Value for Money?

Value for Money?
Neil Moulton of Siemens
Too often the Cinderella in any organisation, the Training Department shall go to the ball this month!

And quite rightly so in our opinion. If there is one thing that we have learnt over the years it is the value of sales and technical training when it comes to addressing the voice and data convergence market. But training comes at a price – not just the cost of the courses, but also the time taken to get the ‘qualifications and tickets’ required today.

What Comms Business Magazine wanted to find out was –

  •  Does training have a demonstrable return on investment and how do you measure that?

  •  Are there differences of attitude towards training amongst the voice and data channels?

  •  Is training an area of differentiation for distributors?

  •  What do resellers think?

To address these issues we have turned to the finalists and winners of the Comms Channel Awards 2005 Training categories – as after all both they and the award judges thought they had something to say.

Neil Moulton, General Manager at Siemens Communications, “ Effective training has a clear return on investment, ranging from the ability to demonstrate confidence and competence in the vendor’s technologies and solutions, to the mitigation of risk in contract performance – roll-out of IPT is an excellent example of this. Resellers do not (in my experience) look fondly on manufacturers whose training is not cost-effective, and does not enable them to derive a real business benefit. 

At Siemens, we have invested heavily in CBT training for both sales and technical accreditation, allowing the minimum time for their personnel to be “off the road”. We run sales training free of charge, and technical training is provided on an “at cost” basis.

Mike O’Sullivan, our training manager was delighted to receive an award for our training package at the Comms Expo Awards in 2004, and we were pleased to be nominated for this again last year. 

Andy Rawll, Global Convergence Manager, Avaya. “ In today’s flexible working multimedia and broadband-enabled world, training is no longer limited to the instructor-led classroom-based instruction of old. Training now encompasses a wide range of knowledge sharing and transfer mechanisms and associated testing and accreditation methods.

With most communications products now sold via a two-tier distribution model, the type of training required at each link in the supply chain will vary. As a result the criteria for success and return on investment will need to be assessed not only based on one-time financial criteria, but also on an on-going qualitative basis. Effectively trained and motivated staff will serve customers better, faster and more effectively. Resellers should consider training not simply as a cost of maintaining vendor accreditation; it provides critical value to their business. Regular customer satisfaction surveys, monitoring of technical escalations and site support visits are all essential metrics that resellers should track to see how well their customer support ecosystem really does function.”

The 2005 Training Award #1 was won by Inter-Tel Europe and Managing Director Chris Harris told Comms Business Magazine, “Whilst product and engineering training forms part of the reseller/supplier relationship it should also be regarded as an increase in revenue opportunity.”

Harris continues, “ As we embrace the converged communications world the range of applications available for the reseller to implement becomes wider and involves the need for skills in areas that have hitherto not been required. The Inter-Tel philosophy when introducing new product areas( especially IVR, Wireless 802.11, progressive and predictive diallers, Call recording etc) is to have in place the necessary implementation services so that the reseller can buy a ‘turn key’ installation.

However we realise the need to continue to work to develop our reseller partners at the same time and to role out training modules that enable the resellers to gain the skills to be able to do their own implementation thus leveraging greater margins for their business, We should also not forget the ‘intangible ROI’ of offering the staff ongoing development which in turn keeps them happy and motivated and avoids the disruption of high employee turnover.”

 
Differences

Comms Business Magazine wanted to know if there were differences of attitude towards training amongst the voice and data channels. 

Neil Moulton, “We see a consistent acceptance in both voice and data partners, of well presented training that adds value. There is a challenge for vendors presenting on converged technologies to both audiences simultaneously, as experience levels and terminology differ. However this is an area we have been effective in addressing.

Andy Rawll at Avaya says that although the difference in skill sets and competitive strengths between data and voice resellers is well documented and acknowledged, at Avaya they really don’t see a difference in the attitude towards training between different resellers types. “Resellers understand the importance of technical competence and product accreditation in order to provide sustainable value derive ongoing revenues from end-customers.”

Rawll continues, “The ability to be trained is perhaps the more pertinent point. With the continued rise of IP-enabled communications systems, it is vital that traditional voice-oriented resellers invest in the relevant skills, people and resources to keep pace with customer requirements. Although there is no doubt that many businesses will continue to demand classic TDM-based phone systems, the potential for resellers to deliver value, increase margins and deepen customer relationships will increasingly depend on their ability to cross the knowledge chasm that lies between the disparate worlds of voice and data. The main challenge of resellers is not whether they believe that training is a good idea or not, but rather how do they refresh and up skill the knowledge that already resides in their business. Most importantly, are their existing sales and service staff capable of making the leap across the chasm?”

So is training an area of differentiation for distributors? 

“Absolutely.” Say Moulton, “The term “value added distributor” is often abused, but training is an example of how a tier two sales model can assist a vendor in extending its market reach. Resellers, meanwhile, benefit from the continuity of relationship with their chosen distributor. There are many precedents of how effective a differentiator this can be, especially where new technologies/solutions are launched to the market via a niche distributor. “

Avaya sees it differently; Rawll, “In of itself, training is not an area of differentiation; rather it is the quality, competence and scope of the support services that distributors provide to resellers that enable them to provide highly customized solutions to end-customers. Training is the means rather than the end itself

 
Case Study: Comms Channel Award Winner
The Inter-Tel Academy was formed in 2000 to formalise and widen the existing training activities of Inter-Tel Europe. As the marketplace was demanding more application driven solutions, Inter-Tel realised that they had an important role to play in educating their Reseller base to effectively address this market opportunity. One of Inter-Tel Europe’s core beliefs is that should resellers need technical or product support on any of the products that Inter-Tel sell, whether of their own

manufacture or whether they are factored or distributed products, one telephone call should be all that is needed in order to get support on all products – this belief migrates across to the Academy and we have evolved our training course modules to embrace not only our core products but all of the applications, peripherals and other products that Inter-Tel markets.

The Inter-Tel Academy is housed in its own dedicated building some 200 yards from Inter-Tel’s main building in Kettering. There are two dedicated training areas where all delegates have access to systems and equipment that are relevant to the course being attended.

Whilst the Inter-Tel Academy was initially established in order to address the technical and engineering training requirements this has now evolved to a wider sphere to embrace firstly System Administrator courses for end users which can be undertaken both at the Academy site in Kettering and also on site on the customer’s own premises and also to embrace Sales Product Knowledge which is being rolled out to the Reseller base sales people in order that they may successfully leverage the marketplace opportunities that the new applications and products enable.

The difficult trading environment that has existed within the telecoms industry for the last few years has, with hindsight, proved to be a benefit for the Inter-Tel Academy – as Resellers adjusted their organisations and in some cases down sized them to reflect the current market conditions it became apparent that the Inter-Tel Academy needed to modify their method of addressing the market to remain in step with our Reseller partners. From this point of view a number of short modules were developed that could be delivered to Resellers at their own premises wherever they be throughout the country in order that Reseller personnel remained up to speed with the product without taking valuable engineering and sales time away from the field.

 
Getting Technical

The range of training courses currently covers some 19 training modules from the basic Non-networking Axxess course through Voice Recording, SIP and IP, 802.11 Wireless Networking through to Call view , installation training and end user System Administration modules.

One of Inter-Tel’s core beliefs is to embrace industry standards and with this in mind Inter-Tel is the first manufacturer in the UK to be able to offer certified CTP courses to its Reseller partners.

Inter-Tel see CTP as being a key qualification for engineers in this converged marketplace and are proud to be the first manufacturer not only to embrace this realisation but also to offer this training facility to its Reseller partners.

Each technician that attends an Inter-Tel training module at the Academy is issued with an Inter-Tel Academy membership card which has a set serial number – when the technician rings in for technical support they are asked to enter their identification number on the IVR platform. This then forwards the technician’s details through to the Technical Support desk who are then armed with the ability to respond to the call in the appropriate way.

Unlike some manufacturers, should a technician ring through with an enquiry on a product or area of the product on which they have not been trained the Inter-Tel response is not to refuse the support, indeed the philosophy is always to try to support dealers to resolve any difficulties they may have in the field and where possible the support will be given, however it will be noted on that technician’s contact sheet that they have been requested to attend the relevant course when the next one is available.

 
Sales Training

Inter-Tel’s Sales Training for its channel partners is catered for both by the Inter-Tel Academy and also by our team of Regional Business Managers’ sales support teams.

In a marketplace that is changing as dramatically as the telecoms marketplace is currently, Resellers face a considerable challenge in how they manage to keep their sales people up to speed with the latest products, technologies and applications and yet still maintain the number of days that they need to be out there interfacing directly with existing customers and new prospects – Inter-Tel has responded to this challenge. Rather than insisting that reseller sales people attend a formal training course at a central location we have adapted a number of short training modules that may be delivered at the Reseller’s premises during the course of their regular sales meetings or other regular get togethers.

This has the additional benefit of keeping Inter-Tel’s field sales presence in close contact with its Reseller base and also building a firmer bond between field sales and Reseller sales people.

Inter-Tel has had in existence for some time its Product Masters programme. This takes the level of sales product knowledge across the range of applications and products that make up the Inter-Tel product portfolio and enables people who pass the Product Master qualification to use the logo associated with that certificate of competence on their business cards in order to differentiate their level of specialist knowledge from those who have not committed to the same level of excellence.

 
Case Study – Comms Channel Award Winner

At the time of entering the 2005 Comms Channel Awards Crane’s training facilities offered hands on access to all of the latest Avaya, NEC and LG technologies in a friendly and comfortable training environment. Since that time Crane has added Mitel to their systems portfolio.

Crane says their trainers have unsurpassed technical knowledge on all vendor products and can ensure that knowledge is imparted to people throughout our reseller’s organisation.

“Whether our customers need to train a new starter or have an existing workforce that needs to upgrade to the latest software/hardware version, Crane can help. Our course range is designed for all levels of experience.

Crane offers detailed technical, sales and pre-sales training carried out either regionally or in our fully equipped training centre, designed so that no more than two delegates work on a single piece of equipment to ensure that the maximum practical hands on time is provided.

Sales courses are a mixture of product knowledge and product positioning. The key audience is sales personnel but the training does provide a useful insight to pre-sales and engineers. Training is carried out on site at Crane and at customer premises. We will always endeavour to ensure that sales training has the maximum possible geographical coverage to make it easy for our reseller sales teams to get the training they need. Content includes covering a full range of hardware and software applications and all classes are led by our Pre-Sales Specialists who are well versed in the latest product developments.

In 2004 Crane became the first Avaya Certified Education Partner outside Avaya in Europe. This means that Crane run the Avaya Certified Education Program (ACEP). This program enables Crane to teach product-specific Avaya Instructor-led courses using Avaya authorised training materials. (MTV Telecom has subsequently achieved the same status from Avaya)

For our Business Partners, the program means an improved value proposition which now includes Avaya training and education services. For our students, it means greater access to Avaya training, when and where they need it.

Crane has set up a specialist training unit to ensure that your technical field staff get the maximum out of their time on training courses at Crane. We offer a whole host of specialist training courses covering a wide range of technical and application products.

Crane hold bespoke courses also, if a customer has a particular need for training that is not in the Crane portfolio, we design and run the course at the customer’s premises.

Crane has and will continue to make significant investments in its dedicated training facility to ensure that the latest technologies and equipment are available. All trainees are provided with shared access to network PC’s, appropriate course equipment and network simulators to ensure that real “hands-on” practical training is undertaken.

 
What do resellers think?

Siemens Neil Moulton says that no-one likes being forced to comply with training requirements simply to fulfil accreditation criteria. “Where a reseller sees the benefit, they are in my experience willing to participate in training programmes.”

At Avaya Rawll says that for some, the time and potential costs of up-skilling their organisation can seem daunting. “It is therefore important that vendors, such as Avaya, provide modular, clearly communicated and simply architected learning tracks that enable its channel partners to match their learning needs with available resources and budget.”

The last word goes to Marc Good, Operations Director of Actimax and Winner of the 2005 Comms Channel Awards Reseller of the Year. “In today’s application driven market place it is imperative that our technicians and support teams are kept up to date with the latest developments but at the same time ensuring that they do not spend their working lives attending training courses. Inter-Tel has responded to these needs. Their CTP program is widely adopted throughout Actimax and this additional level of qualification has helped us to raise the value of our engineers with our customers.”

 
www.avaya.co.uk
www.cranetel.co.uk
www.inter-teleurope.com
www.siemenscomms.co.uk
 
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