If knowledge is power, then organizations who are able to effectively and quickly tap into it and distribute it to its employees are already a leg up on the competition. Organizations that are able to distribute the power to affiliates beyond its employee base may have an even greater competitive advantage.
In the context of learning, extended enterprise is learning offered to non-employees such as customers, partners and other affiliates. Aberdeen Group defines it as “learning specifically for customers and/or partners, beyond just internal stakeholders like employees and management.” It can include training, knowledge, certification or performance support to a “beyond-the-wall” group of constituents.
Many may use the terms or variations of terms “extended enterprise” or “extended enterprise learning” while some, such as Moodle use “multi-tenancy” interchangeably. The concept is the same in that multiple affiliates both inside and outside of the organization’s wall can access one learning management system (LMS) instance as separate tenants.
OPPORTUNITY IS IN THE MINDSET SHIFT
The impact of learning is powerful, it closes skills gaps and it’s a way to keep up with ever-changing technology. If executed correctly, not only will organizations keep up with the pace of change, but they can use to be an agent change agent. What happens when you shift the mindset away from training employees to building a strategic and unified global network with all company affiliates? There is an even greater potential with broad thinking and its more profitable potential; one that may earn a seat at the executive table. While the knowledge base of internal employees will increase, there is a genuine opportunity for organizations to save and make money simultaneously by extending learning beyond the walls.
Nearly a quarter of organizations cite that extended enterprise learning was one of their top goals according to an Extending Enterprise Learning: Educating the Channel to Improve Results, an Aberdeen Group study. Furthermore, “organizations with extended learning in place found a 17 percent greater year-over-year improvement in revenue per full-time equivalent [full-time employee].”
So, who is using extended enterprise learning?
Seventy-four percent of respondents offer learning to customers and 47 percent deliver extending learning to reseller/channel partners and supply chain partners, according to the 2016 Learning Platforms Study conducted by Elearning! Magazine. Some believe that if you’re not offering extended enterprise, you’re already behind your competitors.
Why aren’t all organizations taking advantage of this potentially lucrative extended enterprise learning?
Target audiences for an extended enterprise solution vary by industry but generally fall into the following categories: customers and prospects, channel partners and resellers, contingent workers and supply chain organizations. Organizations may extend learning for free or for a fee by utilizing an e-commerce component of the LMS, the latter being the heart of the solution. Additionally, certification, recertification, advanced training and accreditation programs are all potential areas for an added revenue stream or simply added value.
EXTENDING LEARNING TO CUSTOMERS AND PROSPECTS
Customers, end users and prospects fall into this category and the return on investment is a compelling argument in its favor. “Companies that extend learning to customers experienced an 800 percent greater year-over-year increase in revenue per full-time employee than companies that don’t extend learning to its customers,” according to Aberdeen Group. Online reference libraries, product trials, training and demonstrations, and online and instructor-led courses all contribute to a number of benefits.
Have you ever considered training as a lead source for your organization? This is especially helpful if your learning is relevant to the prospect and/or if your product is in fact, learning. Universities, content providers and continuing education organizations can all benefit by giving to receive. “As customers educate themselves they voluntarily absorb knowledge about products and services without costly active involvement from the sales force or channel,” reports Talent Learning’s CEO, John Leh.
The benefits of extending learning to customers and end users include:
>> Increased brand awareness
>> Increased product/service knowledge
>> Increased engagement
>> Accelerated sales cycle
>> Increased customer retention
>> Increased customer satisfaction
>> Increased customer experience
>> Improvement in relationships between customers/prospects and products
>> Reduced costs in customer and technical support
VENDOR AND CLIENT SUCCESS
Japan-based manufacturing company Mori Seiki, reveals the competitive advantage in offering extended learning to customers. Mori Seiki had a customer without a machine operator quit unexpectedly with contracts to fulfill. This customer couldn’t wait for a machine engineer to train an employee in-person to run it, so the owner and supervisor accessed online training. With their baseline knowledge of the machine and the information they obtained in the training, they were able to get back online with production with little down time. The deal was saved!
Cloud-banking company nCino, a 2016 Learning! 100 winner, extended learning beyond its walls to customers and channel partners. Doing so helped them save thousands of dollars from the reduction of printed training materials and now more efficiently disperses needed training.
EXTENDING LEARNING TO CHANNEL PARTNERS AND RESELLERS
There is data supporting the positive return of offering training to this group. According to Aberdeen Group, “Companies who extend learning to partners experienced nine times greater annual improvement in revenue per FTE than those who don’t.”
Imagine if your partners were involved in your new product launch. How would that reduce time, human resources and costs if the launch was executed concurrently through an LMS? With training offered at the same time as the internal organization, you’ll have an opportunity to increase speed to market.
Especially in situations in which channel partners bring home the most bacon, it’s imperative that a comprehensive, scalable solution is available to provide the information needed to continue selling. Security technology company McAfee delivers highly specialized training for 85,000 channel partners who need certifications before selling the respective products. This is important because these partners are responsible for 75 percent of the company’s revenue.
Extending learning to channel partners offer the following benefits:
>> Increased knowledge and collaboration
>> Improvement in relationships between companies and partners
>> Increased speed to market
EXTENDING LEARNING TO CONTINGENT WORKERS
This group comprises contractors, laborers, consultants, independent agents, and seasonal workers, etc.
The contingent workforce accounts for up to 30 percent of the staffing at some large enterprises, according to Bersin by Deloitte. And, it is on the upswing. If you aren’t supporting this group of workers now, you will be in the future.
Today the contingent workforce isn’t always treated like full time employees. Including them in an extended enterprise solution would help to bridge communication gaps, increase product knowledge and in some cases, help to instill in them the company culture and purpose. Extending learning to contingent staff benefits include:
>> Increased knowledge and collaboration
>> Decreased safety incidents
>> Expedited onboarding
>> Well-coordinated company-wide rollout
>> Increased speed to market
CONTINGENT WORKFORCE SUCCESS STORIES
Zumba Fitness needed a certification course launched to its Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) members. The courses were deployed worldwide to thousands of users in multiple languages. Training is now available sooner and more cost-effectively to the instructors than before. Additionally, Zumba Fitness benefits from the added revenue stream.
“We see how well our instructors are responding to the platform and are engaging in the content. We are super excited to continue to build programs that will continue to inspire our instructors around the work,” says Joy Pouty, Director of Education, Programs and Training, Zumba.
Autodesk, CAD software publisher, provides teacher training to support its Autodesk Certified Instructor (ACI) Program created for anyone who teaches Autodesk software. There are 11 regional distributors across the globe managing their respective courses using an assortment of online and classroom-based training as well as user-generated content.
“We wanted a global approach because the ACI program is global, content is global and we manage this at the global level [with a system that] allows us to manage it in regional silos,” says Rickard Lautrup, Global Projects Manager at Engage Global Solutions, Autodesk.
EXTENDING LEARNING TO SUPPLY CHAIN ORGANIZATIONS
This group is made up of manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors, etc. This group understands dependencies and has a genuine interest in helping you succeed. You can quickly see how extending learning to this group has a domino effect on all sides of the supply chain.
SUPPLY CHAIN PARTNER SUCCESSES
Klein Tools, a leading manufacturer of professional hand tools and occupational protective equipment, offered training to its tradesmen in their respective professional fields. By using incentives and syndicating their courses with seven association universities, Klein Tools got the visibility, exposure, and participation they wanted. Partner benefits include:
>> Increased knowledge and collaboration
>> Increased process efficiencies
>> Increased communication of value proposition
WHERE EXTENDED ENTERPRISE IS HEADED
There are several indications that extended enterprise is here to stay, if not, grow. There are three key drivers that point to this conclusion.
1 Future LMS purchases are being based on it.
Nearly a third (29.4 percent) say an LMS purchase in the near future must have e-commerce to support for partner/customer training according to the 2016 Learning Platforms Study conducted by Elearning! Media Group.
2 There is an influx of vendors in the space.
We will be seeing more of extended enterprise according to Leh. “Lots of LMS companies are entering the market because the barrier of entry is a lot lower than it ever was before.”
3 Vendors themselves are seeing growth, making enhancements and re-positioning the solution.
While the solution has been around for a while, SumTotal now offers extended enterprise as part of the Talent Expansion® Suite the organization unveiled in early 2016.
Kristy Sadler, Chief Marketing Officer at Docebo says extended enterprise is an area where they are seeing incredible growth and opportunity.
Rory Cameron, Managing Director, Litmos by Callidus Cloud points to the company’s 32-percent increase in revenues in the second quarter of 2016 as evidence of the market’s growth.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many vendors offer training solutions beyond the wall. Training companies are also aggregating content and selling it under umbrella brands like Upside Learning. As extended enterprise learning expands, human resources and learning leaders will be revenue generators as well as strategic business partners, earning a seat at the table.
If your company doesn’t have an extended enterprise initiative deployed, or an LMS to support it, this may be some extra incentive for implementing one. If you are in the majority of medium-to-large sized organizations that already have one, find out if your provider offers an extended enterprise solution. It may be well worth your time to consider your future training needs and determine whether or not your organization, affiliates and bottom line would benefit from an extended enterprise learning solution.