The world at your fingertips

Global
management consultancy KPMG had to respond rapidly to its clients’ needs for
new e-business skills and knowledge. If it was to succeed, however, it had to
puts its own house in order first

The
dotcom bubble may have burst in the middle of 2000 but, as we all know, the
Internet isn’t about to curl up and die. The need for companies to train their
workforces in the new skills needed for the e-economy remains.

As
a leading global management consultancy, KPMG felt this need more than most,
with clients demanding e-business solutions of them – and fast.

The
company needed to equip itself to deliver such new skills and knowledge in a
"confident and certified way", says Grant Ritchie, principal
consultant at KPMG. "We needed to act quickly and transform our position
in the marketplace."

There
were several inherent logistical difficulties in the training task, namely that
the company has 22,000 staff, located in 73 countries around the world. It
needed to train 8,000 of the US workforce in a space of six weeks and the
remainder within the year. What’s more, it needed a training programme that was
ongoing and which could rapidly upskill its "learning-hungry" staff
and keep them up to speed and "on message" at all times, says Ritchie.

In
many ways, the project marked the beginning of more than just a new training
programme at the company. At a time of rapid technological change and what
Ritchie calls "dog year" time frames, KPMG was conscious that it had
to be seen to be leading-edge through and through. "We had to establish a
new language in our organisation,"says Ritchie.

It
had also embarked on a programme of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and
wanted to develop a training strategy alongside this.

Any
kind of classroom-based training was out of the question because of the
timescales and geographical locations. The management consultancy also had
other reservations about synchronous classroom learning – among other things,
it believed it to be instructor-focused, not learner-focused, and leader-paced,
not self-paced.

Some
form of e-learning or blended learning solution seemed to be the answer, and
KPMG surveyed the market. However, it says it found lots of challenges, but no
integrated solutions, with little overlap between those offering content,
technology and services.

Eventually,
KPMG believed it had found a company that could successfully bring together all
three, and engaged Digital Think to implement the training programme. Digital
Think specialises in bespoke e-learning systems, integrating the technology,
course content and development. It has a track record of delivering
large-scale, tailored solutions that fit with a company’s culture and is
capable of understanding business goals and stretching a client’s thinking.

"We
work with a lot of corporates and use e-learning as a strategy tool," says
Tom Murphy, managing director of Digital Think in the UK. "E-learning’s
effect should be measurable – it should raise sales and improve the bottom
line."

Digital
Think’s application server provider (ASP)-based system (see box) requires no
special proprietary hardware, software or even plug-ins – it is
platform-independent (runs on PC, Macintosh, and Solaris) and can be accessed
via an average web browser such as Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.

Courses
can be taken up via KPMG’s learning portal, where individuals enrol for their
training, and this also acts as a learning management system (LMS) to track
progress.

It
was important that the system put up no technical barriers for the learners, so
the e-learning solution developed for KPMG was designed to be accessed via any
computer, anywhere in the world, connected by just a dial-up telephone line and
modem if necessary. A large part of the challenge in a job like this, involving
so many staff, is to ensure the delivery mechanism is up to the job, says
Murphy. "We wanted to make sure we had industrial-strength delivery 24
hours a day. Even working across 28k modems, we had to guarantee that pages
would download quickly."

The
company works with a number of third parties on its course content, and KPMG
was happy with Digital Think’s e-business/e-commerce curriculum, although it
wanted to customise it. It also wanted to combine it with some offline reading
and CD-Rom-based material, so creating a hybrid solution.

The
course, branded Internet 101 by KPMG, runs the full gamut of e-skills from
defining the Internet and legal and security issues, to launching and managing
a website and looking at e-business models and e-commerce fundamentals.
"The courses were designed to be taken in bite-size chunks and comprised
around 40 hours of content," says Ritchie.

And
how did the workforce take to the idea of e-learning? "No-one really knew
what to expect, but people found the content engaging and enjoyed the
interactivity," he says. Staff do tests to assess their knowledge before
and after the training.

One
of the keys to a successful training programme is to market it to the staff,
but KPMG’s stance was even stronger than this, with a clear mandate from the
very top of the company that it must be carried through. "There was no
doubt that there was a strategic need for this training and it was very much
led from the top," says Ritchie, who adds that even the top-ranking partners
had to do the training.

However,
motivating people to do the courses initially was the biggest obstacle of the
whole operation. "The change management aspect of it should not be
underestimated," he says. "We had few technical hitches, but had to
persevere with the communication, education and awareness sides of the
project," he reports.

However,
the company now has around 25,000 registrations for the online training spread
across 73 countries. The average student evaluation score is 8.5 out of 10 and
98 per cent are certified competent. Perseverance, it would seem, has paid off.

New
procedures

The
training is now moving into its next phase and KPMG is rolling out new
appraisal and goal-setting procedures, on-demand knowledge management systems,
a range of specialised training programmes including customer relationship
management (CRM), risk management and supply chain management, plus a new
e-skilling programme. It is also setting up individual learning accounts,
giving the workforce access to over 400 specialist learning programmes. In this
phase, staff are far more "self-driven", reports Ritchie.

More
importantly, KPMG can now embark on the objective of the training programme to
put its new skills to use for its clients. This includes embedding the
necessary skills in an organisation to manage and improve its e-learning
capability.

Ritchie
says he expects to see a return on his investment in e-learning possibly within
months, but certainly in less than two years.

Digital
Think, meanwhile, recently celebrated the enrolment of its 1,000,000th learner
through its learning portal and has also launched the Enterprise Gateway. The
latter is an open protocol that integrates e-learning with enterprise business
applications such as CRM and ERM.

"Increasingly,
e-learning is becoming a core business function in Europe," explains
Murphy. "And customers are demanding the flexibility to integrate and
extend e-learning by embedding it into their enterprise business
applications."

www.digitalthink.com    www.kpmg.co.uk

In
summary
Key to KPMG

KPMG’s
requirement:
 A fast and effective
way to deploy new e-skills and knowledge to a workforce of 25,000, spread
across 73 countries and in 12 months

Why:
 To become a major player in the
Internet economy and service the needs of its clients who require e-business
solutions

Has
e-learning delivered?:
 22,000
people have now registered for the training and 98 per cent are certified
competent. It’s too early to judge the training programme’s impact on the
bottom line, but Grant Ritchie expects a return on investment "possibly
within months" but within two years.

In
summary
What is an  ASP?

An
application service provider (ASP) basically allows you to outsource a
particular activity, such as e-learning, but offers access to applications
pertaining to that activity across the Internet. So, if the tools and services
are branded within your company name, it won’t necessary appear as an
outsourced service to employees. Digital Think goes beyond the ASP approach with
its BSP (business solution provider) model, which provides a complete set of
business services and development tools over the Internet. It claims that
organisations can outsource an entire e-learning solution at a low overall
cost. The system can be customised for a particular corporate environment.

Kpmg’s
top tips

1
– Understand how e-learning fits in with your business strategy

2
– Remember that it is not a panacea for all ills

3
– Always bear in mind that the medium does not replace the need for
good-quality content

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