eLearning Design

External enterprise training: The Formula 1 of corporate learning

Harald Overaa

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If you haven’t noticed, Formula 1 is having a bit of a moment right now.

And if Netflix’s Drive to Survive has taught us anything, it’s that just because you have the best car, it doesn’t mean you’ll get the best result. It takes the right combination of elements to win. (The winning combo of the Red Bull car, driven by Max Verstappen, led by team principal Christian Horner comes to mind.)

red bull f1
The same goes for extended enterprise training (AKA external training to non-employees). But in this case, you’re dealing with a learning platform instead of a race car, learners instead of drivers, and training teams instead of team principals. North American companies have outpaced their European counterparts when it comes to extended enterprise training. But now we’re seeing a huge influx of these programs in Europe. (Which means, while Americans may have started in pole position, Europeans are quickly catching up!)

Before we take a look under the hood to see what you need to run a successful external training program, let’s take a minute to define what we mean by external training. As we explored in the previous article in this series, most internal training (especially in highly regulated industries) is compliance-driven. It’s something people have to do. In contrast, extended enterprise training—or external training—is largely voluntary and self-directed. Which means learners are in the driver’s seat. So who (or what) are the drivers of extended enterprise training?

The driver lineup

Typically, extended enterprise learners fall into three groups:

  1. Customers
  2. Partners
  3. Miscellaneous (e.g. members and franchises)

Let’s explore each of these groups in a little more detail.


1. Customer Education (CEd)

This is usually the most common audience in external training, and is the driving force behind the surge in external training programs in many industries. But why do these companies want to educate their customers? We’ll dive deeper into this in the next article in this series, but at a high level, CEd is seen as a competitive differentiator.

Below are some of the ways CEd is used in different industries to deliver measurable results:

  • SaaS: to improve customer service KPIs (e.g. NRR, upsell, ramp times, or decrease support tickets and training time).
  • Consulting: to educate clients on specific programs or run managed service programs.
  • Medical/pharma: to turn customers into product evangelists
  • Manufacturing: to help customers set up your product more effectively to scale


2. Partners

These are individuals and organisations that sell, service, or support another organisation’s products or solutions. They’re typically an extension of your brand, or act as a reseller of your product or service. Some typical partner types include:

  • Consultants
  • Vendors
  • Resellers
  • Contractors
  • Distributors

Most often, the north star for partnership training is to drive revenue for your product or service from a set partner. But it can also be used to expand your brand and attract new partners. Typical integrations include the revenue tech stack (CRM, e-commerce gateways), or specific partner software use.


3. Miscellaneous

There could be a number of audiences listed here (e.g. franchise training as an example), but the two main ones we’ll focus on are:  

  1. Training companies
  2. Associations

Training companies are companies where selling training is the core business. Many of these have pivoted from face-to-face to online delivery during the last three years as the training delivery opportunities have shifted, so sometimes these companies will use other software—like training management systems (TMS) or specialist tools for instructor-led training (ILT) management—as well.

This is a very broad category and can include companies, like:

  • B2C (businesses that sell courses directly to a user)
  • B2B (business that sell training to a large number of users at a business)
  • B2B2C (businesses that sell to other businesses who then sell to a consumer)
  • B2B2B (businesses who sell to businesses who then sell to other businesses)

The more complex the business gets (e.g. B2B2B and B2B2C), the greater the need for detailed e-commerce functionality and integrations.

Associations typically train members external to an organisation, and can be either non-profit or for-profit focused. For example, if you train volunteers at a non-profit, it’s usually not revenue-focused, whereas an e-commerce course program to members of a trade union would be.

Association training can be very niche and specific, but in general focuses either on outreach related to a program or the e-commerce/profitability/revenue angle similar to training companies.


Key features to build an external training program

Now that we’ve met the drivers, it’s time to look at the cars. Let’s take a peek under the hood and see what features the engine—your learning platform—needs to perform in the F1 of corporate learning.


The combination of features for each will vary depending on your complexity/niche, but the list includes:

  • Learning programs: Your learning platform should give you the ability to easily create and deliver various types of e-learning programs—from virtual or instructor-led training to personalized learning pathways.
  • User Experience: Your platform design and learning programs are a reflection of your brand. Your LMS should include features that allow you to create an appealing UX/UI that’s on-brand and engaging. So everything—from your login page to the landing pages in the system—not only looks good, but also works well.
  • User management: Not all users are the same. Your platform should let you segment and organise users accordingly and do so with a high degree of automation to reduce manual workflows related to user management. You should also be able to easily delegate roles to give the right permission sets to the right users (e.g. customer success managers, instructors, partners, enablement, trainers, end customers etc.)
  • Content management and versioning: In extended enterprise training, content creation moves at the speed of light, so easy creation and versioning of content is crucial to ensure that programs run efficiently. (Some companies may use content authoring tools to help with this.) . It’s also important to have a central library or repository to version content across courses and for your platform to support learning object standards like SCORM, xAPI, AICC, and LTI.
  • Certifications: Being able to certify external users on your products is critical. This includes both native LMS certification functionality as well as the ability to integrate to 3rd party certification/proctoring tools.
  • Gamification: This is becoming a bigger and bigger part of extended enterprise training programs. Things like badges, points, competitions, and awards go a long way to driving engagement. Integrations to external tools like Credly are also frequently requested.
  • Mobile: Your platform should support both free mobile app and fully white-labeled branded mobile app experiences (e.g. X Academy App launched in the App/Google Play stores).
  • Embedded learning: Being able to embed learning into an external software makes for a very powerful and effective experience. Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) are also often used, either separately or jointly with an LMS.
  • Reporting and analytics: Your platform should make it easy to demonstrate the ROI & impact of your programs. And it should do it in a way that is both visual and detailed enough to prove your programs’ viability and success.
  • Integrations: Integrations will absolutely make or break your program, so it’s imperative that your LMS easily integrates with everything from CRM systems to support tools (like Zendesk) to CS tools (like Gainsight) to community platforms (like Slack) to e-commerce & payment gateways to proctoring tools. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Basically, the more integrations, the better. (At minimum, your platform should support open APIs. Ideally, it’ll have native integrations.)
  • Automation: Reducing manual tasks saves external training teams a ton of time and effort. Your LMS should be able to automate manual admin tasks, like enrolment to courses based on user management settings, or the transfer of information to or from an external software system.
  • E-commerce: Being able to sell your training allows you to monetize your content. (Refer to the section on Training companies above for more info).
  • Multiple domain/tenancy functionality: If you want to scale your extended enterprise program, multiple domain functionality is a must-have as it allows you to personalize the experience for each audience, client, partner, or program. It gives you the ability to run multiple portals linked to one main portal and to provide a unique login page, URL, branding and permission structures to set domain.

Remember: It’s not the best car or even the best driver that wins in F1. It’s the best team. So, when you’re analysing your audience and program before you select their criteria for their extended enterprise LMS (and, make no mistake, every organisation should do this), don’t forget to consult with the experts. Industry analysts and SaaS Academy advisors can be an extremely valuable addition and can take your team from back of the grid to pole position.

red bull f1 1

Now that you know who the drivers are and what features you need to compete in the F1 of corporate learning, you’re ready to explore how extended enterprise training can help you grow your business. We’ll do that in the next article in this series.