachandran is General Manager, Training at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals India. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on Twitter: @sundertrg