Bridging the Capability Gap
ANZ Online Learning relies heavily on what Mahoney calls a "Teach a Man to Fish" approach, where rather than take on all the work and gain all the skills themselves, project teams work very closely with the client organization to develop the skills and expertise of as many of their people as possible.
To this end the group starts every project for an external client with a readiness assessment to determine their capabilities to deliver on the work. Is there executive sponsorship? Does the organization have people who can act as project managers to move the project forward in the organization? Is there a strategy in terms of learning development that the project can dovetail in with? Is there a strategic outcome that this directly supports? Do they have the stakeholders on board? If not, who are the stakeholders, and can they be put in place?
"All these sorts of things we look at, and then we look at the technology aspects, we look at the content aspects, et cetera, and from that we build a profile of the organization and say: 'Okay, this is where you want to be, this is where you are now, here are the gaps. What do we need to do to address those gaps?'" Mahoney says. He says identifying those abilities and risks up front makes implementing the project much easier.
When the group and its client agree on the capability gap, Mahoney's team puts in place an implementation project plan that includes processes to address each of those capability gaps, identifies the project owner and lays out a time frame for implementation. He says the team typically then maintains daily contact with the client to help smooth project progress and success and allow it to impart knowledge to the clients as they go through the project phase.
"I think the key thing is to involve basically a cross-section of your intended audience. One of the things we've found is that there is definitely a broad cross-section of understanding and I suppose ability to use technology or to even support technology across an organization . . . So to involve [a spectrum of users] in the testing process is important, because by getting them involved with something early on, they actually become advocates, if they're supported right, and in that way it's a lot easier to implement something within an organization when you have people at the grass roots level who are willing to support what you are doing."
The final phase is stakeholder review, and then the product launch, which gives the client a chance to brand the product. The group always conducts a post-implementation review to ensure it continues to learn from each project as it moves forward.
Mahoney's central message is that organizations should always look at any project first from the perspective of risk, and should never jump straight to a sourcing strategy. "Don't whatever you do jump to your sourcing strategy first," he says, "because you'll make flawed decisions based on what looks nice on an Excel spreadsheet with all your boxes ticked, as opposed to what you actually need. Understanding what you need first, from a strategic and learner perspective, before you go to your resourcing strategy - that's absolutely critical.
"And I think part of being close to your client is making sure that you continue to add value back to your client by imparting skills and experience through them all the way through the community."
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