Moving corporate training to the cloud – why & how
Businesses, on an average, spend over 18% of their total training budget on learning technologies, according to a Brandon Hall Group report. This can be attributed to the growing number of digitally native millennials at the workplace, the power and ubiquity of the mobile devices and the need to carry out expansive training operations for a diverse workforce. While companies are realizing the benefits that collaborative and cloud technologies bring, their aim is to facilitate learning anytime, anywhere on any device to employees and associates rather than spending time in customizing and maintaining the installed technologies.
The fundamental shift in focus from maintaining technologies to delivering just-in-time learning has led companies into leveraging the benefit that cloud has to offer. In a nutshell, organizations have been desparately contemplating a move to a platform, system or technology that is reliable, flexible and scalable, solves current challenges as well as sustains in the near future, at least 5-10 years down the line if not longer. And cloud, for that matter, seems to fulfill this need as of now.
Why take corporate training to the cloud
Here, let’s look at the reasons why companies that haven’t made or are still comtemplating the move, should make a leap and how they can facilitate the change:
- Ease-of-use: Speaking of the ease-of-use, it is cent-percent true that what looks usable is used. Something which looks complex at the first glance faces reluctance. The same research by Brandon Hall shows that neither the administrators nor the users want to deal with the technology hassles, and difficulty in navigation is the biggest factor resulting in user frustration on both sides of the learning – delivery and consumption. Because cloud-based online training software facilitate anytime anywhere any device learning, they have to be more inclusive and take care of the common elements of different browsers and devices. This means a cloud learning platform is designed keeping in mind the needs of masses yet also offering them a choice to consume learning in the way they want. However, this doesn’t ensure that cloud platforms rank high on ease-of-use, but as compared to installed LMS they are certainly easier to use.
- Less implementation time: It turns out that the reduction in service implementation time provides a much-needed leverage in the competitive market. A cloud-based online training platform takes less than a week to successfully implement as compared to the several weeks, or even months, attributed to the implementation of hardware and software needed for hosting and delivering training modules locally in a traditional scenario. Again, the ease of implementation isn’t restricted to just the time a company takes to put a platform in place, rather it’s also about the flexibility a technology offers by integrating with the company’s existing LMS, CMS or website or other enterprise software. A cloud platform makes it possible via the developer APIs for organization to deliver learning from their existing software.
- No maintenance hassles: Infrastructural, platform related, and underlying application software based updates and upgrades are handled by the cloud-service provider. This proves to be another leveraging point in favor of the cloud-based corporate training platforms in comparison to the conventional in-house software platforms. The study by Brandon Hall suggests that companies using cloud solutions more satisfied as compared to those using physically installed setups just because they are always able to use the latest version of the software and are never stuck with the obsolete, older or unsupported version.
- Ease of scale: The demand is always fluctuating and so is the learner-base. The ease of scaling up or down is one of the most advantageous features of switching to the cloud. Fluctuating demands seek adaptability, and the cloud capacity that can be easily adjusted, ensuring operational agility at any given point of time. Scaling operations is not easy with traditionally installed learning management systems that are hosted locally. This not only assists instructors in delivering training to a larger workforce but also facilitates designing feedback forums to keep updating the collective corporate knowledge footprint in real-time.
- Data security: There are organizations that have been contemplating the move to cloud; however, aren’t able to do it because of security concerns. While these concerns are being addressed by using secure cloud server, deployment of the advanced techniques such as two-step verification has expanded data security multiple folds. According to an independent statistical research by McAfee, there has been a 76% increase in the trust that corporations hold in cloud security. This trust stems from the data and payment security that the cloud provides. Encryption of sensitive data and secure payment modes like eWallet facilitate safe transmissions.
- Feature set: Available are cloud platforms come equipped with a range of features supporting live, blended and self-paced instruction, fulfilling the diverse needs of learners at big organizations. Alongside, the liberty to choose the type of content to be included in each module adds up to the benefits of this transition. There are endless possibilities to facilitate the integration of widely used third-party application software such as Dropbox and Drive. Corporations also benefit from the advanced backup solutions provided by the cloud. The data associated with current and past learners can easily be retained onto the cloud for as long as it may be required. In addition, reporting, analytics, virtual classroom, social sharing, discussion forums, and payment gateway are the main features of a good online training platform.
- All device support: Nowadays, the incorporation of the mobile-first approach is not sufficient. Though it increases the accessibility even further but it’s not the only thing. People nowadays are using several different devices and want to access learning material or even live session from any device or browser of their choice. More inclusive technologies like WebRTC are enabling organizations to deliver content seamlessly and uniformly across all platforms including small-screen interfaces, smart TVs and large-scale projectors, laptops and devices.
- ROI-driven: An estimated USD 70 billion were spent on corporate training in the year 2015. Software-based solutions, especially those designed for corporate training, are now available at a much lower price-tag. Add this to a bundle of cutting-edge features and smarter, more intuitive interface, and they make the cloud-based platforms a preferred training delivery system for most global corporations. On the top of it, the subscription-based model of the cloud plays a vital role in ensuring an affordable and flexible option for online training modules to organizations and businesses. This takes off any financial or infrastructural concerns while switching to cloud for corporate training. Also, scaling is not expensive; rather the cost per user goes down when your user-base expands.
Finding the right technology
Options abound when it comes to cloud technology for organizations. This is good as well as bad news. Good because abundance gives you ample choices. You don’t need to compromise on any aspect. Bad because you might feel paralyzed by the options and selecting one becomes an overwhelming experience.
However, there’s always a way to traverse the complexities and arrive at a decision. Here I’m citing some crucial aspects that you should consider when choosing your cloud solution:
Assess your needs: The first step is to identify what you are looking to achieve by deploying a cloud learning solution. Ask yourself:
- Business goals: What operational and commercial benefits you would want to achieve. Chalk out your short and long term goals and understand how cloud would help with those.
- Number of users you need to serve: Ask if there is a limit to the number of users that can sign-up for the training modules. If so, how much? Evaluate if it fits well with your requirements. Also, ponder on if you want to use the same platform for training employees, partners, customers and other associates.
- Content support: Do thorough research if the vendor provides support for all required content types such as multimedia and dynamic, interactive flash components.
- Course types: Identify whether you’re looking to deliver learning in live, self-paced or blended formats or a combination of all.
- CRM integration: Client Relationship Management integration is an essential component of training delivery system. Ask your vendor if this training software integrates easily within the existing CRM or if it requires additional infrastructure.
- Course cataloging: Get to know if there are provisions to catalog courses-based on major types and their subtypes to simplify the selection and enrollment procedure for learners.
- E-Commerce: Would you need a payment gateway to collect course fees from your audience? An integrated eCommerce solution is a better choice on any given day than a third-party plugin, given the interoperability, security and maintenance issues.
- Budget: Switching to cloud is no longer a choice but it’s a must because of obvious financial benefits. However, you still need to attach a budget which depends on whether you want to deploy public, private or hybrid cloud solutions
- Scale of operations: This is the time when you plan for the future as well. It makes sense to have a clarity on the scale of your learning operations in 5 or 10 years down the line. In a nutshell, keep in mind the user-base you would need to serve 5 years from now.
- Device support: The proliferation of smartphones and other portable internet-enabled devices has had a huge impact on the way we learn. And, organizations also consider mobile learning an important aspect of their training strategy. From millennials to baby boomers, practically everyone uses mobile devices day in and day out. In such a scenario, it becomes important to consider all-device learning including mobile a crucial aspect of any learning initiatve.
Once you assess your needs, there are other aspects that you must consider.
- Know about your vendor: Ask if the vendor provides specialized solutions for only small or mid-sized corporations or does it cater to a broader organizational audience including large enterprises and corporations. Vendor specialization provides a much-needed reliance towards their expertise and service delivery.
- Resource allocation: How much resources are allocated to facilitate efficient storage, processing power, and network bandwidth is another important question you need to keep in mind before finalizing a vendor.
From different cost-plans to various feature-sets, it is important to carefully assess and analyze your requirements and budget before short-listing an appropriate service provider. After carefully considering all of the above points, select a service provider that quotes an offer fitting your budget.
Factors enabling a smooth transition to cloud-based corporate training
For optimization of the newly opted cloud platform and setting compatibility, organizations must review each application architecture to ensure that moving to the cloud was not futile. Otherwise, cloud’s agility benefits are compromised with, and the entire transition stands as a failure.
Once you have made the decision of moving on to the cloud and have chosen a suitable vendor, there are certain important factors to consider to make this transition smoother, prompt and error-free.
- Plan ahead and plan well: Planning is an essential component to proceed and succeed while adapting to a new environment. Planning out on your business agenda and creating an implementation map eases the transitioning process.
- Corporate risk board: The next crucial step to smoothen your corporate training transition to the cloud is employing a corporate risk board. With IT and finance professionals guiding you through the risks and benefits of switching to the cloud at each stage, all from different perspectives, you can create your business-specific, risk-reducing strategies to make this transition both beneficial and safer.
- Involve your service provider: Because they understand what it takes to implement cloud technology successfully and how to bring people onboard, it’s good to rope in your service provider at least for the first few months.
- Involve your people: After all, they have to use the technology to deliver or consume learning. It makes sense to prepare them in advance to ensure a smooth transition and successful adoption.
- Priority to security: An important factor while transitioning to the cloud is the security of the data. Look carefully into the implementation of security policies offered by the vendor. Ask questions regarding the security and encryption of your data while you move to the cloud.
- Integration: While making a transition it is often too late that the companies realize the importance of integrating the existing IT setup with the chosen learning delivery platform. This results not only in unplanned outages but also in the added cost of ownership. While making a shift to the cloud, understand if the essential applications can exist on the cloud to keep the transition smooth and error-free.
While considering making a transition your corporate training to cloud, it is essential to devote time and resources to understand what should constitute your personalized cloud platform. Make sure that the chosen online training software facilitates and smoothens the training you would offer to your existing and potential customers alongside your external stakeholders.