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Microsoft: Promoting Product Preparation
Software giant Microsoft, which provides operating systems for many–if not most–of the world’s approximately 600 million personal computers, frequently releases new products. This steady stream of rollouts has been a constant test for the company’s learning and development teams, particularly in delivering content to sales and support professionals who need to know product characteristics almost immediately. These circumstances led Microsoft to team up with Via Training to launch its first online global training program in the fall of 2003 to instruct retail sales representatives in electronic retail stores and specialty outlets on how to sell Windows Mobile Devices like Pocket PCs, Pocket PC Phones and Smartphones.
Both the development and delivery phases of the outwardly focused Windows Mobile training program presented unique challenges, said Tricia Bowyer, group manager of Microsoft’s business and professional curriculum. Boyer works with the sales, marketing and services group (SMSG) readiness within Microsoft, which provides training for 25,000 employees worldwide involved in sales, consulting and technical support.
Input from developers is crucial in designing any learning program that supports products. However, this is often an ordeal at Microsoft, as these professionals have exhaustive “day jobs” that prevent them from working on much else, Bowyer said. For the Windows Mobile training program, Via made a special effort to facilitate transfer of ideas between employee education developers and product developers. “I think their ability to get that buy-in and get that product group to their location was a key success factor,” Bowyer said.
Another difficulty in creating and rolling out the new training program was determining how to meet the distinct learning needs of thousands of independent, highly mobile sales representatives across several different cultures. “A lot of people think about training and localization, and they only think about changing the language,” Bowyer said. “There’s a significant difference between changing the language and looking at the culture. For example, the difference between China and Japan is huge in the way they sell and the way they like to be trained. From my perspective, the biggest challenge is trying to understand the culture and ensure that the training that we provide addresses some of the cultural issues, or else we’ll lose our audience very quickly.”
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