Over the past decade, we’ve rapidly moved from onsite workshops and paper manuals to elearning and mlearning. The advantages of adopting a learning management system for training are obvious. LMSs make trainee testing, training administration, content creation, social learning and gamification easier and more affordable. More importantly, there’s a growing body of research that suggests money invested in training nearly always results in a strong return. After all, effective training reduces employee attrition, reduces employee errors and subsequently, reduces the cost of hiring and training new employees down the line.

But what if you could take all the benefits of your LMS and use these benefits to support your extended network too? What if your LMS could help people in your supply or distribution chain work more effectively to support your organization or move and promote your products or services? What if you could use your LMS to reach out to customers? The good news is that you can adopt your LMS to provide extended education to your broader network, and there are many compelling reasons to do so.

Leveraging Your LMS for Extended Enterprise

How Does Extended Enterprise Learning Work?

By definition, extended enterprise refers to the various people, networks and operations that extend beyond an organization yet are integral to its operation. Extended enterprise learning, then, is any training system designed for non-employees. In short, with extended enterprise learning the aim is to change the behaviors of your collaborators (e.g., people in your distribution chain) or customers in ways that support your organization’s goals.

Consider the following scenario. You’re selling safety boots, but your customers are not as aware as they should be about the need for safety boots and the need to replace them from time to time. To increase sales, you have two choices. First, you can expand your sales region–start looking for customers further afield. The problem with this option is that it will drastically increase your shipping costs and travel expenses. The other option is to educate existing customers and potential customers who are already in your sales region. Perhaps, you provide your existing customers and potential customers with access to a few key online videos about workplace safety and appropriate footwear and the impact this can have on reducing workplace accidents and as a result, reducing workers taking time off due to injuries. What’s the upshot for you? For a low cost, you can education a large number of customers and would-be customers, but as your customer base becomes educated about your product line, they also realize why it is necessary. In the end, your sales go up without reaching outside your existing sales area.

Do I Need to Modify my Existing LMS for Extended Enterprise Learning?

The short answer is no. Your existing LMS can be easily adapted for use as a tool for extended enterprise learning. All the features that you love about your current LMS can also be applied to educate your extended network too.

Create Online Courses: Just as you create online courses for your employees, you can easily use your existing LMS to create online courses for anyone in your extended network from suppliers and distributors to customers.

Customization: All the customizable features of your existing LMS can also be used to create a branded and customized experience for specific demographics in your extended network (e.g., you can customize courses to pitch them to the specific needs of suppliers versus sales representatives).

Automatic Notifications, Feedback Forms, Assessments and Forums: Adopting an LMS as a tool for extended enterprise learning is a great way to stay in touch and in sync with your extended network. Better yet, you can use extended enterprise learning to gather critical feedback on how various people in your supply and distribution chains are interacting with your product or service and to gather critical feedback on how your customers are engaging with your product or service.