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Making the Business Case for E-Learning


Robin Hoyle Chief Learning Architect at EBC explains why identifying the problem is as important as designing the solution when persuading senior managers to fund training.

Having recently worked with a range of learning champions I was struck once again by how difficult trainers and learning and development professionals find making a business case for their desired e-learning projects.

The key difficulty seems to be in identifying a compelling business need, which their project is likely to address.

Yet this seems to be a key process – especially in an e-learning project where senior managers may be expected to release a budget for a quite substantial investment in advance of receiving any of the benefits of having well informed, knowledgeable and skilled staff members.

In fact, there may need to be a double whammy of continuing with existing face-to-face programmes whilst spending on development of an e-learning programme!

Get a Strategic Focus

It would seem that trainers and training teams like to focus on solutions and then look for a problem, which their solution seeks to address, rather than concentrate on business issues related to the strategy and direction of their enterprise.

When defining the business issue trainers wish to address, answers such as management development or induction really don’t resonate with anyone outside the training function.

We may feel that these subjects are important, but unless we can show the implications of not improving induction or management development in measurable terms we are unlikely to convince anyone else.

The next stage of the process of making the business case is to define a vision of how things could be.

What's the Ideal?

Having depressed the chief executive we owe it ourselves to give them a glimmer of hope for the future.

This process of defining what the ideal situation might look like helps us to focus on the audience for our proposed solution.

By defining the whole audience we are able to think about both primary audience – the people who will use the bulk of our learning solution; and the secondary audience – managers and other staff who will need to support the process or change their behaviour to enable the improvements we envisage to be implemented.

Having defined our primary and secondary audience we can begin to define the people development issues – what people need to know and do differently if we are to realise our vision.

This focus helps us to concentrate on the blend of training and learning interventions we will create – including understanding the role which our e-learning will play within a development process.

This avoids the – unfortunately common – situation in which an e-learning programme is devised without real consideration of what else will be required to really help people develop.

Many now recognise that e-learning is not the panacea to all organisational ills, but unfortunately this is not always reflected in overall project design.

All of this pre-preparation before we commission an e-learning programme will also help us to evaluate the outcome and define a likely return on investment.

There is, of course, a word of warning about this exercise.

If we convince senior managers to provide the resources to undertake our dream project we should expect to be called to account if it doesn’t work.

May be that’s why some training teams are reluctant to change the status quo!


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