Question: How are you to scale your Customer Education course delivery?
Answer: Authorized Training Partners!
Here are six keys for how I quickly scaled my training delivery by building Authorized Training Partner (ATP) programs.
1. Why Bother?
Maybe you're a Customer Education department of one, or have a handful of folks on your team. You finally launched your first course or set of courses and your customers are actually buying them! Now the challenge is traversing the nation or even the world to deliver classes to your customers with your small team. You might leverage Professional Services Consultants, or even Support Agents to deliver the classes, but that’s not viable long term.
Building the ATP program at Jaspersoft enabled me to scale my team quickly, easily, and with limited resources. Leveraging ATPs helped me to meet the demands of the growing customer base, without having to grow my team. Having the ATP program meant I didn’t bother about sourcing, hiring and then feeding a stable of instructors. I didn’t juggle the schedules of a team of globe-trotting instructors, or lose sleep over utilization rates and bench time. Instead, my partners dealt with those issues.
2. One or Many?
Before I designed my first learning partner program, I talked to colleagues in the Computer Education Manager Association (CEdMA) that developed and maintained similar programs. I learned from their best practices and mistakes, and then quickly developed and delivered a best-in-class program. The first thing I learned is that it's best to have as few learning partners as possible. I was surprised to hear that. I learned that at the time, Cisco had gone from hundreds of learning partners to a mere handful, in order to improve their program. That made an impression on me. Having fewer learning partners ensured that we truly partner for success. The ATPs are as invested in the program as my team is, and become an extension of my team.
3. Where to Start?
At SugarCRM and Jaspersoft, I leveraged existing implementation partners for our learning partners. This worked well for us, as they were already business partners and had technical expertise on the software. I developed an ATP application to ensure that interested partners had the focus and expertise required to make the partnership successful. From there, I focused on partners that had existing training functions. This is important because, as you know, even when someone has technical expertise, it doesn’t mean that they're a good instructor.
4. How to Ramp Up Partners?
Since the ATPs were already familiar with our products, I focused on ramping them up on the curriculum and the class delivery. Potential instructors attended each class they were to teach, at least twice: once to learn the content, and a second time to learn how to deliver the content. We also trained the instructors on the Live Online delivery tools including a remote training environment.
When instructors felt ready, they co-taught with an experienced instructor, maybe starting with a few modules and then building out to the whole course, depending on the course length.
Finally, they delivered the course on their own, making sure that experienced instructors were ‘on-line’ to support and answer questions as needed. Then, once the new partner instructor delivered the class with good evaluation scores, I authorized the individual as a named Authorized Instructor, detailing which courses they were authorized to teach.
5. How to Engage?
What works best for you may be different, but worked for me was to have two tiers of ATP.
Tier 1: I subcontracted the ATP instructors and paid a day fee to deliver public and dedicated, classroom and live online classes, as needed. This meant that I had a virtual instructor pool to leverage for delivering our official classes to customers. This worked well because sales and registrations went through our Sales reps, and revenue came to our team, which was important to our business goals. Also, with limited resources, it meant that the instructor fees were incurred only when revenue was coming in, which was a painless way to grow. ATPs liked this approach as well, because there were no up front fees or commitments.
Tier 2: ATPs delivered our official courses, but produced their own schedules, and paid us an up front annual fee, plus royalties for each class delivered. To help market the ATP classes, we posted them on our Training Calendar. This worked well because the ATPs handled all the class logistics, and I brought in regular revenue without extra operations work.
6. How to Stay Successful?
I built and ran a successful program and had successful relationships because we partnered well. I held at least quarterly meetings with the business leads at each ATP, where we covered what was working and what needed to improve. For each product release we provided delta training to the Authorized Instructors to ramp them up on the latest release of the product, the training materials, and the training environment. We provided an ATP Portal with all the materials needed for successful class delivery. ATP instructors often gave us feedback for how to improve our course materials and the classes.
At Jaspersoft, 80% of our classes were delivered by our ATPs. The ATP instructors were extremely high quality, and were passionate and engaged. Our customers loved learning from them.
Is an Authorized Training Partner Program in your future?
Let me know how I can help you and your team set up and leverage a best practice Authorized Training Partner program.