SMB Corporate Training

Article: You’re a small to midsize company. The only real employee training you subscribe to is the occasional seminar or industry conference you send someone to, or maybe a coaching type pep talk here or there. Other than that, everyone is too busy performing tasks related to driving your business forward to stop to learn or teach something new…no time to take one step back to take two steps forward.

You’re a small to midsize company. The only real employee training you subscribe to is the occasional seminar or industry conference you send someone to, or maybe a coaching type pep talk here or there.

Other than that, everyone is too busy performing tasks related to driving your business forward to stop to learn or teach something new…no time to take one step back to take two steps forward.

Big companies have training departments where trainers can sit back to think critically about what knowledge gaps exist within the company: what role play games can we create to help the sales team become better at what they do, what courses (either classroom based or online) might benefit the customer service team.

Small companies don’t have this luxury. You give a new employee the 10 minute overview of who you are and what you do. You tell him what he is supposed to do and hope that he will fit in, understand how he can contribute, and become a productive member of your team. Occasionally, you stop to give pointers on how to perform tasks better, or to impress the corporate vision that is so clear to you on those around you.

To sum it up, the knowledge transfer in small businesses is usually the result of brief one-on-one hallway conversations or quick team meetings to bring a few people up to speed. If someone wasn’t a part of the conversation, it is their loss. The knowledge transfer is a one time showing.

There are two trends that will change this. The first is the advent of e-Learning. We’ve all heard of it. The second, more important trend, is the democratization of e-Learning. The tools to create online activities that can capture corporate knowledge and disseminate it, make it searchable, and readily available to your entire team are now finally becoming cheap enough and easy enough to quickly set up and use. The money issue is no longer there. The time issue is no longer there. So where to start?

The goal is not to set up a comprehensive e-Learning program that addresses every issue your employees face and to make this program available on day one. The goal is to set up an environment that, little by little, enables you to start the process of knowledge capture and transfer between and among employees. Little by little you will get there. Each iterative content or feature addition continues to push you towards the end goal. But the benefit to your team starts on day one.

It’s like building a house in a modular, scalable fashion. You don’t have lots of money or time right now, but you have a vision of the nice big 5 bedroom house you want. You have a vision, a design of what you want, and right now you build something that is small, functional (livable) and built in a way that allows you to expand as time and money permit. Your family gets the immediate benefit of a roof over your head and you have the long term vision of the dream house that will make everyone happy.

How about starting with something as simple as a company message board, where employees can ask questions and those who know the answer can respond. The conversation is permanently captured so others who may have the same question can read the correspondence. That is capturing knowledge transfer so that those who were not there for the conversation can still benefit.

Collaboration tools: Chat software is on demand access to experts. Don’t know the answer? See if Dan is at his computer. Chances are he knows the answer.

File sharing library: People can upload files they have created that might be useful to others. These libraries are searchable.

Online Courses: Tools are also available to create password protected online courses. Courses can start out with one lesson. Courses can be constructed modularly. Modules, chunks of information on demand, little nuggets of knowledge related to your business, can be created as time permits and can exist as stand-alone pieces of information, or can be incorporated into a larger context, such as a full course.

What is Software-as-a-Service?

Article: If you ask 10 different Software Industry executives to define Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) you may walk away with almost as many definitions. In its purest form, SaaS is a single instance, multi-tenant software application that is hosted by the vendor. There are never multiple versions of software to support because all customers share the same, most recent instance of the application.

If you ask 10 different Software Industry executives to define Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) you may walk away with almost as many definitions.

In its purest form, SaaS is a single instance, multi-tenant software application that is hosted by the vendor. There are never multiple versions of software to support because all customers share the same, most recent instance of the application.

A SaaS software solution is built from the ground up to take full advantage of the Internet. Enterprise software up-front license and installation fees, along with service and maintenance contracts, are replaced by pay-as-you-go pricing and white gloves customer support.

So why all the buzz? Is SaaS really revolutionary? Is it here to stay? Should my company be thinking about a SaaS strategy?

A common battle cry among SaaS executives is that SaaS is a democratizing solution for Small to Mid-Size Businesses (SMB’s). Companies that could never before afford Enterprise software solutions can now afford them. Call it a mini revolution.

Compare purchasing software to home buying. Without mortgages, a home buyer would need enough money to pay the entire purchase price up front. Mortgages allow a home buyer to put little money down and make a predictable monthly payment for a home that they could otherwise not afford. Even the little guy can buy a house.

SaaS executives view Software as a Service in the same way. With no upfront license fee, and a predictable monthly bill, small companies can take advantage of robust business applications that were once exclusively affordable only to their larger competitors – CRM, HR, Payroll, e-Learning, Project Management, e-Commerce and Analytics among others.

Another benefit is that a customer can be up and running with a new business application within hours, days or weeks, not months or years. Value and return on investment can be immediately measured. Customers are up and running faster and at less cost.

The economics work for vendors as well. For vendors the game is volume. The cost for a software company to host software (people, data centers, bandwidth, capital costs) is in many cases cheaper than providing technical support, multiple version support, and training for installed products. Since monthly payments are low, the vendor needs many customers to become profitable. Once profitable however, revenues are predictable and grow steadily. A SaaS vendor does not need to “discount” in order to meet quarterly revenue targets.

What will drive growth in SaaS?
As power shifts from CIO to CFO and other front line business owners, there will be a rebirth of purchasing. Software purchasing will be driven by business people. Business decision makers will demand solutions that are easy to use and help drive growth or reduce cost. Complexity will give way to point-and-click simplicity.

On a macro level, by rallying around their SaaS initiative and pushing the SaaS message, companies such as IBM and Oracle give credibility to SaaS. Just like when they embraced Linux.

SaaS Shortcomings?
A major criticism of SaaS, especially by companies that earn their living by installing and customizing commercial applications, is that a one size fits all application does not take into account that some customers have unique business models and may want to customize software to fit their needs. SaaS companies need to anticipate where people typically modify software and make their software configurable.

Shifting Customer expectations
The go-go days of “must-have” software applications to keep up with the competition are behind us. Software companies used to be able to get customers to pay up front for new software development or extract large up-front license fees. Hello March of 2000. Now, customers are expecting to pay for value as it is received. They are more discriminating.

Finally, customers want software to be a tool to solve a business problem. A non-technical business user should be able to quickly get the hang of it. This is the world we live in.

I have a few takeaways from my recent conversations with SaaS executives. SaaS vendors are focused on creating easy-to-use applications for the business user, not IT departments. Many SaaS companies start by focusing on the small to mid-size market and growing over time to meet the needs of larger organizations.

Since customers don’t make large upfront investments, and can switch fairly easily, customer service is critical to success. This dynamic more closely aligns the vendors success with the customers success. If the customer continues to derive value from the application, they will continue to use it. The customer is not “stuck” with a large upfront, no turning back investment. This is the check and balance that ensures that the vendor continues to keep pace with customers needs.

SaaS companies are developing subscription-based delivery models for technology and services around certain business problems. The business model changes the economic value proposition for customers by allowing them to get significant return on investment with minimal upfront cost (faster implementation, cheaper total cost of ownership).

e-Learning in Health Care

Article: E-Learning has tremendous potential to benefit the information layer of the Health Care Sector and specifically the home health product markets.

e-Learning has tremendous potential to benefit the information layer of the Health Care Sector and specifically the home health product markets.

Consider the evidence: a few years ago, say 2001, few people knew of a company called Google. In 2005, Google projects that it will generate several billions dollars of revenue. Not thousands of dollars, not millions of dollars, not hundreds of millions of dollars.

But billions of dollars.

The company has done the best job Internet-wide of making information easily and readily accessible.

At a market sector level, health care equipment manufacturers have a similar window of opportunity in 2005/2006 to differentiate themselves from their competition by making educational material – e-Learning – easily and readily accessible to market stakeholders via the Internet.

In this article, we will focus on providing e-Learning to two groups in the market: medical professionals, and customers. The “learning” portion of e-Learning will range from core training, CE and CME credits at the professional level to learning about products and therefore combining product education with a unique marketing opportunity. In either case, all companies have the opportunity to materially improve their image in the eyes of key market players.

The key to the e-Learning potential is that the demand and the infrastructure on the demand side are demonstrable if not overwhelming. Plain and simply, a critical mass of users is using the web to find information about any and all activities pertaining to their lives. This critical mass will only grow in size.

For example, according to Interactive Media Strategies, over 90% of all businesses in the US are connected to the web. Such penetration is on par with utility companies like the phone or electricity. As a result, in the eyes of users, the Internet has moved from novelty to utility.

For medical equipment manufacturers, this means that well designed and developed web-information services are not only good business practice, they are required business practice.

Information based services such as e-Learning (and e-marketing to the customer) lend themselves exceedingly well to the Internet. In addition to the reach and penetration of the web, its connection cost is minimal and its ability to deliver the highest quality interactive content – up to and including video – is unparalleled.

Who Benefits?

1) The Medical Professional – few areas of information services are better suited to the web than Professional Development. The nature and needs of medical education match the strengths of the web almost perfectly. For example, training involves delivering content to many professionals who are often in dispersed locations while the web is an increasingly reliable, powerful, ubiquitous and low cost media.

Historically, such training has been delivered as a luxury service: held in a hotel, delivered around a very nice breakfast and/or lunch, taking the better part of a day, etc.

Such an approach misses the mark for the medical professional. CE and CME credits are a requirement. They are not a luxury; they are a necessity. Web delivery repositions their medical training to so they can get the job done quickly and cost effectively. It allows the professional to take their courses when and where they desire.

The anytime/anywhere nature of e-Learning is not only convenient under normal circumstances; it can be a life saver in emergencies. Consider this situation that arose with a client of one of ScribeStudio’s customers.

Our customer received a call that a nursing home client was found in violation of state regulations relating to pressure ulcers. Fines in excess of $5,000 per day would begin within 3 days time if the nursing staff did not undertake more medical education.

Our customer directed the client to its beta version of their e-Learning program. The nursing home simply paid our customer for their staff to access the e-Learning material and exam. In passing these CE credits, the client solved their problem with the State… all without the time and expense of booking and paying for an instructor, meeting space, and lost productivity!

2) The Customer – Medical Equipment Vendors have a tremendous opportunity to use the Internet to educate their customers. The Pew Charitable Trusts indicate that the percent of seniors who go online has jumped by 47% between 2000 and 2004. In a February 2004 survey, 22% of Americans age 65 or older reported having access to the Internet, up from 15% in 2000. That translates to about 8 million Americans age 65 or older who use the Internet. Those numbers grow for younger demographics: 58% of Americans age 50-64, 75% of 30-49 year-olds, and 77% of 18-29 year-olds currently go online.

In addition to delivering information to where the traffic is, vendors can use the web to coordinate promotion with the delivery of said information. Promotions and discounts can easily tie into a customers’ experience on a vendors’ web site. At the same time, the vendor is reaping additional benefits through enabling the customer to self serve their need for product information. Instead of maintaining a costly customer service center, vendors can cut down on such overhead by enabling do-it-yourself service. In summary, the traffic is online enabling higher revenue potential and lower costs.

But e-Learning is more than simply delivering information and marketing to customers via the Internet. Providing a rich and useful educational resource to customers can help to reinforce a vendor’s market image as a caring and helpful provider of valuable products. As a bonus, the higher levels of interaction and assessment capabilities often included in e-Learning programs can be positioned to unobtrusively collect useful market data – all while offering a significantly more compelling and magnetic experience than mere brochures, product catalogs, and even live presentations.

Do not just sell, but educate, too. Customers suffering from various maladies could learn more about their condition and treatment and be gently led toward choosing a vendor’s products in their treatment – all within the context of legitimately receiving education and assistance. This way, medical equipment vendors could combine e-Learning and marketing for their and their customers’ mutual benefit.

3) The Medical Equipment Vendor – in addition to the customer and stakeholder opportunities mentioned above, the web also enables the small guys to play ball with big players. The key success factors in shaping and delivering information are not scale and size, but rather creativity and relevance. We have already highlighted the well understood fact that web connectivity by and large does not have a cost barrier to entry. As such, small players should keep the following framework in mind to get and stay ahead in e-Learning:

> Focus on an area of e-Learning – vendors can distinguish their product line through e-Learning leadership. The thing to remember is to focus to better ensure doing the program right. Trying to be all things to all stakeholders at once and the risk of being nothing great to everyone is high. If the professional is a key influencer in the purchase process, then focus on CE or CME credit. Set up a critical mass of programs such as the number of credits needed for a full year’s licensure and be the one stop shop. Where you decide to focus should center on where you could most quickly gain a competitive advantage. For some vendors, that area could be in using e-Learning to better train their staff and resellers.

> Define initial budgets – original content is expensive to create. Partner with offline content providers and provide them distribution. Make sure you link and track e-Learning customers – professionals or direct customers – to their ultimate purchase of goods or other services. The software is available and affordable already to do so.

> Have a holistic plan – e-Learning is part of the whole business plan and meant to be both a supplemental service and an investment to benefit your audience of medical professionals, customers, and resellers. It is not the end in itself. Picking up on the budget point above, e-Learning must be properly positioned in relation to the product portfolio and other customer services offered.

Now what?

Get started sooner than later with launching your e-Learning program. The advent of the Internet and web may have helped to level the playing field for vendors of all sizes, but that equality also presents a challenge to further differentiate in an often crowded market. By reaching medical professionals, customers, and other stakeholders via critical and useful education programs, e-Learning could be your competitive advantage.

Peter Cervieri is Director of Business Development for ScribeStudio.com, an easy-to-use e-Learning toolkit for companies that want to author and publish online courses and to manage and communicate with learners online.

e-Learning Implementation Road Map

Article: The question you should ask yourself before starting is “How well synchronized is the proposed solution with the problem you are addressing by developing an e-Learning program.”

The question you should ask yourself before starting is “How well synchronized is the proposed solution with the problem you are addressing by developing an e-Learning program.”

Source
Why is your company doing this program? Phrased differently, what made the company want to launch this program in the first place…what is the source, or impetus for this program?

Examples include:
– save money / budget issues
– rolling out a new product to the market
– external offering
– internal offering
– long term skill gap
– employee survey (ie, employees want it)
– new corporate direction
– weak corporate results
– because we can (the tools are available, so why not)

Process
The process for rolling out a successful e-Learning program
1. Alignment with corporate strategy
2. Needs assessment
3. Audience assessment (employees, customers)
4. Content creation / procurement
5. Pilot delivery
6. Project Management (throughout the process)
7. Pilot assessment
8. Rollout delivery
9. Rollout assessment

Results
What results are we looking for by implementing our e-Learning program

Examples include:
– increased revenue
– cost reduction
– completion rate
– new process behavior
– employee satisfaction
– lower turnover
– customer satisfaction
– organizational alignment
– increased access

Content
What kind of e-Learning content is being used
– simulations
– search tools
– virtual classrooms
– course libraries
– online communities
– embedded online help
– stand-alone e-Learning modules
– strategic must take courses (you don’t get a bonus if you don’t take this course)

Infrastructure (tactical level)
What infrastructure is in place (existing) or do you need to get and how do you plan to use it.
– Portals
– LMS
– Authoring Tools
– Standards
– Integration with ERP systems, Document Management Systems, etc

Other Content (blended learning)
Anything that is not e-Learning

Examples include:
– magazines
– videos
– job-aides
– apprenticeships
– lectures
– coaches
– personal action plans
– workshops
– conferences

All these elements revolve around the end learners. Who are they? Employees, customers, top executives, etc.

Don’t over promise. Don’t under deliver

Other questions to ask:
Do we have an internal culture that accepts e-Learning
Can we develop an internal culture that accepts e-Learning
How do you develop an internal culture that accepts e-Learning
– issues include age gap (older employees), etc

e-Learning design: make the interface a part of the content, not just a conduit to the content

The skills that most corporations value the most, they have no idea how to teach
– communications
– nurturing / stewardship
– relationship management
– solutions sales
– sourcing / contracts
– teamwork
– turning around a bad situation
– creating and using boards and advisors
– decision making
– negotiation
– security
– innovation / adaption
– leadership
– business models

These skills need to be developed

Creating a Successful e-Learning Program

Article: Like many new initiative, starting a successful e-Learning program for your company requires adoption from both those who will eventually be affected by the rollout (employees, customers and partners) and from the top (senior management).

Like many new initiative, starting a successful e-Learning program for your company requires adoption from both those who will eventually be affected by the rollout (employees, customers and partners) and from the top (senior management).

These are the key stakeholders and the one’s that will be affected by your e-Learning program. What will they gain? What might they lose? How do you include them in the process early and make them feel involved and excited along the way? How do you make sure they understand and buy into the purpose of the program?

The kiss of death is to create your program in a vacuum and surprise those who will be affected with a finished product.

In the early stages of program development, show stakeholders prototypes or ideas you have that might be beneficial to them or their team. This can be a starting point to a good brainstorming session where stakeholders input valuable ideas of their own.

If they can see what is possible, if they can see how it might benefit their department or them personally, and if they are involved in shaping the program from the start, they are more likely to become project champions, or at least project supporters. The alternative is indifference or, in a worst-case scenario, resistance.

So show them sample simulations, games, lessons, quizzes, etc. Demonstrate how these can be applied to their department or team.

Ask what topics they think should be included in lessons, what skills they think should be tested, whether they would volunteer to be filmed for 5 minutes on a topic they know well that might benefit their team members.

For example, if the head of sales acknowledges that she has to repeat herself frequently to bring new team members up to speed, sell her on a half hour investment in creating a 5 minute Web-based instructional video to save her and her team time in the long run.

Senior management has to lend frequent vocal support as well. A CEO showing commitment to the project can help make it a success.

Have him outline why he supports it, and what he hopes to achieve by rolling it out. Or have him invite employees to participate in the development process, maybe even creating a small task force and asking for volunteers. Those who are interested will self-select.

Purpose
What led to the decision to develop your e-Learning program? Does your company want to reduce training costs? Do you want to increase revenue through more skilled and knowledgeable sales reps and resellers? Do new industry regulations require employee certification? Are you rolling out a new product that requires employee and customer training?

Clearly defining the purpose is important for two reasons. First, an initiative that adds tasks to an already busy day is work so stakeholders need to understand why you are burdening them with additional tasks. Second, it assures that whoever is developing the program maps what they create to the defined objectives.

Development

Now that you’ve completed your data gathering, interviewing, and defined your business requirements, you’re ready to develop your program.

The important strategy here is to choose learning activities that will help achieve your goals. For example, you are head of training for a call center company. You have high turnover, the people you train are generally new employees that have, as a generality, less drive and ambition, less education, than the person running the department. What activities are most appropriate for training this type of person?

Clearly, you wouldn’t start with a 50 question test at the highest difficulty level, a complex simulation that forces them to stretch, that frustrates them, etc. You want to ease them into it, make it fun, maybe with some role play games or simulations. Bring their guard down, not up.

Contrast this to training for senior managers. To them, there is not enough time in a day to finish all the tasks on their plate. You better not waste their time. A fun game that has some educational value but is, for the most part, more of a game, will be a waste of their time. They want to be challenged, tested, and encouraged. They want to walk away smarter than when they started. Activities that require them to problem solve, think critically, or think differently will find a receptive audience.

Think about the culture in a gym. The guys with the biggest bodies who push themselves, the type A personalities, will always strive to get bigger, better, faster. They want all the nutritional supplements, they watch what they eat, they do one more rep even though their body tells them that it is done.

An ambitious employee is the same. They want to make their brain big and, well, brainy. A light workout will not get them there. Contrast this to the social gym rat. A challenging workout is not what they are looking for. Clearly, you, as the trainer want to improve their body, their fitness, their health.

But putting 500 pounds on a bar and forcing them to lift it will not get them there. It will have negative consequences. So how do you coax them, make them fit without them feeling like it was a chore? The ability to work with this type of personality is what makes a great trainer.

Knowing your audience is important. It helps you choose which types of activities you may use in your program. And to fully understand what works, start with a small prototype / pilot. Perhaps one module containing a lesson or two. Get feedback from your audience. This feedback loop will help you as you continue to develop your program, to make modifications to the structure of your program, to choose which activities and content you use in your program, etc.

Now that you’re developing your program in full, briefly reflect on the purpose again (save money / cut costs, develop new skills, rollout a new product, change corporate direction) and incorporate the feedback you have received from key stakeholders. Once completed, release the full program to your team. The final step is feedback on the full working program, which allows you to fine-tune the program to meet the needs of your stakeholders.

Measuring Results
When you decided to pursue an e-Learning program you had a purpose for doing so.

What results are you looking for by implementing your e-Learning program? Examples include increased revenue, cost reduction, new employee behavior, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction.

Desired improvements should be compared to a baseline. It is important, before implementing a program, to determine what the baseline is. Have you sent out a customer or employee survey to gauge current levels of satisfaction, do you know what current revenues are per sales rep, have you determined current employee behaviors that are undermining your business? It is also important to develop metrics to measure results against the baseline.

Having a baseline to measure against is important. A baseline helps show stakeholders concrete results. Every investment needs to show a return on investment. Investments in training are no different than investments in new product development.

FINAL HOURS OF STAR WARS STAND-A-THON HOSTED BY SCRIBESTUDIO

Press Release: Interactive Online Documentary Raises Awareness, Money for Starlight-Starbright Foundation

Interactive Online Documentary Raises Awareness, Money for Starlight-Starbright Foundation

(New York, NY) May 17, 2005 – ScribeMedia today announced that it is Web hosting the first ever non-linear online documentary – raising awareness of a fundraiser for the Starlight Starbright Foundation. From May 1st until tomorrow, May 18th, 300 people have been standing in line at Clearview Cinemas’ Ziegfield Theatre in New York for tickets to the May 19th midnight opening of Star Wars: Episode III. “Standers” were sponsored by friends and family in an effort to raise money for the Foundation.

Online production of the event is being provided by NYLine and Inkling Productions. The site is powered by ScribeMedia’s streaming media servers. Site visitors can follow the happenings of the Stand-a-Thon, with event coverage made available to the online audience daily.

“We supported this event for two reasons,” said Peter Cervieri of ScribeMedia. “First, it is for a good cause. Second, the non-linear documentaries are similar to the simulations engines we develop for the e-Learning world. Allowing a user to interact with content, make choices, and experience outcomes based on their choices is not only interesting, but educational.”

The goal of the online event coverage is to raise money and awareness for the Foundation and its efforts to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and their families. “The success of this fundraiser depends upon building a vibrant, enjoyable community. Countless Stories ‘extends the sidewalk’ to allow participants, media, and donors to interact in a compelling way,” explained Jamie Shafer, CEO of Inkling Productions.

Can somebody say reality Web-TV Stand-a-Thon? Surfers tune in each day to find out who has to go to the bathroom (are they really willing to lose their place in line?), what it’s like to stand in line for what seems like forever, brewing love triangles, seduction and intrigue among these Star Wars diehards. Countless Stories is a dynamic, participatory storytelling engine representing the experiences, opinions, and relationships of the Stand-a-Thon participants. Online visitors can also interact with the device to create a custom documentary based on their input.

The online documentary can be found at www.nyline.org/diaries

“We are thrilled that the NYLine organizers have chosen Starlight to benefit once again from this
unique event,” Elaine Siver, Executive Director of the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation,
said.

About Starlight Starbright Foundation
The Starlight Starbright Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to brightening the lives of seriously ill children and their families through imaginative programs that educate, uplift their spirits, foster a sense of community, and help alleviate the pain and fear of prolonged illness.

About Inkling Productions
Inkling Productions designs and produces video and new media, from content creation through post-production. We specialize in media for artists, corporations, and educational institutions.

About ScribeMedia
ScribeMedia is a convergent media company that develops Web-based software applications, produces media and creates and executes new media business strategies on behalf of customers.