Elearning! Magazine invited Jonathan Fear, Senior Director, Coupa University, to share his insights and advice on scaling training in a fast-paced service-dominate enterprise. In this interview, Jonathan shared his best practices and lessons learned.
Q:WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE LEARNING SPACE?
Most of the trends we see in the learning field are due to the mind shift that has happened in the way we learn and see our career progression. This is a result of innovations in cloud, mobile, social, and e-commerce areas. Technology has changed how we learn, where we learn and from whom we learn. Today, pull learning is more prevalent than push learning and learners want to consume just-in-time resources, learn from their peers, and leverage their social network to get to the best content quickly. These are the trends we see in response to this cultural shift:
>> Rise of stand-alone LMS platforms
>> Emphasis on learners’ experience and ease of use
>> Attention on expert content at a variety of price and quality points >> Significance of shorter, contextual learning content
>> Focus on deeper and broader quality support >> Importance of integration to existing platforms
Q:WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR ORGANIZATION’S UNIQUE LEARNING CHALLENGES?
We were looking for a solution that could support our partner community and also provide a platform for our own internal resources to ensure an equitable learning experience. We struggled with scalability and adoption on our previous platform. Due to rapid growth, we were looking for ways to scale our training program. Our previous vendor did not provide the level of thought leadership or guidance for which we were looking, and ultimately we were cornered into looking elsewhere. We were also looking for a platform with a modern look and feel that provided a high level of easeof-use for both learners and administrators.
Q:WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE SEEKING A NEW LEARNING PLATFORM?
Our tagline is “Value as a Service,” so we believe that when we are working with our customers, we have an obligation to create value; there is a partnership associated with that which includes a level of thought leadership to drive adoption. We were looking for a vendor that provides that same level of thought leadership and value add to help us fully adopt their learning platform.
In recent years, there has been a flood of learning vendors coming to the market, but not all learning management system (LMS) vendors are equal. We selected Litmos, which has been around for nearly a decade and offers deep domain expertise and thought-leadership in the learning space. We were also looking for a solution that is entirely cloud-based and agile to respond to customer needs and also innovate with each product release. We wanted a partner who is continually challenging themselves to always be better, just as we do. Ultimately, we felt that the partnership with Litmos allowed us work with a company that would grow with us and we were proud to support, and would support us equally as well.
Q:HOW DID YOU GET APPROVAL FOR AN ADDITIONAL LEARNING INVESTMENT?
Like any software implementation, here at Coupa there’s an approval process to which we must adhere. We had an existing platform in place, and the rationale is that it’s always easier to stick with the vendor you have currently. In order to make the shift we had to present the business case to our CFO. Since we have taken a holistic approach with our training, there were many aspects that helped us build our business case. Not only are we utilizing Litmos to train our internal employees, we are also using it for partner and customer training and certification.
We homed in on a few key points in each of these channels:
Internal Benefits: Having a well-trained internal staff means that they are able to begin adding value to the organization quickly, and ongoing effectiveness and engagement is increased.
Partner Benefits: Certifying our partner base allows us to scale much more rapidly. One of the common mistakes with kicking off a partner channel is not training them as if they are an extension of your team. Having a partner training and certification program truly allows us to put trust in our partners and see them as a serious asset to our business.
Customer Benefits: With so many software as a service (SaaS) solutions on the market these days, ensuring that your customer base is enabled through training is a huge competitive advantage. We focused on this in our business case as increasing adoption has a big effect on customer advocacy and ongoing usage.
The results are in: Growth has increased ten times; training and adoption increased by 300 percent; and the company has doubled in size.
Q:HOW ARE YOU CREATING CONTENT USED IN YOUR CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS?
Our current courses are a mix of externally built content in Storyline, and through native modules from within Litmos. We have found that building the actual content in Storyline works best, but we are also taking advantage of surveys, exams, and learning paths natively within Litmos. Learning paths have been extremely useful for us to create an experience that is truly fit for the learner. By using the native functionality within Litmos and combining features like surveys and learning paths, both our adoption and learner satisfaction rates have rapidly increased.
Q:HOW DO YOU MANAGE CHANGES TO THE CONTENT?
We are a SaaS-based organization and are very agile in the way that we do business. That means that there is continual change that we have to be able to support from a training perspective. So we have taken a modular approach in the way we build our courses. At Coupa, we believe there needs to be a single source of truth so that if something changes we can update it in one place and ensure that populates everything else. We’re able to pull out a single building block within the course and make our updates there. This requires us to be very organized in the structure of our account so we can easily find specific building blocks when changes happen.
Q:HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE DURING THE IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS?
The process of implementing Litmos was seamless. Since Litmos is an online LMS, we had it running in just minutes. We also successfully integrated Litmos and Salesforce; its integration is offered through the Salesforce AppExchange and is a certified app. Since the certification was already in place, it put our IT team at ease during implementation. Speaking of our IT team, their involvement was minimal. Since the Litmos integration is out of the box, we went through the necessary steps to get it started. Lastly, as I mentioned, Litmos provided us with the thought leadership required to think big and take our future plans into consideration knowing that we were on a high growth trajectory.
Q:HOW HAS THE INTEGRATION WITH SALESFORCE MADE YOUR PROGRAM MORE SUCCESSFUL?
Many of our teams here at Coupa practically live within Salesforce, so it was definitely a requirement to have a seamless integration in place. We’re taking advantage of numerous areas of the Litmos and Salesforce integration, but one that really stands out for me is reporting.
Reporting is absolutely critical if you’re going to scale your business. By having our training program integrated with Salesforce, we can determine within an account who has taken training and extend those types of insights to others within the organization. This allows for an extra level of visibility which is beneficial when understanding what training someone has taken or whether they are certified. For example, if you have your services or support teams working in Salesforce, they can clearly see if the person with whom they are working has completed all necessary training which allows for an all-around more efficient process.
Q:CAN YOU SHARE ANY LESSONS LEARNED? HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR SUCCESS?
Overall, we’re thrilled with the success that we’ve had with Litmos. Before we started using the solution, we struggled with motivating people to actually want to take training. This was probably a combination of a poor learner experience and unproven content. Now we’re seeing our training offerings scale quickly and our audiences are coming back time and again to learn as much as they can about Coupa. We’re seeing a big focus on self-service compared to standard prescription because the learning system itself is more engaging. It’s been a paradigm shift from the old one-and-done training to a combined understanding from learners that this is the platform where learning will take place. Because of the rapid adoption of the learning platform, we’re now being approached by thought leaders and subject matters experts with content to share throughout the university. Due to the increased level of shared thought leadership among our partners, we’re seeing the added benefit of content curation along with the content that we are creating.
Q:WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COLLEAGUES LOOKING TO ROLL OUT A CUSTOMER AND PARTNER CERTIFICATION PROGRAM?
We have learned a lot through our journey of building Coupa University. If I had to focus on one overall piece of advice, I would recommend an initial focus on building a program that has the vision to scale. Many factors fall into this process, but you certainly have to be willing to make the upfront investment and work with an LMS partner who can help guide you as you grow. A huge component in rolling out a solution that scales is having a well-organized implementation. All published training has a shelf life and we have used tagging within Litmos to help us understand who created it, when it was created, what version it is, and which areas the product training applies.
Q:WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
We absolutely plan to continue to stay at the cutting-edge with our training programs and take advantage of the new innovative functionality. Right now we are looking to extend our partner certification reporting and have that fully integrated with Salesforce like we have for our employees and customers. Moving forward, we hope to have a training checks and balances process in place which does an automated check to ensure that everyone assigned to an activity, whether a partner, internal employee, or customer, has been adequately trained prior to taking on the engagement. We’re confident that this is something we can achieve.