Today, we welcome a highly experienced leader in the federal and trade organization sectors, Ha Nguyen McNeill, Chief Operating Officer atBSA | The Software Alliance. Join us as we discuss the thorough yet rapid selection and deployment of a complex, business-to-business-to-business (B2B2B) LMS to drive BSA’s new online “Software Asset Management certification for enterprise software professionals. We explore B2B2B LMS requirements, the challenges of using talent management learning systems, content strategy, go-to-market strategy and much more.
LMSs designed for talent management are not ideal for supporting business-to-business-to-business (B2B2B) learning scenarios.
Rapid selection and deployment of a B2B2B LMS (or any learning system) starts with in-depth requirements definition.
Automation of all tasks throughout integrated systems is a critical success factor in B2B2B training and certification.
Welcome Ha! Tell us about your unique personal history and your long career in government service and how that led you to become COO of the Software Alliance?
Thank you. I’ve always been drawn to bringing change to organizations and seeking out roles where I felt like I could have an impact. Very early on in my career, there was an opportunity at the Department of Homeland Security who was in the very nascent stages of setting up probably the largest government reform in the United States since World War II.
I spent a lot of time at DHS focusing on international affairs as well as trade, which led me to an opportunity at the White House in the Office of the Intellectual Property that also was a new office being stood up, I believe in 2010 or so. The director of that office, Victoria Espinel, became years later the President and CEO of BSA, the Software Alliance.
BSA was an attractive place to go to after departing government because it represents the enterprise software industry that is not only at the cutting edge of the modern economy, but really is setting the cutting edge.
That’s great! So then you returned to government, and then back to BSA?
I did. There was an opportunity to go back and serve as Chief of Staff at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It was a role where I thought I could have an impact and spent two-and-a-half years there.
You know, those are typically high-burn opportunities. You go in and give it your all. And then you go onto other things after you feel like you’ve served as much as you can serve.
So then, after TSA, I had an opportunity to come back to The Software Alliance and be responsible for programs that drive revenue back to the organization. That includes member relations and a lot of the license compliance and IP programs that we provide to BSA members.
Excellent. So, tell us about BSA…
BSA | The Software Alliance is a trade association that represents enterprise software companies. And what that means is that our members create software solutions that help other businesses.
BSA has been around for over 30 years. We were born out of the mission to help our members enforce their licenses and their intellectual property and we started out doing that on a global scale.
We’re one of the few trade associations that was born global. So we have a presence all over the world with employees in nine to 10 countries. And we are very focused on the enterprise software sector.
Our members are some of the biggest software companies – including Microsoft and IBM, Oracle and Salesforce. We also serve other newer companies. Workday, Splunk and Twilio are a few examples.
You recently piloted and released a new enterprise software certification called the “SAM” certification. Could you tell us about it?
SAM stands for software asset management. And what we like to say at BSA is that every company really should think of itself as a software company.
Companies are increasingly reliant on software to perform their core business functions. How you manage your software is becoming more and more complicated and more and more important.
The governance of software assets within an enterprise really helps improve business efficiencies. We’ve seen that if you do SAM correctly, those efficiencies can lead to as much as 30% in cost savings.
Why is BSA in this space? BSA obviously represents enterprise software companies. We have been in the software asset management space for a while.
We’ve been engaged with the international standards organization working group that is responsible for establishing standards on IT asset management. So because of who we represent, who we are, and our engagements in the space, we felt like we were very well-positioned to develop this training and certification program.
I see. How do you go about selling this certification? Do you just provide it for free to members? Or do you sell it to individuals or member organizations?
It’s a combination. Our members are able to access this certification as part of their membership. And we also sell directly to end-users…
Plus there’s a growing number of organizations that operate as SAM consultancies and tool providers. These businesses help organizations manage software assets appropriately. They’re interested in partnering with us, not only to train themselves but also their customers.
Wow. So you have a B2B2B situation…
Yeah! That’s right!
So tell us how you created content for the certification…
It’s a self-paced learning experience. I encourage folks to go to BSAVerafirm.org. You’ll find a walk-through demo that lets you get a sense of the look-and-feel of the course content.
We partnered with subject matter experts on this to develop the course content. We were really keen to make sure that this is a cutting-edge online learning experience, so we employ all the latest elearning tools. It’s a very engaging layout with knowledge checks throughout. We also combine audio, video and text.
That’s great. How long does it take approximately to earn this certification?
We estimate that it takes about 12 hours from beginning to completion.
You piloted the SAM program on an industry-leading LMS that was built for employee talent management, but it wasn’t effective for your B2B2B content business. What issues did you find?
When you’re selling a product to the public, it’s very, very different than internal workforce training.
Challenges mainly involved things like e-commerce. How do you integrate the e-commerce part of selling a course into the platform so the experience is seamless? For example, you don’t want to force people to bounce back-and-forth between different pages and open up multiple screens when paying for a course and actually launching it.
Also paying customers have different expectations, in terms of what they expect from an online experience. Expectations are clearly higher.
Then there’s the marketing and reporting aspect of it. We wanted an LMS that can integrate with a CRM system. This way, our marketing and outreach is a more automated, seamless process, rather than requiring lots of human involvement on the backend.
Also, we partner with resellers. This is big for us. So it’s important that our platform lets us set-up different pages for our partnerships. Each has a different look-and-feel and branding. That was a key capability for our B2B2B needs.
So you found a strong B2B2B LMS?
We were able to find a pretty awesome solution for our needs. In the end, we settled on Thought Industries as our LMS of choice. What has makes it such a great choice is that there’s such flexibility built into their system. Also, they have great capabilities in terms of supporting a reseller partnership model.
Your timeframe to evaluate LMS options and make a decision was very short. What best practices or pitfalls can you share about choosing a learning system so rapidly?…
John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.