Cisco on Cisco
Unified Communications Case Study: How Cisco Uses WebEx Training Center to Engage Global Salesforce
WebEx interactive features boost productivity, enhance learner experience, and form core of Cisco’s largest virtual training deployment.
Late in 2008, Cisco's entire global sales organization was asked to embrace a new companywide operational initiative called the Integrated Selling Process (ISP). Supported by the Salesforce.com customer relationship management (CRM) platform, ISP is a standard sales process based on a globally consistent definition of sales opportunity status. It consolidates selling tools into a single process to simplify the sales workflow and provide sales with more accurate forecasting data.
ISP also calls for a new approach to forecasting that focuses greater attention on every stage in the selling cycle. This new approach not only requires process changes, but also commands a significant shift in salesforce behavior. In the ISP model, all sales opportunities that exist in forecasting must be made visible to management and recorded in Salesforce.com. Historically, salespeople in industries everywhere have been less than eager to share this level of visibility.
For the ISP adoption to be successful, efficient and timely process and system training was required across Cisco's sales organization, from upper management down, in five global theaters.
The ISP project team faced a formidable task. The team needed to educate an initial target audience of more than 6000 people across the Cisco sales organization. Training modules had to be developed for all customer-facing field roles. Additionally, the team had to:
Worldwide Sales Processes and Systems, Cisco
- Create separate training modules with process and system content aimed at management (vice presidents, directors, and first-line managers) and individual contributors (account managers, systems engineers, service personnel, product sales specialists, etc.)
- Tailor the training modules and supplementary learning materials for individual theater requirements and provide multilanguage options
- Complete the entire ISP rollout in less than three months, from the planning stages to delivery of the first training sessions in all five theaters. The project team was working with a March 2009 deadline, when the Salesforce.com elements of ISP were slated to go live.
About a month into the ISP implementation, the training team cleared an unexpected hurdle when a downturn in the economy and budget cutting companywide curtailed the number of instructor-led training sessions. In quick time, the team converted many of the instructor-led classroom sessions earmarked for the original training plan into cost-efficient, virtual WebEx training sessions.
The ISP training team chose a blended learning approach with WebEx Training Center, a Cisco WebEx collaboration solution, as the primary mechanism for delivering synchronous, interactive, virtual training sessions. This collaborative platform allowed a team, comprised of trainer(s), ISP producers, technical support staff, a facilitator, and subject matter experts, to be in individual sessions to support and maximize the learner's experience.
In a WebEx training session, participants are invited by their online instructors to join in polling, exercises, whiteboard, live discussion, and review of key points using annotation tools, such as the pointer or highlighter. The participants also worked on offline exercises and activities during their breaks and completed an online assessment at the end of the session.
Participants could also type their questions on Salesforce.com in the chat or embedded Q&A panels, and receive immediate feedback from a theater tools trainer or subject matter expert.
"The virtual deliveries over WebEx worked because of the effective instructional design that was applied to the virtual content. It allowed more interactions, and simplified, colorful content that helped the learners stay focused. The preparation and experience of the production team was a huge contribution to the success of the deliveries," says Janie Mah, ISP tools training lead in the Worldwide Sales Processes and Systems organization at Cisco.
In addition to WebEx Training Center, the blended learning included, among other mechanisms, Cisco TelePresence™, self-paced e-learning modules, asynchronous (prerecorded) e-learning, instructor-led training, and reference guides.
"We raised the bar and set new expectations for what WebEx training sessions should include. The audience experienced an increase in interactivity, and the templates were an improvement over the visuals that we had previously used in face-to-face training. The graphic/visual experience is dramatically different," says Suzanne McLarnon, director of operations in the Worldwide Salesforce Education and Development organization at Cisco.
The WebEx training sessions are customized to specific job roles in each theater by including related subject matter experts in the training sessions. The ability for salespeople to get immediate answers to their questions about system and process updates proved especially helpful in preparing for the March go-live date, when the changes took effect within Salesforce.com.
"The training is not just about process and forecasting," notes a sales participant in the session survey. "It's about promoting behavioral change, which will lead to more effective selling."
Enthusiasm for the ISP virtual training sessions is reflected in the attendee scores. In fact, overall the scores exceeded even the organizers' expectations, averaging in the 4 to 4.5 range on a 5-point scale.
"We're seeing scores that resemble those of traditional instructor-led training, which has always ranked highest among learners," says Stacy Teixeira, IT director in the Worldwide Sales Processes and Systems organization at Cisco. "The engagement that WebEx Training Center allows between the learners and instructors is fabulous. Because individuals across the sales organization are so excited about the features in WebEx, we can use this type of training to effectively reinforce the change in behavior needed for ISP adoption."
Keys to the implementation success, says Mah, included facilitation team preparation; collaboration between IT, Worldwide Salesforce Development, and Worldwide Sales Processes and Systems training teams; extensive communication; and strong content management during implementation. Banding together within a tight global deployment schedule, the teams provided significant productivity and cost enhancements.
The technical WebEx setup and implementation included:
- Creation and maintenance of a complex global master schedule
- Participant registration and tracking
- Session reminder templates for participants
- Global technical support for all live WebEx sessions
- Tools and theater subject matter experts
Working within the global deployment schedule, the ISP training team assigned approximately 25 producers and technical support personnel to staff 312 sessions in three tracks, in five theaters globally. The deployment entailed several time zones and multiple overlapping sessions.
"This was one of Cisco's largest deployment efforts involving multiple organizations that had never worked together previously. We had so much success collaborating and sharing strategies and best practices through many hours of WebEx meetings, day and night. The use of WebEx Connect collaboration space really supported our ability to share feedback, content reviews, and communications in one location," says Mah.
The ISP project is the largest virtual training deployment in Cisco's history. In addition to English, the training materials were created in eight different languages. Moreover, the training was completed in all five global theaters within an unprecedented 48 business days, from the first training sessions in January 2009 to completion of virtual sessions for all 6000 initially targeted users at the end of March.
The gains of this training deployment are considerable:
- An estimated US$13 million savings by using WebEx Training Center versus traditional instructor-led classroom training
- US$3.5 million cost avoidance in training delivery and travel expenses (for both learners and instructors)
- Increase in class size to accommodate 125 learners, sessions shortened up to an hour
- Boost in learner retention through interactive sessions and collaborative features such as polling, annotation, whiteboards, and live Q&A sessions with subject matter experts
- Increase in the number of behavioral training modules, from an initial five modules to 11, to include tools content and individual theater requirements. The flexibility of the WebEx format allowed greater integration of valuable learner resources such as subject matter experts and executives.
The bottom line: More of Cisco's salesforce could be trained in less time, for lower cost, and in a customized, engaging, interactive format.
Based on the success of the ISP initiative, the Worldwide Sales Processes and Systems organization plans to embed best practices, along with supporting templates, into all virtual training endeavors using WebEx Training Center.
"It's this type of learning approach and foundation that will be key to Cisco's continued success in rolling out large, impactful global deployments, such as the upcoming commerce transformation initiative, to its internal and external salesforce," says Rich Reiner, IT manager in the Worldwide Sales Processes and Systems organization.