A Pragmatic Learning Infrastructure

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"The challenge was to reduce the operating cost of the Learning Management System by migrating seamlessly to a new enhanced infrastructure that would act as a one-stop-shop for learning and performance, and provide critical support to the businesses transformation journey." Amphlett

Cable&Wireless Europe, Asia and US is one of the world’s leading international communications companies, providing enterprise and carrier solutions to the largest users of telecoms services around the world. Its history can be traced back nearly 140 years when it laid the first sub sea cable.

After undergoing some challenging times in the early 2000’s Cable&Wireless marked the start of its transformation journey in November 2005 with the acquisition of Energis which, at the time, was the third largest telco in the UK. The organisation began a four year plan to move from being technology driven to service driven, re-inventing Cable&Wireless to create a new business.

“One of the biggest business turnarounds attempted in British Industry in the last 50 years” is how the Sunday Times described Cable&Wireless in February 2006.

The existing infrastructure and the need for change
Back in 2001, Cable&Wireless was one of the first organisations to introduce a global Learning Management System (LMS) and following a lengthy tendering process, Docent (now SumTotal) via Accenture was selected. It was a multilingual system that mainly managed classroom based training, open learning resources and e-learning courses. The system served the company well at the time, however, with the overall costs running into millions it no longer made economic sense. As the organisation embarked on its transformation journey the decision was made in 2006 that the model was no longer fit for purpose, especially as the way people were using e-learning differed from when it was first introduced. In addition to moving through e-learning courses in a linear fashion, colleagues (the term Cable&Wireless use for employees) now needed to be able to dip in and out of learning on-the-job and at the point of need – requiring the system to act as a performance support tool. Unfortunately, this facility wasn’t possible on the existing system without substantial upgrading and integration.

The challenge was to reduce the operating cost of the LMS by migrating seamlessly to a new enhanced infrastructure that would act as a one-stop-shop for learning and performance, and provide critical support to the businesses transformation journey.

Hosted service model was a ‘no-brainer’
Mike Booth, Learning Technologies Manager at Cable&Wireless stated: “We had two options. Either we upgraded our existing learning management system, at significant cost, to enable it to provide the new elements we required: or we moved to a plug and play model such as SkillPort from SkillSoft. Ultimately, it was an easy decision to make because SkillPort was able to provide us with 95% of our new requirements and take over everything our existing system had been doing. Additionally, we were able to benefit from a much wider range of learning resources, from a greatly enhanced e-learning portfolio through to complementary tools such as Books24x7, skill briefs, job aids and skill simulations. To top it all, everything, including our own bespoke e-learning courses and our classroom training, can be searched down to a very granular level through SkillSoft’s ‘Search-and-Learn’ facility – enabling colleagues to find the resources they require.”

The migration was complex with more than 40,000 training records to be moved, plus an extensive portfolio of bespoke e-learning courses (developed specifically to work on the previous learning management system) needed adapting for the new system. In addition, the generic e-learning had to be switched from multi-providers to SkillSoft. It was also critical that Cable&Wireless continued to have a seamless reporting and tracking facility for compliance reasons, allowing the organisation to view consolidated reports of learning whenever necessary.

Introducing iLeARN
In less than eight weeks, and within the stipulated budget, a Cable&Wireless branded learning management system was designed and created, achieving:

  • a 65% reduction in operating costs
  • significant savings in implementation costs
  • administration of all classroom training
  • integration with the SAP HR
  • access to an extensive range of SkillSoft and bespoke e-learning resources
  • a helpdesk to support colleagues with all learning queries

This one-stop shop system (SkillPort), branded and known as iLeARN, provides a ‘Search & Learn’ capability in which a colleague can get help on a specific task right at the point of need. For example, one colleague needed to create an animation in PowerPoint, something they hadn’t needed to do for over a year. Through the ‘Search & Learn’ capability, they were directed to specific learning choices, and the level of granularity inherent in the system meant that they could simply view a page in an ebook or undertake a small chunk of interactive e-learning. Within minutes they’d learnt what they needed, and could carry on with their work without leaving the workplace, so in effect e-learning and performance support become one.

The Learning Forum
Click image for details of seminar

Marketing the system
The launch and continual marketing of the system involved extensive promotional campaigns by Cable&Wireless. This included a series of road-shows around the country, demonstrations to senior management teams, newsletters and targeted mail-shots. This has paid dividends. Within the first month of being in operation, more than 25% of colleagues used the system. Today this has grown to over 90%. Other key strategies to increase penetration have been:

Open to all – The organisation wanted to ensure good accessibility and so made everything available without restriction, while respecting that the windows of opportunity for their colleagues to learn, are small. Fortunately as a technology based organisation, a lot of colleagues were desk-based which made it easier to accept and adopt e-learning.

Internet access – To provide greater flexibility and convenience the system was made available over the Internet enabling learning to take place outside of the company network (e.g. at home).

Aligning learning to the business. As part of a planned transformation, it was absolutely critical that learning was directly aligned to the business strategy. The organisation found that relevant and timely bespoke modules that supported key business initiatives drove usage and commitment from colleagues. It also gained buy-in and support from Management and Leadership teams.

iLeARN – only the beginning
This is a prime example of a rapid application development project that met a key business need and continues to provide increased functionality, with high user acceptance and adoption. Furthermore, it reinforces the critical need for e-learning to evolve with the business, and to stay aligned to deliver business benefits. iLeARN was the first step in the new learning technology strategy, it now forms the infrastructure for: portals, rapid development of content, online performance management and open source tools.

Mike Booth, Learning Technologies Manager, Strategy & Projects, Cable & Wireless Europe, Asia & USA

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