Top 5 Considerations for Providing Limited Administration Capabilities to Your Extended Enterprise
As an administrator of an extended enterprise LMS, you are responsible for managing and maintaining a complex environment that brings together your internal teams – potentially including training, talent development, human resources, sales, and marketing – and connects them to your external audiences to support the delivery of training resources to your mutual benefit.
Whether you are providing channel training for partners or distributors, brand and process training for franchisees, product training to customers, or selling professional development training directly to corporations or other outside entities, managing and supporting users from outside of your organization adds additional complexity to the already complex task of connecting people to training — so why not let them help?
Done correctly, providing limited extended enterprise LMS administration capabilities to users within the organizations you’re supporting can provide substantial benefits for both you and your customers. Your customers gain access to the system to manage their user base and direct learning, as well as access to analytics tools that can provide insights into their users’ activities and progress that can be used to support their ROI. And your benefits could potentially be even greater: you get to leverage your customer’s knowledge of their organization to reduce the burden of user administration and ensure users are connected to the learning that will benefit them most, while providing a valuable channel for feedback and informed collaboration.
As your extended enterprise grows, involving greater numbers of people and organizations, sticking with a model where one administration group centrally manages all users, controls access to catalogs, and provides analytics data back to customers can become a monumental task. Increasingly, it makes sense for organizations to push these administrative tasks back down to the customer, who better understand the needs of their own business.
Here are 5 considerations that will help you provide limited administration capabilities for your extended enterprise that will help you scale your business and help ensure your customer’s success and continued loyalty.
1. What will your customer administrators be doing?
This is the most important question as it drives all the others – what is it you want (or are willing) to allow your customer administrators to be able to do?
It helps here to think of three tiers of delegated administration:
Tier 1: Basic Manager – At a minimum, you’ll want to provide what are generally thought of as basic manager privileges: the ability to view users within their organization, purchase and assign learning, monitor training consumption, and access dashboards and generate reports that track their progress. Most customers will expect this, and chances are you may be providing some or all of these capabilities already. This provides the backbone of the value that the customer gets from being granted limited administration capabilities.
Tier 2: HR Business Partner – This is where the value of delegating extended enterprise administration to your outside partners really begins to pay off. An HR Business Partner assumes some or all of the responsibility of managing their organization’s users, including creating, updating, and deactivating external user records, generating new passwords, and potentially managing a limited set of user privileges.
Delegating these tasks to an organization training manager allows them complete control over who exactly within their team can access the environment, which is especially valuable when they are paying for training by subscription or purchase order. For the core administration team, not having to create or terminate users for the client or manage level of access through business rules, integrations, or customer communications can greatly simplify their day-to-day overhead.
Tier 3: Learning Partner – A learning partner begins to take on the responsibilities of controlling access to learning and generating custom learning programs for the users in their account. This goes beyond merely assigning learning to users to include activities such as curating their own learning libraries, designing their own learning paths, and potentially even importing and making their own training available from within the LMS (for example, country-specific training for a franchisee).
In the extended enterprise, Tier 1 and Tier 2 are the approaches most frequently employed, while Tier 3 is more often found in situations where a particularly close relationship exists between the customer and LMS organization. However, it is important to remember that these are not mutually exclusive – you can provide different levels of limited administrative access to different customers; to different administrators within the same customer; or progressively roll new privileges out over time as your requirements evolve. If you are unsure of the required privileges to grant administrators, err on the side of being overly-restrictive. It is easier to add privileges later than to remove privileges and repair any damage done by overzealous administrators.
The key is to know what your customers want and what you’re willing to support.
2. What kind of security model will you use?
If you’re offering training in an extended enterprise environment, where multiple customers will be accessing content, ensuring that your customer data is secure and only visible to users who should be granted access is paramount. This is especially true when you are granting administration access to users from outside your internal teams.
Regardless of which mechanism your platform uses to partition data, go with the most secure option to separate customers. The best way to future-proof your approach is to partition your customers as much as possible at the beginning. This approach leaves room for growth on their side and yours. It also ensures that you are in front of any system limitations when it comes to customization of user or admin configuration.
3. What is your training model?
You wouldn’t bring on a new internal administrator without providing them some level of training and this is just as, if not more important, when granting permissions to users outside your organization. Ensure that the administrators receive relevant training that demonstrates typical tasks they will be expected to execute. Creating a central hub that allows all customer administrators to access quick reference guides and videos is also critical. Establishing a self-service model for access to training materials will drastically reduce the amount of support inquiries you will receive.
4. What is your support model?
Training is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for success. When you have external users take over administrative responsibilities, they become part of your extended administrator team and it’s important that you provide them the appropriate levels of support.
Customers will have myriad requirements and requests in your platform. The more you can standardize options, the easier it will be for you to run your system and reduce errors. It can be tempting to make exceptions; however, allowing too many exceptions to the rules presents some of the biggest challenges extended enterprise customers face in terms of ongoing maintenance of the system. Drawing the line in the sand early and sticking to it allows your approach to grow and scale.
However, it is important to consider customer feedback and change policies or make certain enhancements based on feedback. Using a ticketing system to gather and categorize feedback can help keep track of how many customers are asking for similar things, allowing your organization to prioritize accordingly.
5. How will you monitor administrator activities?
Monitoring administrator usage of the system and conducting periodic audits is imperative to making sure the platform is running as expected and everyone has the correct level of access. Turning on any auditing capabilities your platform has is a good start and necessary step. For ongoing monitoring, setting up scheduled reports of specific activities to go to an admin email account is helpful. Another option is to BCC your administrator accounts on certain activities if you want to be notified right away of a change in those areas.
Staying in contact with your customer administrators and bringing them together to collaborate with one another is also an important part of staying in the loop on their activity within the system and desired changes. Hosting a monthly or quarterly virtual brown bag on different topics is a good way to showcase new features and engage your customer administrators. Posting these in a centralized location so they can go back and watch them later is also helpful in facilitating a self-service model.
These are some of the key decisions organizations need to consider when rolling out an extended enterprise platform, but this is not an exhaustive list. Demand for extended enterprise models is likely to increase in the next few years, as the global online education market is projected to reach $350 billion by 2025. Thinking through potential future opportunities for your platform while developing your launch strategy is key to making sure you are set up for success at launch and for years to come.