How to woo the budget holders

E-learning is a revenue generator, says Macromedia’s Sue Thexton, we just
have to convince the right people

Analysts predict that e-learning will be one of this decade’s killer
applications – Gartner believes that "online learning will be the most
widely used web application by 2005" and IDC predicts a market value of
$18.5bn in the same year.

To meet such expectations in today’s economic climate, we need to convince
budget holders that what they are buying into is a revenue generator and a
benefit to their business. From day one, it is essential an enterprise clearly
defines what its particular learning needs are and how training will link into
existing business models.

In reality, poorly-defined training can frustrate revenue generators in
business units who don’t see its value. This can lead to great content being
developed, but to no predetermined ends, so the content is not used and money
is squandered.

E-learning champions need to internally promote how e-learning can save
money. This can be achieved by preparing some dummy costings. Take a global
sales force within a pharmaceutical company – bringing the whole team together
physically for new product training could cost millions of pounds, whereas
deploying a CD-Rom alongside online web-based seminars, sometimes called
webinars, will save time and money (and if used correctly, can be very

Also, corporates should move towards the idea of ‘learning objects’ in order
to maximise return on investment – this will help combat the cost argument used
by e-learning doubters. If corporates treat the content as assets (learning
objects) that can be moved across a number of platforms – for example, a Flash
MX movie clip – then they will increase in value the more they are re-purposed.
It is a case of greater use equals lower cost, equals greater return on

E-learning’s worth must be measured against improvement in employees’ core
skills. Within an enterprise, there must be key people who understand each
individual’s development needs, and who should be responsible for building and
developing the e-learning modules to address pre-determined development areas.
By creating specific content, the target audience will use the modules and
progress can be measured accordingly.

The bottom line is that unless e-learning can be measured as delivering a
healthy return on investment, its adoption will never match analysts’ expectations.

Sue Thexton is vice-president Europe at Macromedia,

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