How can companies remain competitive on the competitive world stage? Extended enterprise training programs are a powerful means of educating your organization’s customers, users and other stakeholders on its products and services. Aashish Dhamdhere, vice president of marketing at Skilljar, says, “If you invest in education, it leads to great outcomes across the board. Not only does it help achieve business outcomes, [but] you can also drive change.” With extended enterprise learning programs, you can transform your consumers and partners into product evangelists who drive business success.

There are many benefits to developing extended enterprise learning programs, as well as some challenges. For extended enterprise training to be impactful, training developers must have a comprehensive understanding of their audiences and create accessible, relevant programs. Let’s examine the scope of the extended enterprise, the qualities of an effective extended enterprise training program and the benefits these programs provide.

Why Extended Enterprise Training?

In an early article published in response to the emergence of the extended enterprise, researchers attributed the highly competitive nature of the extended enterprise to global markets and consumer demand for “high quality, low cost and fast delivery of increasingly customized products.” Companies are now tasked with meeting the demands of learners outside of their organizations. Extended enterprise training allows them to compete in today’s fast-paced market, where products, services and technologies are constantly evolving.

Extended enterprise training is a win-win for the consumer and the supplier. Zvi Guterman, founder and CEO of CloudShare, says, “Consumers want to be better and more familiar with products and more efficient with their time.” Extended enterprise learning addresses this customer desire, and when the consumer is more knowledgeable, the supplier experiences “reduced customer support burdens” and generates “additional revenue stream,” according to Tammy Rutherford, director of accounts and marketing at Rustici Software LLC.

As Dhamdhere says, “Customer education is one of the most, if not the most, effective means of driving product adoption [and] service adoption … therefore helping the audiences that you seek to help.” And in order to educate your consumers and increase product adoption, your extended enterprise education must be relevant and easily accessible to the administrators, facilitators and learners outside of your organization.

Know Your Audience

As with any type of training, comprehensive knowledge of your audience will help you create an effective program. However, gaining a greater understanding of your audience may present some challenges, as the learners consuming the training are outside of your organization and immediate network. Rutherford agrees one major challenge presented by extended enterprise training programs is that organizations often “end up working with systems outside of [their] control.”

“Education is all about engagement and stronger relationships,” Dhamdhere says. By gaining comprehensive knowledge of your learners, your organization can create extended enterprise training that is relevant to their needs and concerns. Then, Dhamdhere shares, you can “[drive] product, technology or service engagement” that results in “customers who stay with you longer.”

Make It Accessible

In addition to relevancy, the accessibility of your extended training program is integral to its efficiency and success. According to Rutherford, organizations working to educate their extended enterprise are often left with the responsibility of “trying to find [their audience] where they are, in their daily lives or daily work.”

Make sure you are not creating more work for users and administrators in your extended enterprise. Rutherford advises organizations in the midst of creating extended training to consider whether or not they are “generating an administrative burden.”

To that end, Dhamdhere says that organizations should “pick technology that reduces friction across audiences.” Ensure your training programs are compatible with your extended enterprises’ content management systems (CMSs) and learning management systems (LMSs). Your organization’s resources will be wasted on extended enterprise learning users cannot easily access the training.

Engage Customers and Generate Revenue

If your organization is consistently working with and distributing products across a wide variety of locations and organizations, you and your consumers will benefit from extended enterprise education. On the other hand, Rutherford says, “If you have a fairly self-contained business model where you only have an internal sales team and you only have an internal customer support team, you might not need something like this.” It’s important to analyze the business needs of your organization, your stakeholders and your customers before diving headfirst into an extended enterprise training initiative.

Begin by assessing the demands of your company, consumers and partners. Then, watch as customer support costs plummet, additional revenue streams grow and customer engagement soars.