Part 4 in Gold's five-part series on enterprise e-learning
Integrating a learning management system to work with other networks has proven a challenge that many organizations have yet to accomplish--mostly because they hesitate to spend a lot of time and money towards a function that's considered overhead.
Communications network provider Lucent Technologies, however, devoted significant resources to integrate its e-learning enterprise not only with the HR department, but also two other backend office systems. That's because Lucent extends its product training to customers and business partners. The training is often included as part of its product line because it has proven to be a necessary component.
"Training has a direct effect on customer satisfaction with Lucent's products and solutions," says David Roller, senior manager of delivery platforms for Lucent's information products and training organization. "It also influences our associates' proficiency to sell and service customers.
So, Lucent's LMS, a Saba product, is also connected with the company's customer relations management applications and its e-business architecture. The process of connecting those systems, which provide information ranging from customer profiles to course completion and billing records, to work together as a unit involved creating a web of linkages to each network. Such a sophisticated system can be expected from a company such as Lucent, which designs intricate and complex communication networks for communications service providers.
The product training courses on installing, repairing, and operating Lucent equipment are available to customers via the Website@lucent.com. In addition to raking electronically delivered courses, users register and pay for classes and track their progress at the Website. Lucent is now working on making such discrete tasks appear happen in one spot, although the tasks will actually be conducted within the three different systems. These systems work with the company's LMS to ensure that training users' records are updated, internal departments and external customers are billed, and users are tracked.
Among the three systems that work with the LMS, the HR system is the only one devoted solely to maintaining employee information. The HR system provides critical data to the LMS, feeding it such information as job functions, supervisory chains, locations, and identity authentication. That enables the company to keep track of employees' progress in completing necessary training automatically. While the HR system monitors employees, the CRM applications track external customers. Currently, the company is in the process of linking the LMS with the CRM application that stores customer metadata, in order to streamline customer accounts set up in Saba.
"That way, customers don't have to go to a completely different system to get set up for training," says Roller. "They enter their information one time and from there they can move seamlessly to any store inside the Lucent.com mall, of which training is one. It authenticates customers and enables us to present them with a tailored learning experience."
Lucent also provides training to its business partners, who are required to be certified in Lucent's product offers in order to receive special allowances and entitlements. Currently, no direct connections exist for Lucent's business partners to its training offerings. In the future, Lucent plans to make the process more automated.
The e-busincss infrastructure conducts all of Lucent's billing and ordering. Most product training courses charge tuition to external customers, a cost that's often included in sales contracts. However, more general skills courses for employees are often provided at no charge although a small fee is occasionally tacked on to cover licensing.
Lucent has made payment for its courses as easy as ordering clothing and other products online: Customers registered through the training Website can pay for their courses with a credit card. …