Are you wondering where our industry is headed?
We reached out to the leaders of CEdMA to find out what's in store for you and your teams this year. Below are Customer Education trends, best practices, and predictions for 2019, direct from the CEdMA Executive Council and Board .
Dirk Braune, Area Vice President Education Offering Design and Development at BMC Software
The death of the course. Long live life-time learning.
Education is facing massive changes. New generations in the workforce, constant changes in business requiring new skills, changed content consumption behaviors, and AI technologies moving into corporate learning will require us to review the approach for commercial training. Customers expect short, modular, adaptive and personalized learning not at a point in time but continuously. The days of monolithic five-day courses are gone and have been replaced with training subscriptions, serving up modular, subject matter expert created and curated content with personalized and adaptive learning paths.
Danielle Campbell, Head of Americas Digital Learning Services at Adobe
I keep my eye on the growing need to define the free vs. free strategy when it comes to training and enablement. High growth companies, particularly SaaS companies, are debating the merits of making training free and ubiquitous with the goal of mass product adoption, versus charging for training as part of a services revenue model. Internally we are debating the completion rates and skills readiness training of free training. This includes how the model is funded, who manages the programs, how to ensure customers complete learning paths etc. It has long been said that “free” has no perceived value, but is that attitude changing? Do customers now expect that training is included with their solution, or are they still willing to invest in skilling their teams on the new software tools? There also needs to be a clear definition of what “training” is. Is it all about product feature adoption? Or is it more about building a skilled workforce? Companies need to make this message very clear for their customers: How far does the
free training take a user? And where does that free training end and the paid training
begin? How do we measure the skills gained from the free training vs. the for fee training? Should there be a difference? I believe that training organizations will encounter more and more internal “competition” around who owns the enablement of customers.
Joe Cannata, Certification Director at Kinaxis
The certification trends in 2019 amount to many of the same from previous years: performance-based testing hurdles, digital credentials, and exam security. Of new concern in 2019 is data privacy, in part thanks to GDPR. Certification leaders need to be aware of the impact on their data and privacy rules. Another issue is how to keep the program relevant and drive candidate “re-subscription”. Candidates that get certified in programs where there are expirations need to be compelled to re-certify, and avoid one-and-done situations. If they don’t come back, there will be stale skills in the marketplace. There needs to be value-add to get users to come back and re-certify, or even get more certifications. A third trend that I see in the SaaS world is the importance of certification as a means of helping to drive software adoption. While you can measure who and how many are certified, it’s much more difficult to measure the impact on adoption. Advanced analytics will be needed to deliver the “Holy Grail”.
Pat Durante, Senior Director, Technical Enablement at Talend
I expect the lines between Customer Success and Customer Education to continue to blur. As more and more software is born in the cloud and sold as a subscription, customers will expect on-demand and/or virtual training to be part of the solution we provide at the time of sale. That doesn’t necessarily mean training is free – it may be an add-on similar to a support package or it may be buried in the product subscription while the revenue is carved out by Finance. The key for Customer Education leaders is to ensure that whatever business model you choose, you make it as frictionless as possible for customers to consume your training and you measure the impact of trained (vs. untrained) customers on your business results. That is the only way to justify your content development resources to your executive team.
Ken Hirsohn, Director of Training at Alation
Customer Education professionals have traditionally focused on what makes their customers successful using their technology, job roles, and getting business outcomes. I know a number of training professionals who have to adjust their focus, because the technology they support represents a complete change in how people work, how they do their jobs. Often, new job roles are being created, or new "hats" users wear. Often the process starts with a need to define the category, to bring thought leadership to lead the customers; "you don't need a faster horse, try this thing called an automobile." The first learning becomes "what is it?" rather than "how do I use it?" In addition, the audience grows. While the audience still includes customers, more often you now include prospects, analysts, students, and executives. As a Customer Education leader you need to broaden the target, partner with Marketing and Sales, to take down the barriers and make content available to any and all, driving the cultural change that's needed for a new and better way.
Natasa Koledin, VP Education at Plex Systems
Less time available for learning across all audiences has influenced a simplification of offerings resulting in content that is leaner and paired with a highly skilled expert for the delivery. Internal collaboration amongst technical teams (both service and non-service related) is on the rise with 'content harvesting' and best practice enablement activities, as well as resources, pooling together in the spirit of customer success. Financial metrics continue to be critical and are getting more creative around customized offerings with subscriptions remaining strong components. Rising requests for white-glove activities (onsites) where customers have the attention solely on them and their experience, are becoming even more prevalent.
Christine Souza, Principal at Christine Souza Consulting
We will continue to make strides in bringing training as a business strategy to have a seat at the executive table. The speed of which change happens in our industry continues to illuminate the importance for companies to keep their teams trained at the same speed of change, and for executives to keep their finger on the pulse of the ROI. Training's metric alignment to the business will continue to be one of the teams biggest challenges as back-end systems evolve to curate cross correlated data. As we saw a few years ago, marketing made this transformation, the time is now for training.
One of the challenges I see is how to handle course development in the DevOps world of continuous integration / continuous development (CI/CD) pipelines where products change continuously and new features are a daily or an hourly occurrence. We are in a situation where we are developing a course which is built on top of our users having the pre-requisite knowledge of Docker and Kubernetes - two technologies that are developing at a rapid pace. This puts us in an environment where the foundational technologies have moved on whilst we QA our courses. The result is that our users no longer have the basic pre-requisites on the foundational products. This is another step-change beyond the world of quarterly or monthly SaaS updates and is bringing a new set of challenges to Customer Education teams and businesses.
2). The increasing influence of Customer Experience and Customer Success practices, looking at the world through the customers’ eyes, to ensure customers derive value on their terms, and renew their subscriptions. The need to declutter and tidy our professional content closets is long overdue. Because there is so much content in so many systems, according to the McKinsey Global Institute and IDC, knowledge workers spend about a day a week, 19% of their time, just searching for and gathering information, not actually doing core, job-related work. That’s not sparking joy for anyone. So, a trend we’ll see more of throughout 2019 and beyond is simplified access to content, knowledge, support, training and enablement, documentation, best practices, both formal and informal, free to fee, synchronous and asynchronous, accessible through a one stop shop platform. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) curation will supplement human curation to serve up what’s needed, when it’s needed, “in the flow of work”. These platforms will be woven more and more into the vendor’s core technology itself, not a separate portal. The most relevant content will be served up from wherever it lives, without friction, enabled by APIs and single sign on. It won’t be easy; it will require us to collectively put the customer’s need for simplicity ahead of traditional departmental boundaries and behaviors. But when we do, we’ll have our customers jumping for joy, thrilled that we’ve tidied up our content closets.