Hello everyone. As I write this, I am indeed up in the air, as I was a few years ago when I watched the film of the same name, starring my lookalike George Clooney and, just like George’s character, I was on another trip somewhere. In that story, his own work routine was being threatened by change: his company was piloting virtual conferencing as a way to improve efficiency.
A similar innovation was also being trialled in our delivery of service management courses, replacing some traditional classroom lectures with a combination of self-study and virtual-conference live-lecturer sessions with yours truly.
One of the key drivers for this blended approach is, as in that film, cost. We used to occasionally get a commission from a large financial company to do the ‘Far East Tour’ and travel to Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo over several weeks giving ITIL courses. I joined just as this became less common, so I missed out on that experience. I did get to travel to New York to give a course for that financial customer at a very interesting time: September 2008.
The Only Living Boy in New York 1
Ah! New York – the city that never sleeps. Except the museums. They are mostly closed on a Monday. There is, of course, much to see anyway, and I had a wonderful time. Tuesday morning arrived, and I walked to work past Lehman Brothers, just as it collapsed economically.
I completed training day one and enjoyed more of the city, visiting both Staten Island and the Empire State building.
Bridge Over Troubled Water 1
Day two and it was the turn of AIG to suffer financially. I walked over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to a diner to hear the owner complain (in a fabulous Brooklyn accent) about ‘handouts to big corporations’
Day three and the financial victims multiplied further, though not yet to my customer. They asked if I was going back to England the day after and I confirmed it. I had the distinct feeling that they considered my appearance and economic doom less than coincidental.
So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright 1
Since that time, we have not repeated the ‘Far East Tour’ for that particular customer, nor travelled to New York (or anywhere further than a one-hour European trip) to deliver training. They have embraced the concept of blended training whole-heartedly for the last few years, getting most of the benefits for much less of the cost.
It is not just the reduction in travel and hotel expenses (for me or the delegates) that drives the move to blended training. It is also the geographical distribution of the delegates. Whereas it was not always feasible to fill training courses with delegates from one country, the virtual nature of the progress sessions means that as long as the spread of people across time zones is not too great, delivering to cohorts across the Americas or EMEA, or Asia-Pacific are perfectly sensible. Indeed, delivering to such groups is not only logistically practical, it can help to consolidate training and the associated ongoing processes throughout the company in a much more cohesive way.
Keep The Customer Satisfied 1
There are downsides to self-study training:
- The delegates can’t ask questions
- They don’t get a ‘group’ experience
- Because they can study any time, that actually requires a lot more discipline as there are always pressing reasons (mostly work-related) to NOT study.
These issues are largely addressed through the blended option:
- Questions can be emailed, added to a discussion ‘thread’ or saved and asked directly at the next progress session (usually not more than two weeks away)
- The progress sessions provide a ‘group’ forum as well as putting concepts into context for the company
- The sessions provide incentive to complete the study section in a timely manner
- One additional benefit is that we can record these sessions, and allow delegates to replay parts if they want, or to ‘catch up’ if they miss the session.
Song For The Asking 1
And now back to George Clooney’s character and myself (I know it’s hard to separate us, but do try…): Did the virtual-conferencing facility mean the end of travelling to exotic destinations and traditional face-to-face encounters?
It remains a viable option, one of several.
Some people value the focussed, face-to-face classroom experience so much that they will always prefer that option.
Others need the information but are not in any group, nor near a training facility, so the self-study option is available to them.
As video-conferencing improves, some customers prefer virtual training to delegates in one or more locations, getting most of the classroom experience but with less travel/expenses.
The blended approach continues to work very well for many larger customer with delegates in multiple locations.
Indeed, a short time ago, I rose early to deliver a session to Asia-Pacific at 07:00, another to India at 10:00, then EMEA at 13:00 and finally to the Americas at 17:00. I covered almost the whole world without leaving home.
Beat that, George!
Why Don’t You Write Me? 1
As ever, Fox IT are happy to provide service management training in whatever manner suits you best. I must sign off now, as we are due in Singapore shortly. Some things you just don’t get in a virtual experience.
Director of Training at Fox IT
1 I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water album on the plane, hence those song titles