Tying Learning Analytics to Business Success Metrics and ROI

By Ron Zamir, CEO of Allen Communication Learning Services

In a July post on this blog, Rachel Ashkin wrote, “It is critical that organizations can identify and demonstrate measurable results for their investments and efforts.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. A state-of-the-art ERP or other system is only beneficial to a company if it can accomplish the business’ goals and deliver ROI.

After 30 years in the training industry, we’ve worked with our fair share of companies and organizations and we’ve seen the connection between lack of proper ERP and systems training for the end-user and failed system implementations. Think about it, without end-user adoption, sustained use, and ROI, there is no way a system implementation could be deemed successful. And, a systems failure in terms of dollars spent on the implementation alone is in the ballpark of $250 to $700 million.

We asked other industry experts to help us identify what exactly was missing, or leading to 50 percent of systems implementations to fail. We conducted an eight-month qualitative study with performance consultants and with system integrators. The big “aha!” finding was that training was considered an “orphan child” when it comes to the investment—it gets left to the end, when budgets are often exhausted or overspent, and it’s not defined whose role it is to lead the training. Training, according to our interviews, is key to successful implementation. After all, when so much of the success of a system lies in the end-user (such as an order-to-pay system), you can’t expect high adoption or sustained use when the training is limited to nothing more than documentation or content overload. The context of the training design lacks relevance and motivation.

So what influences adoption? It’s a mix of relevancy, motivation, and competency. Taking the equation one step further: successful adoption = achieving business metrics and ROI.

Relevancy, Motivation and Competency

While disruption is to be expected with any system or process change, the disruption and the consequential impact on productivity and motivation can be mitigated. How? Our research and experience has demonstrated that by stacking the deck to improve overall understanding and sustained performance, the company will significantly lower risk and get the bigger bang for its buck (ROI, sustained use to extend the lifecycle of the system). People who benefit the bottom line of a company need to be trained on execution, being able to perform their specific functions properly (efficiently and effectively) in a timely manner without mistakes. Through this, the system is being accepted and used in the organization.

Competency works hand-in-hand with relevance. Competency maps are used regularly in business, and at Allen, we use them for developing the training approach, too. We use the competency map to underlay everything, and from there, we have the design approach that will successfully deliver the system training to achieve the business metrics and guarantee ROI.

These findings proved to be more than just interesting—we took the findings to heart and used them as the foundation for Systems Assure, which takes a blended learning approach, delivered over time rather than as a one-time, documentation-like event, and “fixes” all of the breaks in training we’ve identified above. Compare it to leadership training—so much of it is scenario based, but in systems training, not so much. We must reiterate—people need to understand the reasons behind what they do. It comes down to decision making, and training end-users and those in between on how to take the system to the next level, going beyond following the prompts and being able to use the system to a company’s advantage, whether through order-to-pay, resolving a customer issue or up-selling a product.

Note: Brandon Hall Group was pleased to recognize and select Allen Communication Learning Services as a winner of a Gold Award for their entry in the Best Custom Content category in 2010. A current list of Brandon Hall Group Award winners is available at http://www.brandon-hall.com/awards/excellence-in-learning/winners-of-the-2010.html .

Ron Zamir is CEO of Allen Communication Learning Services, a Salt Lake City-based provider of systems training, custom learning solutions and other change management resource to clients around the globe.

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