Building a powerful Online Training Academy for a Global Alliance

#Marketing @ ngena – Part III

In part 1 & 2 of this series of articles I published in my blog and my Linkedin profile, I described how my team and I have built a strong Corporate Branding and a powerful new website for the Next Generation Enterprise Network Alliance – ngena.

In this 3rd article I will describe, how the ngena Marketing team managed the launch of the ngena Academy, an Extranet adherent to our Website and including an innovative Web Based Training and the ngena Video Academy.

Introduction

As you might know by now, ngena – the Next Generation Enterprise Network Alliance – which was formed in 2016, is an alliance of approximately 25 global telecommunication providers (including e.g. Deutsche Telekom (DTAG), BT, Century Link, SFR, China Unicom etc.). Similar to Lufthansa’s Star Alliance, all of ngena partners join forces to offer their customers a global service: in ngena’s case a global corporate network service based on a state-of-the-art technology concept known as “Software Defined Networking”, or SDN. SDN uses software to replace the legacy hardware currently employed to build networks. In other words, ngena is a real game-changer in the telecommunication industry and aims to revolutionize the way the industry currently builds networks, and to simplify, expedite and cut the cost of running a global corporate network.

But, with ngena’s shared economy business model being unique in the telco industry, and the technological principles of SDN being new to many of the alliance partners and their sales forces, we had to overcome the challenge of providing face-to-face training to all our partners and their salespeople.

In summer 2018, we launched a Web Based Training (WBT) project together with a team from ngena partner, DTAG. The primary aim of this project was to train our German partner’s ca. 5,000-strong sales force using a cutting-edge, online training program.

Initial Situation

During the initial on-boarding process with each new alliance partner, members of our Partner Management and Pre-Sales teams travelled to cities around the world to train and consult our alliance partners’ sales forces in person, holding face-to-face meetings and training sessions for small groups of sales representatives.

This was not only extremely time-consuming and costly, but it also became unmanageable as the number of partners started growing in late 2017 / early 2018, and the potential number of persons requiring training on ngena and its product portfolio had risen to several hundred if not thousands in 2018. So, in June 2018 we launched our “Online Academy” project including a “Web Based Training” online tutorial and kicked off our work in a daily workshop in Bonn.

Objectives

When we launched project, our three primary objectives were to…

  1. build a content-rich ngena Academy Extranet including a state-of-the-art Web-Based Training facility; this would provide our 25 alliance partners and their approximately 750,000 employees with a content repository which allowed them to train themselves without further involvement on ngena’s part
  2. reduce the amount of face-to-face training, and thereby cut travel costs and reduce the time our staff spent travelling
  3. boost knowledge and awareness of ngena’s unique portfolio within the alliance partners’ sales forces
Screenshot of the ngena Academy homepage.
Screenshot of the ngena Academy homepage.

Strategic considerations

Because ngena is a startup company in a mature industry, and hitherto lacks a brand reputation incl. strong customer references, we decided on a Go-to-Market & Sales strategy in which our 25 alliance partners, themselves, would market and sell ngena to their own end-customers. But in order to sell our innovative and technologically revolutionary solution, our channel partners and a large proportion of their employees first needed intensive training in ngena SDN so that they could explain it to, and convert, their customers. We thus came up with the idea of building an online training portal that was:

  • easy to access, and available 24×7 from anywhere in the world
  • multi-device capable (web and mobile)
  • just as accessible from our partners’ internal WBT systems and internal portals as it is from ngena’s Academy Extrasite
  • interactive and intuitive, with a certain fun factor (e.g. a final quiz with the chance of winning a fancy tech gadget).
Screenshot of the ngena WBT Quiz.
Screenshot of the ngena WBT Quiz.

Implementation of the Academy page

The WBT was built by Know How AG (www.knowhow.de), an agency that specializes in creating WBTs. During the first two months, a ca. 100-page German language script was prepared by one of the agency’s editors, based on input provided by DTAG’s and ngena’s Product Management and Marketing teams. Parallel to this, Know How AG also developed the technical Web framework for the WBT based on DTAG’s Corporate Design & Online Guides. After around four months, the first 70-minutes long prototype had been completed, tested and approved by all participants. At the same time, the German script was translated into English, allowing the English version of the WBT to go live just one month later.

Screenshot of the ngena WBT Chapter Overview
Screenshot of the ngena WBT Chapter Overview

Now that our first partner had their approved version, we had to create an “ngena version”, rewriting some of the DTAG-specific content and adapting it to the ngena Corporate Design framework; in this way, any of our other alliance partners would also be able to use the WBT. This work took a further two months and, at the end of this process and another testing and approval cycle for the ngena prototype, we received an HTML version and a so-called SCORM file. While the HTML version was used to implement the WBT on our new log-in-secured Academy page (on which we had been working in parallel), the SCORM file (a standard for most modern e-learning systems) was used for initial testing with one of our European partners where it was imported into their WBT program. As this test received much positive feedback, the SCORM file is now being rolled out to all of the remaining ngena alliance partners.

Internal Communication program to promote the ngena Academy to our Alliance partners

We set up, and are currently implementing, an intensive alliance-internal communication program:

  • 400 contact persons who serve as multipliers within 25 ngena partner companies will be emailed a newsletter to allow all responsible employees to be informed about the availability of the portal
  • all of our partners were given access to the WBT and full ngena Academy page in July 2019 via our website login
  • all of the SCORM files were uploaded to our alliance-internal “Microsoft OneDrive” folders, giving those responsible for internal eLearning programs easy access to all files, and allowing them to implement the WBT in their internal tutorial systems
  • we are also jointly developing a series of webinars with all of our 25 partners’ HR and Marketing teams to inform them about the availability of our Academy and to plan the downstream rollout to all relevant employees of these organizations

Video Content is king: the ngena Video Academy

Next to the 70-minutes WBT, we were producing a series of internal training videos to further educate our partners, who have to work with our portal and technical equipment, e.g. how to set-up a global network or how to monitor network performance of a customer etc. These videos were completely recorded internally and cut and produced as well internally as externally with the help of a video production agency. With the go-live of the WBT, the first approx. 8 videos were also published on the Academy page and a total of 10-12 more videos are currently in production.  

Screenshot of the ngena Video Academy start screen.

Adding some Additional Resources to the ngena Academy

A third section of the ngena Academy page finally is the “Additional Resources” section, in which our partners can easily access our Corporate Collaterals such as Corporate Brochures, internally and externally written Whitepapers or our Sales Acceleration Program – the latter being a comprehensive set of material to further help Sales People kicking-off the sales of the ngena solution and identifying potential customer leads.

With this third section of our Extrasite, our partners really get the full package of material to start their sales and customer acquisition projects easily.

Screenshot of the “Additional Resources” section within the ngena Academy
Screenshot of the “Additional Resources” section within the ngena Academy

What a wonderful team work!

Again, it goes without saying that such achievements can only be made by a great team: A big “Thank you” goes to my co-project manager Michael Hamann and to the entire ngena team, especially Alisha Attarwala, Dietmar Geiler and Frank Muche plus the entire teams at DTAG and Know How AG – all of them have dedicated a lot of work and enthusiasm to bring the ngena Academy to life. It has been a pleasure to work with you all!

All the best for now,

Jörg 

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