A Lesson in Leveraging Portals

A Lesson in Leveraging Portals

In today’s content-rich environment, training organizations must strive to provide relevant, well-aligned solutions that enable employees to gain just the information they need.

More than 35 years ago, IBM set out

In today’s content-rich environment, training organizations must strive to provide relevant, well-aligned solutions that enable employees to gain just the information they need.

More than 35 years ago, IBM set out to strategically transform internal training from face-to-face classes to online programs. It did so by building development tools, virtual classroom systems, assessment systems and internal learning management systems.

IBM also made major software investments in an internal enterprise portal (called “on demand workplace”).A key focus of this strategy was to drive high levels of individual performance, not just a “place to put all the training programs.” As the IBM training managers identified the various needs, they determined that the right combination of content and personalized context could work.


IBM’s learning on-demand strategy leverages the company’s “on-demand” business philosophy— which is to create an open, standards-based infrastructure that integrates and automates business processes.

IBM’s learning portal, called Learning@IBM Explorer, not only provides three types of learning, but also personalized content and information. It enables collaboration among peers and experts to help people perform their jobs. Today, employees use this portal to search for and access every modality of training and any related information, including documents, e-learning courses, SMEs, blogs, wikis and instructor-led courses.

The IBM learning portal involves three components: technology, people and processes. It leverages both traditional portal technology and newWeb 2.0 techniques.

The Learning@IBM Explorer actually leverages the capabilities of the larger enterprise portal. This system provides a set of common services (such as profiling, search and content management) to address key business issues like:

>> Enhancing employee productivity by providing commonly used functions, like “search in a consistent user experience;”

>> Reducing investment in redundant functions;

>> Integrating workflow amongWeb applications to provide a framework for embedded learning; and,

>> Syndicating content and people resources through a common service that can easily be leveraged by any portal user.


One of the major providers of courses, books and reference materials on both soft skills and IT topics is SkillSoft. The success of the IBM learning portal, however, comes from integrating these resources into the same system that is used to access all other training content. When a user searches for information on Java programming, for example, content from SkillSoft is queried and the results are delivered to the user.

IBM has syndications through the SkillSoft Books24x7 platform that are tailored to its learning portal, as well as portals that support various job functions. For example, some syndications constantly update information on leadership development opportunities for the company’s executives. Industry-specific syndications established with SkillSoft render industry resources to its “Know Your Industry” portal. New content and changes to existing content are thus handled automatically without any user intervention. This reduces the curricula maintenance for IBM designers and requires fewer formal promotion and training awareness programs for IBM. The more granular meta-tagging is done by portfolio managers who make the changes in the registry.

One of the challenges associated with learning portals is automating the process of making the content relevant and current for users. This capability is provided with SkillSoft’s Web based open learning services architecture (OLSA), which integrates content from the SkillSoft platform into other learning systems, such as LMSs, intranets and portals. Using OLSA, the IBMlearning portal (and other pages on the enterprise portal) is automatically updated with new content and changes to existing content, including e-learning courses, books and other learning resources. The content is then automatically assigned to the various interest categories established for the users in the system.


Recommended content is delivered in more consumable formats, as well as used more frequently. For example, a book may be recommended for a particular job role (such as a sales professional), but when getting ready to make a sales call to a CEO in a particular industry, an entire book is not a consumable format. A shorter, more current paper on trends in that industry, however, would be useful. A small interactive tutorial could also be viewed online in a browser that may transfer skills more effectively.

These brief, consumable “Quickviews” can be searched for and absorbed quickly. IBM also uses portions of SkillSoft content (such as SkillBriefs) to deliver timely content and make efficient use of licensed material. Learn more by visiting the Website www.skillsoft.com. 

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