As Wayne McCulloch sees it, partner training and enablement platforms have gotten pretty staid over the years.
Every partner knows the drill: some combination of shapeless PowerPoint, or 3D avatars, or limited e-learning modules from which partner sales, marketing and engineering reps are intended to draw job-critical training materials and gain up-to-the-minute information on certain vendor product lines. But the reality, McCulloch said, is a lot of frustration with the model, he said, or at least a lot of boredom.
Count LifeSize, for which McCulloch is global director of education services, among the vendors looking specifically to spice up how it trains, educates and interfaces with its partner community -- the belief being that better-trained, more easily adaptable solution provider partners translate to more sales of LifeSize's video endpoint and infrastructure products.
Earlier this week, LifeSize went live with its LifeSize Enablement Network (LEN), an online social learning platform designed for sales professionals and installers as well as administrators and video system support personnel. LEN houses the full range of LifeSize e-learning materials, from sales assistance and personalized newscasts of relevant industry content.
Partners can access training modules, from product information to channel program updates, in video newscast format -- accessible via any PC browser or mobile device -- and also gain access to the LifeSize Learning Exchange (LLX), an online community where LifeSize partners and developers can share, upload and download product, service and industry information, as well as get questions answered and talk directly to their peers.
According to McCulloch, who spent four years at HP as global education services director for software before joining LifeSize in 2011, LEN spent about eight months in development, and went through extensive beta testing with LifeSize partners.
"The old way of training is bad, and traditional e-learning is a challenge because it's one-way," said McCulloch in a recent interview with CRN at LifeSize's Austin, Texas headquarters. "We rebuilt all of our training for high definition video, with everything from a personalized news service to the community for the people in need of the important answers."
McCulloch said it was important for the LEN to be as granular as possible when meeting partner training needs. Partners can access training materials, from video to coursework, and have the LEN automatically track their progress toward certain certifications, keeping track of their badges and the exams they've taken and passed. The LEN will also automatically alert partners in instances where, say, it's time to re-certiify, and automatically provide exam links. The LEN also includes partner incentives -- points that can be traded in for prizes, for example -- for completing certification early and performing other functions.
Use of the LEN by LifeSize partners is free, which McCulloch said was important to encouraging its use.
"Don't make me pay for something that's going to inhibit me being a partner with you," he said. "If you're a LifeSize partner, this is immediately available to you via the partner portal, at no cost."
LifeSize offered LEN up for beta testing to about 50 of its global partners, the majority based in the U.S. The LLX community portion of the LEN is divided into two communities, one for technical people and one for sales representatives. Overall access to LLX is gated to partners with higher LifeSize certifications; McCulloch said the feedback from partners was to make sure the other members of the community had a certain knowledge level when it came to video, to the industry, and to LifeSize so as not to dilute the quality of discussions and feedback found in it.
"You need a baseline of knowledge before you can get in," he said.
LifeSize is also actively encouraging partners to use the LEN for their customers as a way to monetize professional services around the training.
"The smarter ones figured out that they can build services around these assets as a way to get additional revenue," McCulloch explained.
Next: LifeSize VAR Urges Continuous Update To Platform