Zvi Guterman extols the virtues of training in the cloud.
Reading time: 4m 30s.
A lot of time and money goes into bringing new software to market. According to Thumbtack, even moderately complex enterprise or customer-facing service applications cost between $80,000 to $150,000. More sophisticated offerings – from data-driven apps to tools including business logic – can easily reach $1m.
Keep in mind, these are developer costs only, never mind the activities of company personnel involved in critical areas like strategy, market research, partner programs and more.
Yet, even after the beta customers have weighed in and final tweaks are made, if sales teams and other key stakeholders don’t understand the complexities or potential of a new software product, a launch can underwhelm and the return on investment (ROI) fizzle out.
That creates the kind of corporate fireworks you don’t want to see, and make no mistake, there are many examples of high performing products losing out to lesser ones due to inferior execution.
Training is essential and it should be as powerful as possible. You don’t want to be ‘pennywise and pound foolish’, undermining serious software development investment by inadequately preparing those directly tasked with moving product. Still, training holds its own challenges and costs, especially with a large sales ecosystem that extends far beyond the walls of your headquarters.
The cloud is the great enabler.
So how do you train dispersed sales teams and partners convincingly and cost-effectively?
Head in the cloud
According to Mettl’s 2018 State of the Workplace Learning and Development, the biggest challenge in learning is getting employees to actually attend training. You can’t afford for that to happen with a new product launch – timing is everything and people need to act quickly. To nip that in the bud, and provide more impactful training, all that’s needed is internet connectivity and a browser.
The cloud is the great enabler. As such, it allows virtual training for sales teams, partners and users wherever they’re located, whenever it’s needed and regardless of numbers. Further, you can keep modules and demos in the cloud for self-paced and on-demand training, enabling participants to learn at their convenience and go back and reference information as needed.
Hands-on the product
A major issue with new software training is the inability to deliver an experience that fully shows how a complex offering works. With a cloud-based virtual IT platform, you can upload even the most complex software quickly and without IT involvement.
This eliminates many time, cost and scale issues that come with traditional training. Further, you can create environments that illustrate how your product works in the ‘real-world’ and the ways it tackles actual prospect pain points.
The Learning Pyramid notes when it comes to education, the ‘practice-by-doing’ method is second only to direct teaching. With the cloud, participants can get hands-on experience with your actual product. You can create gamified simulations to enhance retention, which can be done in isolated environments so there’s no fear of anyone causing problems if they make a mistake.
This has proven particularly successful in areas like security. In fact, one study revealed 77% of U.S. companies with such interactive employee training programs have successfully reduced attacks.
The cloud, and specific features of virtual training systems, offer a number of additional ways to drive learning. For instance, multi-step classes allow virtual instructors to take trainees from level to level in a logical progression without the need for additional courses.
This ease results in greater comprehension and requires less management from instructors. There are also monitoring tools enabling instructors to see when someone is having difficulty, and via chat, offer assistance when it’s needed most of all.
Feet on the ground
Planning on-site training for product launches and partner conferences isn’t easy. It can take months of work to coordinate and the high cost of travel and accommodations can also make expenses soar.
Virtual IT labs produces dramatic time and cost savings over the traditional approach. And remember, an IBM study found every dollar invested in online training creates $30 of productivity value. That said, it’s no surprise virtual event training continues to grow in popularity.
Still, many companies see a benefit to large scale, face-to-face gatherings. Once again, with the cloud and virtual training, the need to ship gear, set up and handle logistics is greatly reduced, as are the related costs. And with an internet connection, not only are resources for instructors and training coordinators just a click away, those who can’t attend in person can still join in the excitement.
Prepare the sales
When training ends, you can help prepare your sales team and partners to capitalise on opportunities with proof-of-concepts (POCs) and trials that are equally powerful. After all, the right virtual IT labs system can leverage your resources for sales enablement as well.
For starters, that means the ability to provide demos that offer that same hands-on experience. You can also allow them to deliver easily accessible, full-featured test drives and POCs via email. One person can create a template for all sales members and partners, which when updated, ensures everyone is working from the latest approved versions.
This ‘build it once’ approach means fewer hours and resources are required to construct environments, and they can be customised and spun up in moments.
Some solutions provide visibility into POC usage as well. Through this, sales teams can understand which prospectss are using their software, what features got their attention, what they may have overlooked or where they may have run into difficulty. Then the sales team can step in to offer assistance or use these analytics to close the deal.
It’s really all just a part of preparing sales, and with the cloud and virtual IT labs, you’ll always have resources at the ready to help you make a splash and drive ROI.
About the author
Zvi Guterman is CEO of CloudShare