I think the new buzzword these days is INTRApreneur since you are acting like an entrepreneur within the confines of a larger company. My point is still the same in this blog post and others to follow: The more you act like an entrepreneur the more successful you are likely to be managing the training function.
Requirements of a Business Plan
Consider the following requirements of a business plan:
- Executive Overview
- Company Description
- Products and Services
- Market Analysis
- Strategy, Implementation, Organization
- Financial Plan and Projections
If you are new to the role of Training Manager then I would encourage you to take some time to document your thoughts and ideas. Have a mini brainstorming session with yourself and just list what you think your training team should be doing. Even without any business experience at all you should be able to guess at a lot of this. And don't feel bad, most business plans are filled with guess work.
Every business plan has a summary of some sort. This is the :30 second elevator pitch. It's the important stuff squeezed into as few words as possible. And so, you should definitely write your executive summary LAST.
Your company name can simply be XYZ Co., Training Department. Or maybe it's XYZ University, or Academy. What you name yourself doesn't matter much. What DOES matter is that you have a brand. Communicating with your learners is as important as the training you deliver to them, so don't forget the importance of a your brand. And with your brand your company description will define who you are, how you operate, and what your goals are.
Products and Services
The products and services you deliver should be the easy part. The products you create are training courses, right? Don't complicate it any more than that. Let me be clear on this point because I know many long time learning professionals are rolling their eyes. It doesn't matter if you consider yourself and your team creators of "Solutions", or "Experiences". Your customers are not buying either one. They are buying TRAINING. And the recognized standard unit of measure for training has always been a COURSE. Period. You may have different methods for delivering your courses like Live Classroom Training, or Online Classroom Training, or self-paced eLearning. But regardless of how the course and it's content is delivered, the mainstream population still refers to your product as a course. Do yourself a favor, and don't waste your time calling your product anything else. Any other work besides creating and delivering courses is a service your provide and should be identified as well.
Your market analysis will reveal who your audience is. You may have heard that Instructional Designers will do an audience analysis. In essence, these are the same thing. Understanding your audience is as critical to designing training as it is to any entrepreneur starting a business. And here's a good pro tip: You should also define who is NOT your audience. You may be in a situation where certain divisions of the company having their training needs met in other ways. Make sure you define them both.
And let's also not forget about internal vs. external training. How you create and deliver training to external customers is often VERY different than how you create training products for an internal employee base. This can be a problem for many eLearning implementations. Some internal learning management systems will not allow access from outside the company firewall forcing you to maintain an additional system just for external training. A SaaS-based learning management system like Litmos solves this problem.
Strategy, Implementation, Organization
How are you going to get the work done? Will you do it all by yourself? I doubt it. You will need to learn about the differences between hiring your own team, and/or using contractors. Will you be going straight to eLearning, or will you start with a classic classroom model and move towards elearning in the future? How will you make this happen? There is a lot to think about for this portion of your plan.
Financial Plan and Projections
If you are only supporting internal employees you may wonder how this section applies to you. Well, not only does apply, but it's the most important part. This is how an entrepreneur measures the viability and success of their business. You may not be earning money with each product you create and deliver, but you most certainly need to measure the viability and success of your products in order to prove the value of your department to the company.
Obviously there is a LOT more too it. And I've oversimplified the comparisons significantly. The purpose of this post was simply to get you to think differently about your role as a training manager, or learning leader...more like an entrepreneur. Your primary stake holders are business men and women who do not speak the language of instructional design. Don't expect them to learn it. Make yourself a valuable part of the business and treat your training department like the business that it is.
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