Protect your software investment with 'Training as a Service' (TaaS)

August 27, 2013
Bob Cannan, Eagle Productivity Solutions

Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - September/October 2013,

Why cloud-based software applications require a new training model

Fig. 1. Companies can no longer afford massive deployments to reinvigorate the value of their software. In this model, value increases immediately after training, then drops until the next costly deployment.

Fig. 2. Training as a Service sustains value over time. It tackles change in small bites, with periodic training updates that maintain productivity at best-practice levels.

In the world of technology, change is constant.

That’s why, like death and taxes, Software as a Service (SaaS) is inevitable. Continuous software upgrades are part of the new model and necessary for your company to stay competitive. Managing software, however, is not what you’re in the business of doing; your business is managing your products and your people. Enter the SaaS model.

The details and value of SaaS will be summarized below, but this article focuses on another aspect of SaaS: Conventional training of the users of broadbased software programs, such as salesforce automation, compliance reporting or patient interactions (via clinical trials or otherwise), simply doesn’t work well. We propose a new strategy—Training as a Service (TaaS)—as a way to address the training needs of users of such enterprise applications.

The value of SaaS

For anyone who may not know, here’s how it works: Instead of housing your software locally, there’s an iteration of that software up in the “cloud”—remote data storage and communications resources that you access via an Internet connection. Your SaaS provider saves your software configurations and works on them all the time.

The key is “all the time.” New upgrades are coming out constantly, and your in-house IT people don’t have capacity (or, frankly, the desire) to constantly manage them. That’s the value of SaaS…it handles for you those vital services you need maintained at best-practice levels to remain competitive. And that allows you to focus on your core business.

Why we’re using it

If you aren’t already, you—and the rest of us—will be using SaaS soon; it’s inevitable. And it’s good for your business on several levels. (Spoiler alert: the inevitability of SaaS is not driven primarily by cost but by value.)

Below are the top five drivers of SaaS acquisition. These are not proprietary; I simply did some research and offer this summary of points on which there is general agreement:

Top 5 drivers of SaaS acquisition:

1. Value accumulation

2. Low costs

3. Adaptability/Flexibility

4. Rapid scalability

5. Management bandwidth is spared

1. Value accumulation. You can’t afford not to be part of it. Innovation is delivered continuously through customer collaboration. Your ideas for system improvement—and those of others—are implemented with each software upgrade. Your key business processes are always up to best practices.

2. Low costs. Once you’ve made the initial conversion, SaaS eliminates the huge disruptions and huge costs of big deployments. Instead you get:

  • Predictable, finite costs at pre-planned intervals (i.e., releases)
  • Lower systems management effort
  • Reduced dependence on internal resources
  • No repeated business disruption

3. Adaptability/Flexibility. Service is delivered to any device, on any platform. (Vendors must do this to stay competitive—and they are.)

4. Rapid scalability. You never pay for more or less than what you need.

5. Management bandwidth is spared. Do you really want your top thinkers worrying about software upgrades?

But there’s a problem

So SaaS is inevitable, and it’s valuable. But there’s a problem: The SaaS model sustains the software; it doesn’t sustain productivity. Your people can get every upgrade available, but if they don’t know how to use them, you’re getting no value for your investment.

The value of software depends on how people use it, every day over a long period of time. And that depends on training—always has.

As a trainer, I’m happy to point this out. To the dismay of some of my colleagues, however, I must also point out that the current state of training is not optimized to the new cloud-based services like SaaS.

The current training model is built around massive, one-time deployments. These are a logistical nightmare, very expensive (often over budget), and disruptive to business, as sales teams are pulled from the field for training. Immediately after training, of course, everything’s rosy. My company knows we get great adoption rates.

Usage (and therefore value) is high.

Over time, however, both usage and value drop as the software falls short of what your people need (Fig. 1). Upgrades keep coming out, but you don’t keep pace—how on earth can you pay for another massive training deployment? (“Didn’t we just do a big training on this?”)

Table 1

Table 2

The solution: Training as a Service

What’s needed is a new training model that is:

  • Flexible in delivery and cost
  • Responsive to continuous change
  • Not disruptive to business, and
  • Provides continued value over time…something that protects your investment in the technology you’ve given your people. Remember: low usage means low value.

This is where Training as a Service comes in. Just as Software as a Service sustains your software, Training as a Service (TaaS) sustains your productivity. Every benefit offered by SaaS can, and should, be paralleled by TaaS. It’s a pairing that makes perfect sense—if sustaining value is your idea of sensible.

In short, TaaS keeps your people in step with SaaS; you don’t have to run to keep up. Table 1 represents our recommended standards for TaaS.

Instead of making a huge training investment, then falling behind when new software is released, TaaS lets you handle change in small bites. Think of it as doing periodic maintenance on your car rather than buying a new one when the old one’s no longer drivable. Like a car, software is a big investment. Get your money’s worth.

TaaS and SaaS are a powerful formula for success. Your software and training are perpetually in sync, meaning your workforce keeps working at the top of their game with no interruption in productivity.

Choosing a training method

With TaaS, you ensure your people are continually up-to-speed on the latest software upgrades. But not every upgrade requires full-blown classroom training or a 15-minute eLearning course. In fact, those options are likely not what you need.

There are multiple delivery methods for training, and a good training company will offer them all (Table 2). You want the best solution for the need at hand. A given method can be cheap or expensive depending on the material to be trained:

  • Is the material stable and unlikely to change for a while? Then an eLearning course may be the way to go. If the material will continually change, eLearning is an expensive option.
  • Are you revamping a major business process? Your salesforce or services team may benefit from face-to-face training with a live trainer and your ops liaisons in the classroom.
  • Is there a minor upgrade to the way a rep will record a call? A virtual training session can address that change directly, quickly, and at a lower cost than a live, in-person session.
  • Is a combination of virtual and in-person training the right solution? Consider “extended, instructor-led training” (xILT), a hybrid delivery method offering the best of both worlds.

That’s the beauty of TaaS: you pay only for what you need, when you need it.

The future is virtual

Without knowing your specific training needs (and I’d love to hear about them), I can still offer one piece of advice: connect to virtual training as soon as possible. I know…you question the efficacy of virtual. So did I: “There’s no way virtual training can get the results that a live person at the front of the room can get!” It was counter to my every intuition. Despite my skepticism, my company did virtual and got the results—equivalent to in-person training! I saw the light, and it was the biggest conversion in my career as a professional trainer. My people enjoyed proving me wrong.

Trainers like ours who use proven techniques to deliver effective training can do it in any format: live, virtual, or a combo of the two. We guarantee that 90 percent of the people we train will use a new tool or process immediately upon completing training. Our customers know they’ll get the same adoption rate from in-person or virtual, and we wouldn’t think of disappointing them.

The fact is, the days of massive, one-shot deployments are over. Today’s “…as a service” business model requires an agile, responsive, affordable training program that maintains your productivity and provides continued value over time. That’s a service you can’t afford to do without.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Cannan is founder and CEO of Eagle Productivity Solutions, (Rochester, NY; www.eagleproductivity.com). Eagle develops and delivers custom consulting, design and training solutions to serve the critical needs of Bio/Pharma companies, including 18 of the top 20 companies, in more than 40 countries and 20 languages. Its specialty lines of business are: Marketing and Sales Services, Legal and Regulatory Compliance, and Clinical Trial Solutions.