Extended enterprise training: Best practices and tips
What's an extended enterprise?
Before discussing extended enterprise training, let's remind ourselves of what we mean by "extended enterprise". An extended enterprise is a flexible network of member companies that deliver products and services to the marketplace. The goal is to maximise the specialism of each member to deliver a superior level of efficiency and customer experience.
The term "extended enterprise" is sometimes used synonymously with "supply chain" or "value chain". However, in some circumstances, extended enterprise can extend further and include the end customer as well.
Here are some examples of extended enterprises:
- Car manufacturer in partnership with local, independent car dealers to create a sales network, and with a logistics company to transport cars to the showrooms.
- Retailer aligning with a customer service provider to offer 24/7 customer assistance.
- Software company teaming up with a cloud computing provider to distribute its software as a service.
The extended enterprise model is becoming increasingly popular as companies explore ways to reduce in-house overheads, increase overall efficiency, and foster innovation. By cooperating, firms in the extended enterprise can pool resources, knowledge, and expertise.
This collaboration can result in superior products and services, faster market introduction, and in turn - a significant competitive edge.
What's extended enterprise training?
Extended enterprise training is a strategic training model offering training and learning content to external stakeholders. The networks of partners might include suppliers, distributors, sales partners, contractors, and even end-user customers.
The goal is to boost cooperation, increase product knowledge, reduce errors, returns or complaints, and improve customer satisfaction. Ultimately, this helps drive efficiency and profitability. Extended enterprise learning programmes expand training beyond the limits of your own, in-house employees to everyone who impacts the health of your business.
Benefits of extended enterprise training
There are numerous extended enterprise training benefits, but here are just a few:
When your sales partners and suppliers are thoroughly trained in your solutions, they can market and explain them more effectively, leading to sales growth.
By making sure your extended enterprise is up to speed with your company's policies and procedures, you can minimise the threat of compliance issues.
When your extended enterprise is well-educated in your solutions, each member can collaborate more effectively to reach mutual objectives.
By disseminating knowledge and best practices within your extended enterprise, you can stimulate innovation and creativity.
Increased customer satisfaction
By equipping customers with the necessary training to use your products or services, you enhance user adoption, reduce frustration and increase overall satisfaction.
The extended enterprise training toolkit
In a large, disparate network of strategic partners, especially you need the agility to create and update elearning content quickly, often within complex, dynamic working environments. A platform for rolling out and monitoring the training consistently and effectively is essential.
Here we break down each element in more detail:
1. Customised content: unique, relevant learning for each partner
Crafting a successful extended enterprise learning programme hinges on creating content that is customised to cater to the distinctive needs of the learners. This customisation involves considering each learner's specific knowledge, skills, experiences, as well as roles and duties within each partner organisation.
You can get learner feedback from surveys and questionnaires to better understand their needs and preferences. Data analytics add more objective feedback on how learners are using and experiencing the content. A great tool here is the learning management system (LMS).
2. Technology: extended enterprise LMS and e-learning
Technology is a key determinant of the success of an extended enterprise learning programme. You can use a dedicated LMS to deliver content to learners in an accessible and convenient way. The platform will also let you monitor learner progress and offer feedback, which can ensure active engagement and effective learning.
Elearning is the content format for the delivering extended enterprise training online. Elearning has numerous benefits, such as adaptability, affordability, and scalability. Nonetheless, it's crucial to make sure that the elearning content is well-structured and engaging to maintain learner motivation.
3. Learner engagement: interactive training, gamification and social
To sustain learner engagement, it's vital to create a captivating and interactive learning process. You can achieve this with methods such as the following:
- Interactive exercises: These tasks can assist learners in applying what they have learned and to test their understanding.
- Gamification: Adopting gaming principles and strategies can make learning more enjoyable and intriguing. For instance, developing a leaderboard or assigning points for accomplishing specific tasks.
- Social learning: This offers a platform for learners to cooperate and share their experiences. This can keep them motivated and engaged.
4. Learning assessments and feedback
Monitoring learner progress and offering feedback is essential to ensure effective learning. Feedback can help you identify areas where learners need additional support and make necessary modifications to the learning programme.
You can use various methods to assess learner progress, such as quizzes, tests, or assignments. You could also ask your learners to conduct self-assessments. And, of course, you can ask your learners to provide feedback in several ways, such as written feedback or through individual or group feedback sessions.
How to deliver extended enterprise training
There are several measures you can adopt to introduce extended enterprise training within your organisation and across your network. These include:
Identifying your intended recipients
Who are the external entities that would derive benefits from training offered by your organisation?
Setting your training goals
What are the capabilities you desire your learners to possess after concluding the training?
Choosing the appropriate learning methods
Methods to consider include multimedia elearning, brochures, webinars, and instructor-led training (ILT).
Designing compelling content
Make sure the learning content resonates with your learners and is relevant to their needs. Avoid rolling out the same product information to sales partners and component suppliers for example - their needs are completely different and their training should reflect this.
Measuring learning outcomes
Monitor the performance of your extended enterprise learning programmes to evaluate its influence on your organisation's objectives. Are there certain partner types within the network who engage with the content more than others? If so, could this reflect any weaknesses in your delivery?
See if you can tie content engagement and assessment metrics to measurable business outcomes further down the line.
Examples of extended enterprise training solutions
Eppendorf - leading, global lab technology company
This innovative, fast-growing company needed to train its expanding workforce in the use of pharma, biotech and food sector products and services. Not only did they need to reach over 3,000 of their own employees across 34 locations, but they had a growing network of logistics and distribution partners.
Working across several highly-regulated industries, Eppendorf needed its product training to be consistent and closely monitored. Furthermore, the speed of product development and the dynamic nature of their markets meant that by the time traditional training programmes were being developed and delivered face to face, they were at risk of being obsolete.
They partnered with us at imc Learning to create a blended learning solution, where elearning content was rolled out quickly and at scale.
Powerful learner analytics helped Eppendorf to identify which content needed to ensure adequate engagement and product knowledge development. Face to face sessions then became more about in-depth discussions, rather than imparting essential product knowledge.
Learners hugely appreciated the new training solutions, and a staggering 90% of users to date rate the courses as helpful or very helpful.
Read more about this extended enterprise training solution for Eppendorf.
The automotive industry - classic example of extended enterprise
Automotive manufacturers are a great example of extended enterprise where most of us have some experience and understanding as the consumer.
Many of us will have purchased a car based on the reputation of a certain manufacturer, like Audi for example. To get their vehicles to market, Audi is reliant on suppliers of materials and parts before manufacturing even begins. After manufacturing, perhaps they’ll need logistics providers to transport their vehicles to showrooms, and those showrooms are often run by further third parties - independent distributors who will sell and provide after-sales customer care.
Employees at the various companies representing each link in this chain need extended enterprise learning developed by the manufacturer, so that they can supply, deliver, sell and provide customer support in line with the manufacturer’s needs and goals.
Read about how we’ve supported Audi and other leading brands with an extended enterprise training platform for automotive companies - making partner training much easier within this complex and dynamic sector.
Extended enterprise learning trends and future
Many organisations with a complex network of partners are also working in dynamic, technology-driven markets. Therefore, it's important to stay up to date with the trends and tech in your industry when it comes to training, so that you don't lose an edge to competitors.
The rise of AI and machine learning
AI is a hot topic across many industries now, and L&D teams are looking to leverage it as much as their peers in other departments. There are now AI-powered learning tools to make creating and rolling out training content faster and more accessible.
imc Express is a leading example of this, allowing subject matter experts in any company department - or even within partner companies - to create e-learning modules in as little as 10 minutes. This means that training content development is no longer limited to the L&D department, and rapid e-learning content can encourage peer to peer knowledge sharing.
imc Express even allows you to translate content into over 60 languages at the click of a button, enabling extended enterprise learning at scale - even globally.
The role of L&D can now be about content curation and quality control, rather than only content creation.
Organisations slow to adopt AI within their toolkits are likely to lose out to their competitors who leverage this technology to increase their productivity.
Microlearning and just-in-time learning
In the context of professional development and corporate training, microlearning and just-in-time learning are both modern approaches that focus on efficiency and convenience.
A an approach to training, microlearning involves breaking down complex topics into smaller, more manageable segments. These segments are typically short (usually around 5-10 minutes), focused on a specific learning objective, and designed to be completed in a single session.
Benefits of Microlearning include:
- Efficiency: Because microlearning focuses on small, specific topics, learners can quickly acquire new skills or knowledge without having to wade through irrelevant information.
- Flexibility: Microlearning can be consumed at the learner's own pace, and the short format makes it easy to fit learning into busy schedules.
- Engagement: Short, focused content can help to maintain learner engagement, particularly when it is interactive or includes multimedia elements.
As a training approach, just-in-time learning delivers information exactly when and where the learner needs it. This is often used in the workplace to provide employees with the knowledge or skills they need to complete a specific task or solve a particular problem. This could be extremely valuable for external sales partners who need to get up to speed quickly when you launch a new product line.
Benefits of just-in-time learning include:
- Relevance: You can provide information in the context of a specific task or problem, which makes it immediately applicable and meaningful for the learner.
- Performance support: Just-in-time learning can help you improve performance by providing immediate access to further information on your products and services - perhaps if a customer was to ask an external partner a new or difficult question.
- Learning Retention: Because the information is applied immediately, learners are more likely to remember it in the future.
You can deliver both microlearning and just-in-time learning in a variety of formats, including online tutorials, mobile apps, short videos, and interactive simulations. These approaches are particularly effective when you combine them with other learning strategies, such as blended learning, social learning, and personalised learning.
The increasing role of data analytics in learning and development
When budgets are squeezed, there is pressure to demonstrate the ROI of every activity and investment. L&D is often under particular scrutiny. Learning data analytics will provide the insights needed to ensure training content is bringing the desired learning outcomes, highlighting areas that need to be improved.
Analytics can also show you individual employees or groups within your extended enterprise who need additional training support. L&D teams become empowered to spend their resources where it will bring the maximum positive impact.
Want to know more?
If you support L&D in a company reliant on external suppliers, distributors, sales & marketing or customer support, then an extended enterprise learning programme will help each of these partners to be as effective as possible and do justice to your brand.
By adopting the tools and strategies above, you can develop a successful extended enterprise learning programme that will empower partners to reach their own objectives, while ensuring alignment across your network.
We'd love to hear more about your organisation's extended enterprise training goals. Get touch for a free consultation from the experts: