I have worked with a number of organizations in the past who have faced the challenge of building a new learning technology infrastructure. Depending on the needs, the available technology, and the resources at hand, the ideal solution has been different for each.
Given the power of today’s LMSs, LCMSs, virtual meeting tools, talent managment systems, social media networks, and other related learning technology tools you would think you could settle on a core set of products that solve most organizations needs. Well, here are some reasons why it’s more complicated than that:
As I mentioned training needs, resources at hand (including implementation team and budget available), and the technology available are key factors in determining a plan.
Another dimension to consider is implementation time versus business goals. For example, if there is a short term objective to train all staff on a new business process in the next ninety days, embarking on an eighteen month learning management system implementation project would be woefully inadequate.
So in the end the most productive approach involves the following:
Gain an understanding of the business goals to ensure alignment
- Assess the training needs in light of the business goals
- Survey the geographic distribution of the target training audiences
- Assess the candidate learning technologies’ reach vis-à-vis the audiences’ locations
- Obtain reasonable estimates of the implementation time for the infrastructure pieces
- Compare with business goals
- Create an implementation roadmap that maximizes audience training while minimizing implementation time
Some might question why a training needs analysis is necessary. Content and audience needs drive the infrastructure design. For example, high end leadership skills training is usually delivered via live instructor-led physical classroom training. Moving this content to 100% self-paced web-based training is likely to fail to meet the course objectives. Yet, there may be some topics covered within the leadership course that might be well suited to web-based training.
Therefore, it is conceivable that a blended approach would be most effective training-wise as well as cost-wise.
In addition, because large organizations have many target audiences, this is usually a multivariate problem. Each audience provides a vector of need for the ultimate design.
So on the surface it might not seem that a training needs analysis of audience and content is directly related to learning infrastructure design, but it actually is a pre-requisite to a successful and robust design.
Also training needs change over time as the organization changes. For example, one large services company’s current learning infrastructure has excellent North American coverage affording real-time full motion video with interactive learning stations for each learner at every branch in North America. However, the company’s recent international growth poses new challenges. The cost effectiveness of providing this type of interactive satellite-oriented video dramatically drops off as coverage for additional continents is considered. Alternative delivery methods are now being assessed.
So it is wise to try to anticipate upcoming changes to the curriculum (which are often influenced by changes in business challenges) so that the proper amount of flexibility of the learning infrastructure is built in. Robust learning infrastructures for large organizations take time to build and exact a cost to change quickly. You should be comfortable with its scope and capability for a horizon of approximately three years or more so that implementation costs don’t consume too large a percentage of your efforts.
So business challenges and time frames, training needs, and technology capabilities and constraints all affect the design of the learning infrastructure. Taking these factors into consideration will help you build a successful platform that responds to today’s business needs.