In my last post “The Business Case for Certifying Your Channel” I discussed the mission-critical business reasons why organizations invest in channel certification and outlined that you only need a learning management systems (LMS), content and a measurable business case to get going. If you happened to type LMS into Google after the last post, you were most likely flooded by a deluge of LMS options.
Globally there are at least 600 LMS solutions and growing every day. All six hundred specialize in some area of learning management but many are focused on servicing only internal employees. Creating channel certification programs will require a different type of LMS – a Channel LMS with a feature set targeted to support internal and external sales and distribution channels. As a result, you need a LMS that is part marketing, part learning and a whole lot of business savvy.
If you are starting to search for a new or replacement LMS to service your channel, at a minimum make sure it includes the following top 10 Channel LMS features:
#10 – Easy-to-Use - I define easy-to-use as getting what you need, fast. No thinking, directions or training required. With the channel, there is zero tolerance for confusing or slow. Channel users use the LMS less frequently than employee learners so everything you want the user to do must be self-evident or they won’t do it and you can’t make them. Channel LMSs typically feel more like a modern website than a LMS.
#9 – Cloud based - A channel learning environment needs to be in the cloud. It’s quicker, easier, cheaper and more reliable than trying to do it yourself. If your usage explodes, a cloud LMS can scale immediately with no issue. The LMS needs to be technically flawless and maintenance free. Let your vendor host the channel LMS and spend your time and money on developing great content.
#8 – Easy Integration - Easy integration with other systems is a must. Channel learning programs are typically integrated with e-commerce, Google Analytics, CRM, single-sign-on, social network, 3rd party content and channel member HR systems. Additionally, a good integration capability will allow you to post your courses, schedules and other LMS information in your software systems, portal and customer support systems giving customers multiple ways to access content when they need it.
#7 – Mobile Delivery - Channel users commonly take training on the clock similar to employee users so laptops are the norm. However, channel learners use the LMS as performance support more than any other LMS audience group. In the field they are using smartphones and tablets to access product info, video, maintenance how to and much more. It is critical to provide just-in-time learning without making the user squint and scroll. If you design for mobile it works on everything.
#6 – Virtual Classroom - One of the hurdles in getting started with channel learning is the time and cost of creating good content. The easiest way is to use a virtual classroom tool to provide live virtual training at a regular time every week. The live presentations can be recorded and made available for self-paced playback building your library over time inexpensively. Finding a LMS with an integrated virtual classroom simplifies the integration, contracting, maintenance and end-user experience.
#5 – Dynamic Grouping - It is important to have the ability to create groups of users that are dynamically updated as user profile data changes (completing course, new position, etc.). This allows you to leverage all the unique things about a user or company that you are tracking as criteria to assign training, recommend training as well as generate reports.
#4 – Rewards - Channel learners are usually voluntary users. It is important to entice them to visit and revisit the learning portal. A good channel LMS facilitates motivation and more importantly rewards to get users to engage and complete content. Awards and badges are great but gift cards, money, recognitions or products are much better.
#3 – eCommerce - One of the best benefits of channel learning is the additional revenue you generate from the sale of content. This alone transforms training from a cost center to a profit center and allows you to self-fund and grow the operation. Although ecommerce can be accomplished on a B2B basis outside the LMS, a good channel LMS will facilitate the sale of content, certifications and provide marketing features such as discounts, bulk purchases, subscriptions, bundles, special offers as well as support shopping carts, checkout and payment gateway integration.
#2 – Reporting - If you can’t measure and report, you certainly can’t establish a channel training program. The whole key to channel training is to prove it is working. With good reporting you can determine which channel partners completed training and certification and which ones did not. With this data you can compare to channel sales performance or customer satisfaction scores and determine the correlation and determine size of impact. The more ability you have to slice and dice and create your own reports provides you the freedom to analyze and prove your business impact in countless ways.
#1 – Certification Management - It’s hard to roll out a certification program without certification management functionality! This means that the LMS will award points, certificate or continuing education credits for a successful completion of a course or program of study. A certificate is typically good for a specified period of time and the ability to re-certify by taking the updated course or program or refresher credits is supported. Sophisticated functionality includes equivalency courses, prerequisites and multiple avenues of certification completion.
Launching a channel learning program requires a special type of LMS. There are many more important LMS features such as globalization, social, instructor led training management, assessments and evaluations that also need to be considered when finding the right channel LMS for you. The most important aspect is to take a step back, evaluate all your potential audiences and how you want them to use the LMS and document those use case scenarios. Using these requirements will help you prioritize your critical channel LMS features.
What to Learn More? Free Webinar
Do you want to learn more about launching a channel certification program? Join myself and BlueVolt’s Sales Director Kelley Shirazi on November 19th @ 1pm EST as we present “How to Build a Certified Channel Program”
Training your channel requires a different set of considerations than training only your employees. The channel can be fickle and they want a super easy, fast experience packed with value or they won’t come back. If you are a product manufacturer or a software provider, this is an absolute must webinar. This engaging and interactive webinar will outline:
- Differences between training and certifying
- Building the business case for a channel certification program
- Elements needed to support channel certification
- Channel certification case studies
- Recommended next steps and resources
About the Author
John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, LLC, is an LMS selection consultant and training industry blogger focused on helping organizations plan and implement technology strategies that support extended enterprise learning. He has 18 years of experience in the eLearning and LMS industry having served as a trusted advisor to more than 100 learning organizations with a total technology spend of $50 million. John helps organizations define their learning technology business case and requirements, manage the RFP process and select technology partners.