Polycom Inc. is a leader in high-quality, easy-to-use video, voice, data and Web conferencing and collaboration solutions. A combination of strategic acquisitions and product innovation has positioned Polycom for continued market and technology leadership. Headquartered in Pleasanton, Calif., the company employs more than 1,200 people worldwide and has regional offices throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America and Asia.
The Polycom Learning Center offers a comprehensive approach to education—practical courses that are designed to ensure the day-to-day effectiveness of videoconferencing systems. A worldwide training organization, the Polycom Learning Center offers classes to meet the needs of a broad audience, including technical and support personnel, system administrators and end users. Polycom product courses cover all major product lines, while technology classes provide the fundamentals (i.e., working theories, standards, networks) used in videoconferencing.
As director of education in the Polycom Learning Center, Kate Lepore helps to ensure that the company’s training program runs smoothly. Lepore’s ability to manage training activities efficiently and cost-effectively has a direct impact on the company’s growth and new business opportunities. To accomplish her business objectives, Lepore sought a solution that would automate the learning management process.
After considering the possibility of building a learning management solution from scratch or purchasing an off-the-shelf solution that Polycom would host in-house, Lepore determined that the best course of action would be to leverage an ASP-model application. She reasoned that the cost of installing and maintaining a “collaboration management” solution for customer training was neither practical nor cost-effective for Polycom.
Instead, she sought a collaboration management solution that would be hosted by the technology provider, which would have responsibility for expanding and updating the application. The system would integrate course scheduling, registration, communications and billing in a single, Web-based application that could be accessed around the globe by Polycom event staff, so long as they had an Internet connection. Such a solution would allow customer training to be managed efficiently, with minimal data entry and oversight. Customers would sign up for training classes over the Web on their own, thereby self-populating the various registration and billing modules of the collaboration management solution. A hosted solution would enable Polycom to increase the number of courses offered and students trained annually, without dramatically increasing the Learning Center’s cost of doing business. In June 2003, Polycom deployed a hosted collaboration management solution, ViewCentral Classroom, to address its needs.
The solution automates the management of live, instructor-led, in-person events. A hosted application, it can be used to publish course information, capture and maintain event registration information, execute payment for events, handle communications to attendees and provide post-event reporting and analysis. To ensure synchronized business processes, the solution can be integrated with back-end systems for customer relationship management and accounting.
As Polycom continues to grow organically and through acquisitions, the number of training registrations has doubled in the past year. The management of this growing program would not have been possible without a collaboration management solution, according to Lepore. “(It) facilitates a larger and more distributed operation, which meets the needs of Polycom’s global training program,” she said. “The previous processes were designed to serve small, centralized operations. With ViewCentral, we’ve been able to double the size of our training program without increasing administrative costs.”
Lepore estimates that the current training program would require at least one additional administrator, were it not for the collaboration management solution. The result is a savings to Polycom of the cost of one full-time staffer, not including benefits, taxes, insurance or other overhead. “Whereas before, we had to enter and re-enter information into different systems multiple times, now we are able to handle more classes and tasks with the same head count, thereby avoiding lengthy bottlenecks and student dissatisfaction.”
Polycom charges for customer training–courses run between $750 and $3,250 per student per class–thus the ability to increase registrations by a factor of two has had a significant impact on revenue for the Learning Center. “We’ve been able to grow our business without having to invest in non-revenue- generating functions,” Lepore said.
Polycom also has seen a 50 percent reduction in costs of goods sold (which are measured on a per-student basis) for training administration, which includes everything from managing registrations to printing certificates and billing. Taken together, Lepore has increased training volume by 100 percent, while simultaneously cutting administration costs by 50 percent, without sacrificing quality or service.
“When it comes to integrating the operations and folding in the capabilities of new organizations, there is a lot to be considered,” Lepore said. “ViewCentral has helped dramatically in this capacity. Not only haven’t we had to add a second person to handle event administration, but the existing staffer is able to manage twice the volume. That’s a 200 percent increase in productivity!”
Joe Hnilo is a vice president with ViewCentral. He can be reached at email@example.com.