What is an Extended Enterprise LMS?
A Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application for the administration, delivery, tracking and reporting of online eLearning programs. Organizations use LMSs to deliver onboarding training, compliance training and professional development to their internal employees and staff.
Extended Enterprise learning is targeted at non-employees such as external distribution partners, sales representatives, franchises and customers who use your products and services. The goal is to educate and empower your external learners with training programs specific to your products and services, such as service technicians that need to be certified to work with your products
An Extended Enterprise LMS has the ability to reach both internal and external learners through the same platform and deliver specialized learning paths based on their relationship with your company while allowing you to administer a single LMS, maintain a single content catalog and run reports across all learners.
This article will provide a brief overview of Extended Enterprise Learning Management and highlight a few use cases. For further information on this topic, please download our free whitepaper: Extended Enterprise LMS: Extend your Training to External Learners.
Extended Enterprise Use Cases
Extended enterprise training helps engage learning communities outside the walls of your organization. What that engagement looks like will vary with each learner type. The following examples will highlight some of the use cases and benefits.
Providing a training portal for customers offers several opportunities to benefit both customer and business. Pre-sales training will give prospects a deeper appreciation for your product. New customer onboarding will simplify the customer’s initial experience setting up and using the product while reducing the amount of live training which might be required. The training portal can also serve as a support asset which will provide information to the customer when they need it while reducing the number of support tickets by your support team. Learning Roles can automatically assign appropriate training to customers based on where they are in the customer lifecycle.
Customer training can also be a profit center where the training IS the product, shown as ‘eCommerce’ above. Each of these learner cohorts can be organized within the LMS and assigned specific learning roles to customize their learning experience. An Extended Enterprise LMS would allow training directors to designate some training to be shared between the some groups, and other training to be unique to some groups.
Sales Channel Partners
Sales channel partners such as distributors, dealers, and affiliates are key brand ambassadors with a direct impact on sales. An external training program gives you the ability to set training thresholds for certification programs down through the channel. Learning Roles can ensure consistent training among sales teams, support teams, and management throughout the sales channel.
The Administrators for each distributor can manage their internal learners and additional child dealer networks. In a sense, this is like having three distinct learning management systems which can share some content, keep some content private, and be managed both locally and from the parent organizations. For example, the parent organization can share sales training to sales people who are employees and distributors. Distributor A, on the other hand, may choose to share training that is confidential and only available to Distributor A’s staff or dealers.
Franchisors face unique challenges rolling out Franchises. In many cases there is training prior to establishing the franchise, owner/manager start-up training, onsite operations training, and continuing training/documentation updates for managers and staff.
At the same time, the franchisee, not the franchisor, must provide some required training. An extended enterprise LMS can reduce the time spent on site while providing a mechanism for ongoing training for franchisee owners, managers, and staff. Furthermore, the distributed administration features will facilitate training provided by both the Franchisor and the Franchisee.
Extended Enterprise Features
An extended enterprise LMS must support all the functionality that you’d expect from any full featured Learning Management System. It must also offer specific functionality to support the wide range of potential learners and training scenarios. The following list includes several features which must be considered for any external training initiative.
Teams can be used to manage unique locations, dealers, distributors, networks, franchisees, or any other grouping of learners. The learner teams should support an unlimited hierarchical structure which will support any real-world team relationships. For example, a franchisor may have many franchisees who each own one franchise, but some franchisees may own many franchises. Before investing in your LMS, write down the relationships between all your potential learner teams and verify that the LMS can support your model.
Smart Automation in a Learning Management System should be a fundamental requirement. It is critical in an external training environment where the size and scope of the training can quickly outpace employee training. Automation isn’t just about saving time. Automation can help ensure consistency within the training plan. Rules-based automation ensures that training is assigned consistently across all learners without the risk of human error.
Rule based assignments automate the training plan by assigning necessary coursework and resources based on user profile information. For example, a restaurant manager could be automatically assigned appropriate training based on her job title regardless of where she works. Similarly, all food servers might have access to the same set of tutorials, P&P documents, and exams.
You may need to automatically renew training on a periodic basis. For example, a franchisor providing Food Safety training to franchisee staff in California will need to automatically refresh the training every three years. The LMS should be able to manage renewals without admin intervention and ensure that learners complete the training in a timely manner.
Automatic Report Filtering & Delivery
The LMS should also deliver reports to all necessary managers on an automated schedule. Continuing with the restaurant example, a franchisor should create reports which are automatically filtered and sent to each store’s management team. Creating a single filtered report that supports all locations ensures consistency and saves considerable administrative labor. Automatically delivering the report encourages local managers to ascertain their staff’s training status.
Multiple Content Formats
Learning Management isn’t just about online courses. A good extended enterprise LMS becomes a vehicle for distributing a wide range of content to your external learners. P&P documents might be PDF files while some courses are video tutorials. The LMS should be able to assemble blended courses and learning paths using a wide range of content including SCORM, Video, Audio, PowerPoint, Office or Google Documents, Instructor Led Training, Live or recorded webinars, etc.
It is impossible to know what device an external learner may use to access training. U.S. News and Weekly Report recently published a story showing that nearly 70% of online learners surveyed have used or would like to use a mobile device for at least some classwork. Make sure that your LMS architecture allows it to properly scale both the LMS and content to fit any device. A responsive web application will work on all mobile devices without the need for individual app downloads.
Learning Management Systems have revolutionized the way in which organizations have delivered, recorded, and analyzed their internal training programs. They have been such a success, that many of these organizations are casting their gaze beyond the boundaries of their walls. Businesses are seeing value in training a wide range of learners with different learning needs and different motivation to participate. They’re finding that they can improve their relationships with a variety of stakeholders and improve their brand perception.
Along with this incredible potential to extend training reach comes new challenges. Fortunately, the technology to overcome these challenges already exists. Selecting an LMS that was built from the ground up to support extended enterprise applications is a great start. If you have a training initiative that includes external learners, please take a moment to download our free white paper Extended Enterprise LMS: Extend your Training to External Learners. The white paper will cover this topic in greater detail, including sixteen questions which will help define your requirements for the project.