As the project leader, you are responsible for building the business case for adopting or replacing the learning management system (LMS) to be used for customer training. To ultimately convince management that the adoption of learning technology is essential, you must prove that your education business for customers is lacking.
That starts by assessing the current state of your customer training efforts.
From our experience, the best way to make that happen is by following this three-step process:
- Assemble your team.
- Choose an assessment format.
- Select the topics that make up the assessment.
Step 1: Assemble your cross-functional team
The people on this cross-functional team are the usual suspects, the same as on the LMS search team. They were originally recruited because of their subject matter expertise (they understand product training, customer success, etc.) or constituency (professional services, marketing, sales enablement, and product development).
It is their unique background, perspective and part of the business that is so important to this assessment.
Step 2: Decide on the format of the assessment (we suggest a SWOT analysis)
The SWOT analysis is a process that is easy to implement and produces results you can act on. It is designed to help you identify the strengths (S), weaknesses (W), opportunities (O) and threats (T) regarding a specific tactic or project.
In this situation the project is the adoption of a new or replacement LMS. The assessment of the current state of your customer training is a critical contributor to the business case.
The format for collaboration has changed:
A SWOT analysis is recorded in a grid with four boxes, two by two. Discussion points, conclusions, answers, and opinions (such as how we can overcome this specific threat) are recorded in the appropriate boxes.
The matrix is designed this way because strengths and weaknesses are usually interrelated, so they are next to each other. On the next line, any discussion of opportunities must take place alongside the threats, which may undermine the opportunities.
Looking at this data on one surface helps you to understand the health of your customer training business, uncover the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and to better and more urgently make your business case so the scales tip in favor of getting the new LMS.
Step 3: Select the topics that comprise the assessment
There are five essential questions to address:
1. How scalable is our customer training business?
If your company’s strategic vision is to grow, your product training must be scalable. This is the ability for a company, according to the Economic Times, “to sustain or improve its performance in terms of profitability or efficiency when its sales volume increases.”
If you’re like many other extended enterprise training organizations, you rely primarily on instructor-led training, often delivered by customer success managers — even if that means your customers and partners are sitting in front of a screen watching a live webinar. That approach is not scalable because customer success managers need to focus on non-training activities. The more you grow, the more training will sap their time.
As you grow, delivery must migrate to forms of digital learning, video and other types of interactive, self-paced training, which are scalable and are the way today’s learners want to learn products. Your business must become a portal for multiple forms of media that can be accessed any time, any place, and on any device.
Only a powerful next-generation learning platform can deliver this. For a more detailed discussion on how customer training programs are evolving over the next several years, read, “Companies Turn to Customer Training to Drive Growth.”
2. What is the ROI of our education business, and how is that trending?
There’s a lot to assess here — overall cost, top line, bottom line, and ROI. That’s true for overall business as well as every single one of your product lines. The drill-down should examine the trending of these important metrics by quarter and by year.
Also, look at projections for the upcoming quarter and year. Are you seeing growth (or lack thereof), and is that growth in line with your company’s goals? Are you outpacing or lagging behind your competition?
There’s no doubt that interactive, self-paced customer training has the potential to outperform instructor-led training in vital areas, including:
- Reducing support costs;
- Increasing adoption of key features;
- Boosting product renewal rates; and
- Improving overall customer success.
Use this part of the assessment to also identify inefficiencies, pain points, and errors in creating, delivering, and tracking training that would fuel the argument for an LMS.
A big one is that mistakes cost money, and if you are tracking training on a spreadsheet, your business is not scalable (see topic 1).
3. How thorough and up to date is our training content?
Training content must drive customer success and reduced cost. Your business must have the content that learners need to ensure the continued success of the products they’re buying from your company.
By definition the content must be thorough, easy to find and up to date, which is made easier with an LMS. What in your library is old and needs refreshing? Are there product gaps that need to be bridged?
It’s also important to map the workflow for content authoring. How quickly can “learning and development” update content or build a new course? How easy and fast is it, because time-to-market is a real issue in business.
It’s important that each of the LMSs that you evaluate include integrated content authoring, so that you’re not dealing with a third-party authoring tool as well. That will increase your investment gains.
4. What’s changing in the marketplace and how does this affect our competitiveness?
In the context of training, the customers you want to reach should be thought of as consumers first. And what do consumers want? Nowadays, when they learn, they do it through video, short text and quick lessons they can get off their devices as the situation calls for training.
Can your existing LMS (or spreadsheet, for that matter) accommodate the quick turnaround of content or tracking so that you know what they’ve already viewed and can recommend other linked topics?
Conversely, as you grapple with this question, it would be worthwhile for you to list the risks and challenges, threats and opportunities of NOT moving to on-demand learning and of NOT adopting the LMS, particularly as it ties to customer renewals.
5. What is our stakeholder satisfaction?
The most important stakeholders in any company decision are your customers. They’re the ones who pay the bills, and without revenue nothing else matters.
Customer satisfaction in training begins with learner engagement. You should look at learner engagement by product line.
Are you gaining customers or losing them? Are they pursuing additional education outside of what your own organization provides? What is the lifetime value of that customer and how is it trending?
Do we have the content and courses customers want and need? Are they delivered in the way they want it, and are they engaged during and satisfied after the training?
For more ideas, read, “5 Tools to Improve Online Learner Engagement.”
Three critical success factors for selecting the topics that comprise your assessment:
- Know who will review and who will approve the business case. Hopefully, you already know them well. But if you don’t, go introduce yourself. See if you can get time with them to ask what they look for in the business case and what their criteria is for a positive decision.
- As you moderate the assessment and ask the hard questions, don’t let anyone off the hook easily. Ferret out the real risks, challenges, and rewards that are live under blanket statements. Badger the team until you reach a level of bottom-line specificity.
- Identify requirements for the transition to a new LMS. How long will it take, who must be involved, and what has to happen? Have the complete plan figured out because it’s 100 percent certain that if things go well with the business case presentation, you will be asked.
An important source of information for the LMS business case
The reason for this analysis is to assess the current state of your customer training in connection with your current LMS or without an LMS.
That is the starting point for the evaluation of the business case. The detailed outcome of the analysis should be an appendix of the LMS business case.
For insights and tips on how to prepare a business case specifically for the adoption of a new or replacement customer LMS, read, “The Customer Training LMS: How to Build the Business Case.”
Next in this series, we’ll help you build on the baseline you’ve measured and construct a clear vision of the future state.