Who doesn’t love a new and improved piece of technology? Whether it’s a faster phone, a more dynamic television, or a higher-performing automotive vehicle, we all feel that rush when we get our hands on the latest innovation.
But when you’re in my line of work, new tech also comes with a host of professional challenges.
I’m the brand and learning content manager for Volvo Trucks, with 23 years of in-house experience. My team develops the learning content that ensures Volvo’s network of truck dealers have access to the most current and relevant content that enables them to provide an optimal customer experience.
As technology evolves—for example, battery-electric vehicles have been added to the product line— it’s our job to ensure that our customers receive expert and timely service and support to keep their businesses on the road.
Like most training and development groups, we have integrated a variety of software tools into our workflow. And our workflows have evolved over the years, so we continually reassess whether we have the best mix of content development, content management, and workgroup collaboration tools.
Common-sense IT tools
A key driver of our long-term success is being able to adapt and customize our learning materials to match the evolving needs of our learners. The most common digital tool in my field for managing training resources is a learning management system (LMS). We use one to deploy new training content, keep track of who has taken our courses, monitor testing, and so on. But while LMS tools shine at rolling out a particular course and tracking who accessed it, they are not necessarily designed to manage the lifecycle of our training content.
Over the years, we’ve developed a rich library of training that supports several key dealership roles. Because much of it had not been tagged with metadata, we spent valuable time determining which courses were still relevant, which ones needed revision, and which ones were obsolete. We needed a way to label our training content by intended audience, the date it was developed and published, and lifecycle information to flag it for an automatic review to determine whether it needed a refresh.
We searched for a tool that could complement our LMS to provide a ‘data layer’ that would enable us to better inventory and manage our original source files (such as instructor-led course materials and eLearning development files), not just the published course materials.
Solutions exist; the most common being content management systems (CMS). Some are even tailor-made for the learning sector, in which case they are considered LCMS. The problem with these powerful enterprise solutions is that they can be expensive and, oftentimes, just didn’t suit our needs.
With the emergence of low-code and no-code solutions, we wondered whether we could design or adapt a solution to meet our needs. We went in search of a lower-cost, easy-to-implement solution. In 2020, we settled on a comprehensive no-code platform, Kintone, that provided an intuitive smart database to store our metadata, with searchable archives and automatic reminders we could program ourselves to know when content needed to be reviewed or updated.
This is a robust database platform, but it also offers flexible content tagging and workflows that are user definable. While we were concerned about a long learning curve, we found that we were able to set up the system ourselves, with occasional support from Kintone’s online resources and helpful staff.
Solving problems as citizen developers
My colleagues developing our training courses were also looking for a new tool to help solve a different problem. Course-development projects require juggling many moving parts, and they needed a workflow-management solution that could track progress and assign tasks. Turns out, Kintone could do that too.
We now have a project-management common system, making collaboration across our teams much smoother. Every new training course is tagged with a project number, so we can easily find out what training programs are in which stage of development. All deliverables within a project are identified under the project-number umbrella. A project may have many deliverables, one of which is typically a course, but deliverables can also be collateral items like job aids, participant guides, slide decks, and more.
Many IT vendors develop amazing tools for specific departmental functions and industries, but sometimes more specialized doesn’t mean better. By taking a no-code approach that offered complete customization, we were able to hit the ground running by ourselves. And since we’ve been working remotely for the last two years, the built-in collaboration tools have enabled everyone to stay on top of project status.
By choosing programmable software that a variety of teams can work with, our whole unit has become more responsive, more adaptive, and better equipped to deal with the constantly changing demands of the rapidly evolving commercial-trucking industry.
Mary Dee is the brand and learning content manager for Volvo Trucks