From new cloud uses to a proliferation of tools, the volume of technology options aimed at enhancing learning continued to grow throughout 2019. What also grew was a demand for training, sales and security leaders to accomplish more with less, whether for financial reasons, to overcome talent shortages, to close widening skill gaps or to increase competitiveness.

After a year when companies wrestled with what to do next and sorted through new technology possibilities, many have made up their minds, resolving to adopt new tools and tactics, setting their sights firmly on evolving their practices in the year ahead. Here are just a few ways you’ll see this evolution unfold.

A Category of Its Own

If you’re not using specialized cloud environments and tools for hands-on, real-world virtual training and sales enablement, you’re behind. They have matured so well in terms of capabilities and reliability that they will be standard in 2020. What’s more, with the growth of the cloud and the maturation of this technology, major analyst firms will recognize it as a distinct enterprise category, too.

Specialized clouds accelerate business throughout the customer lifecycle. For training, they provide improved capabilities to educate employees and customers, where and when they need it, with options from on-demand modules to virtual instructor-led training enabling companies to find the right mix. For sales enablement, it means faster, easier creation of more powerful demos and proofs of concept (PoC) before the sale, with labs accelerating customer training and support after it.

A bus is great for taking a lot of people with basic expectations to the same destination. Business acceleration is complex, and training and sales enablement applications require a specialized cloud and tools, not commodity offerings. You need a vehicle with purpose-built features to give you the power, speed and cost efficiency to outperform your competitors.

Use It or Lose It

The good news is there’s budget available for new training and sales enablement tools, particularly in segments, like the technology industry, where business is brisk. But you have to show real value, and if you can’t prove it, you’ll lose it.

These areas need to account for profit and loss as well, which is why it’ll be even more important for leaders to adopt platforms with reporting and analytics. These capabilities will enable them to continually show return on investment (ROI) and justify costs. For training, that means the ability to understand attendance rates, why classes are popular, which instructors perform best, and trends in use and delivery. For sales, analytics like being able to determine PoC use — who tried out a solution, what features intrigued or stumped users most — will be essential for determining how to advance.

To enhance learning, you’ll need analytics that show the C-suite that you’re spending its dollars wisely.

Get Your Head in the Clouds

The cloud will underpin these training developments, so understanding where cloud service providers (CSPs) are heading is important. by Sarah We’ll continue to see the commodity players fight on price, offering enticements like free service for a year. They’ll also try to create differentiators, whether it’s gearing up for artificial intelligence or dealing with storage. On the whole, all the big players will add more services in an attempt to be all things to all buyers.

Still, while an enterprise might have a relationship with a commodity CSP, learning leaders know that training requires specialized environments and tools. For this purpose, the ideal solution is to run best-of-breed platforms like virtual labs and learning machine systems on top of, and together with, those clouds.

As a result, specialized cloud providers will increasingly seek relationships with commodity CSPs, and vice versa. After all, most enterprises don’t want to align themselves exclusively with one cloud. Healthy competition means lower pricing, better options and more of them. Further, deploying software on a commodity cloud — but still having access to the specialized environments and tools needed for effective training and sales — is the best of all worlds for many enterprises. Therefore, we’ll see more companies adopting multi-cloud strategies in 2020.

Games and Growth

Cyber ranges and games like capture the flag have long been a fixture in security, where hands-on, real-world challenges are the most effective way to make learning stick and ensure precise, rapid response.

Now, with the development of virtual labs, the process of delivering dynamic training environments has become easier, with organizations able to control and reuse content for greater efficiency. As a result, gamification will show up with greater regularity in all areas of enterprise training.

Toward the end of 2020, we may even begin to see virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) applications popping up. According to analysts at International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide spending on AR/VR will reach $18.8 billion in 2020, an increase of 78.5% over 2019.

It’s not all fun and games, however. Rapidly growing enterprises will require more blended training strategies in order to scale. From on-demand models that users can access when it’s most convenient to VILT that offers a unique mix of immediate assistance and reach, a multi-pronged approach is the only way to accommodate large groups with diverse needs.

The Right Environment

2020 will mark a new phase in the evolution of training and sales enablement. If you believe your practices and technology are sufficient, think again. Digital transformation continues to introduce rapid change, as do the cloud and other impactful technologies like artificial intelligence. How and where we work is different than in years past, too; new generations and tools are reshaping the workplace.

To move forward on solid footing at this pivotal juncture, organizations must be up to date, adaptable and nimble. When it comes to creating the right environment for success, training and sales leaders will increasingly enlist specialized cloud providers with proven industry commitment and a track record for introducing innovation.