TWO EXPERTS DISCUSS THE IMPACT OF CONSUMER APPLICATIONS ON ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE, AND HOW LEARNING LEADERS CAN LEVERAGE THE CONCEPT.
BY JERRY ROCHE
It’s a new day in the field of corporate e-learning. Improving employee engagement, personalizing learning and improving leadership skills are now the top drivers for investing in learning today, according to the 2015 E-learning User Study conducted by Elearning! magazine.
An industry pioneer is offering learning leaders a single strategy for improving engagement and personalizing learning options that can be applied across all types of content — including leadership training.
‘We say it with a touch of irony, but the idea behind the following phrase is very real and already proven,’ says Chip Ramsey, CeO of Intellum. ‘You have to consumerize the enterprise.’
THe ANSWER LIES IN THE APPS
When we look at the trends associated with the meteoric rise in the consumer adoption of application software, when we dig into why we all seem to gravitate toward the same applications in our personal lives, four key points of interest emerge, according to Ramsey and Intellum co-founder Matt Gilley:
1They are mobile. The amount of time spent with digital media on mobile devices surpassed desktop usage last year and is continuing to climb.
2They offer high-quality user experiences. According to a recent report from Forrester Research, on average, we spend more than 80 percent of our mobile time using just five apps. To retain our lucrative attention, the consumer market demands these apps consistently deliver a great experience.
3They are hyper-focused. The most popular apps exist for a very specific purpose — to share photos, to listen to music, to take notes, or even to ‘knock down buildings with birds.’
4They value the power of design. The applications that succeed in delivering a ‘must-have’ user experience share common traits: thoughtful, purposeful, elegant design.
So what do the common attributes of the most successful consumer apps have to do with the recently identified hot buttons driving learning investments?
‘If the best consumer apps can secure a lion’s share of our total mobile engagement, if they can succeed at presenting a daily news feed tailored to our individual interests, if they can be used to significantly boost productivity,’ says Ramsey, ‘we should apply the same approach to developing learning tools that can, for example, address the issues identified in the E-learning User Study — tools that can drastically improve employee engagement and that allow companies to offer personalized learning experiences, even when focused on a specific topic like improving leadership skills.’
EXPERIENCE, INNOVATION, INSPIRATION
Intellum was founded in 2000, providing an early software platform for learning and training. By 2004, the company had fully developed the first iteration of its flagship product, the exceed LMS. In 2014, it launched Tribe Social, a private activity stream, a video app called Reels, and a performance tracking app called Level, currently in beta.
‘We have witnessed multiple transformations in the learning industry and have always prided ourselves on staying ahead of the curve,’ says Ramsey.
His team believes that learning, social collaboration and performance tools should be as powerful, enjoyable and easyto-use as the consumer applications we rely on every day.
‘I think the only way you can stay informed and understand where the learning technology market is headed is to understand how people use technology in their personal lives,’ says Ramsey. ‘Playing with Instagram and Snapchat, checking out the Fitbit app, looking at how content is shared on Reddit — these exercises all provide a great deal of insight. Consumer apps have been born out of fierce competition for peoples’ precious time and in many cases have evolved into highly valuable and engaging experiences. This is where we look for inspiration, and the result is evident across all of our tools.’
IN THE REAL WORLD
When AT&T’s Aio Wireless merged with Cricket Wireless in March of 2014, the new company wanted to provide its learners a consumer-like experience.
‘With 20,000 employees, contractors and merger-related personnel in the mix, there was a plethora of Cricket communication needs, ranging from corporate updates to sales promotions to breaking news on network outages,’ observes Gilley. ‘Cricket realized that email was not going to cut it. The company needed a communication tool that allowed it to touch employees in real time, while encouraging and supporting employee participation as well.’ enter Tribe Social.
‘We rapidly got this large audience up and running on Tribe, and users immediately found the tool familiar, like the other social networking tools they use everyday,’ notes Ramsey. ‘As a result, teams were communicating instantly, engaged, sharing merger-related information and even crowd-sourcing support issues. The new tool played a crucial role in what would prove to be a very successful merger.’
AdvancePierre Foods is a $1.5 billion food processing company and the No.1 maker of sandwiches in the U.S. Leveraging Intellum’s exceed LMS and Tribe Social, AdvancePierre conceptualized a theme for its overarching learning environment that cleverly played off the company’s position in the food processing and manufacturing industry. They call it ‘The Learning Cafe.’
Imagine a cafe chalkboard menu, divided into two main sections: entrees and Á La Carte. This is the visual AdvancePierre associates encounter when they log into the learning environment. Mimicking the cafe menu, entrees include leadership courses, foundational courses on things every AdvancePierre employee should know, elective courses and ‘monthly specials,’ which allow the company to push out time-sensitive and relevant content. The Á La Carte portion of the menu leads to the entire AdvancePierre training library and personal development resources. It also includes the Virtual Coffee Break, ‘which allows the company to create a dialogue where associates can discuss courses they’ve taken or articles and books they’ve read,’ says Gilley. ‘In a way, it becomes a more modern version of the proverbial office water cooler.’
Waffle House, known for ‘Good Food Fast,’ may soon be known for ‘Bitesized Content Quickly.’ Like many other companies, Waffle House recently began moving toward shorter segments of content throughout its learning environment. One goal was to find a way to deliver bite-sized videos that better aligned with how its employees create and consume certain types of information in their personal lives.
While the exceed LMS seamlessly handles a wide variety of training and learning video, the team leveraged Reels, its private YouTube-like video platform, to help Waffle House open up the way this specific content is created and shared.
‘Imagine that a location’s freezer, or ‘chiller,’ suddenly goes down,’ says Gilley. ‘A Waffle House maintenance expert can go to that restaurant, shoot a two-minute video on his mobile device detailing how to reset a chiller, and upload the video to Reels. In the future, if a chiller in another restaurant goes out, other Waffle House maintenance team members can open Reels, search for ‘chiller’ and have immediate access to that same video.’
Waffle House employees have created more than 1,000 videos inside their Reels environment since the launch of the tool — and it has been a huge collaborative success.
‘This is no different from how we create and share video in our personal lives,’ says Ramsey. ‘But the traditional learning systems are top down and do not allow the actual users to create and share content. So all of the knowledge that resides in your employees remains locked up. You should be striving to develop a culture and secure the tools that allow your users to create and share this incredibly valuable knowledge.’
FROM SWOLLEN TO SKINNY
Today, many learning ecosystems are closed; managed by a traditional LMS and linked to an HRIS system of record. So how does the learning leader attempt to move to an ‘app for that’ environment without disrupting the underlying enterprise systems?
‘We started thinking about this five years ago and noticed that the tendency of enterprise apps, even our own, is to get into a features arms race,’ says Ramsey. ‘Bloated and monolithic seems to be the natural progression in the enterprise space. To fix that, we built a platform that would allow us to add features without adding bloat. Social, for example, is a stand-alone app for us.
‘We can then leverage the platform to create a single sign-on experience that is similar to Facebook Connect or Google Login. This allows users to access all the applications with one login. The apps all work together, utilizing each other’s functionality and data. This approach provides the same benefits touted by more traditional, all-in-one enterprise solutions without all the bloat.’
>> You could have your CRM recommended courses in your LMS.
>> You could have your LMS announce the addition of a new course in your social tool.
>> You could have your social activities fed into your performance tool as part of an engagement score.
‘When smaller, more consumer-like enterprise apps are really working together, you can even choose which apps work best for you, like we do with apps on our phones,’ says Ramsey. ‘It removes the necessity of locking yourself into a single provider. That’s consumerizing the enterprise.’