Business software solutions provider SAP went to the movies recently — to raise awareness among its project managers of a new learning offering on virtual team management.

In 2004, the enterprise software company saw that several software development projects being worked on by globally dispersed associates were slipping and knew the realities of multiple time zones and cultural differences significantly contributed to the problem.

But only a minimal amount of learning was (and is) mandatory for SAP employees each year, so the Walldorf, Germany-headquartered company knew it would have to do something different in marketing the course to persuade busy project managers to make time to take the new offering.

Enspire Learning created the six-module, self-paced virtual team management Web course for SAP, using a game-based approach with tutorials and virtual puzzles to boost learner interactivity. Then Enspire reused pieces from the course to create a two-minute video that advertised it in a style that spoofed the typical “coming attractions” trailers shown before a movie plays in theaters.

SAP University launched this program in 2005 through its LMS system, SAP Learning Portal. Enrollment was open to all employees in the organization, but was aimed at managers responsible for projects that upgraded SAP’s software offerings. From experience, SAP anticipated that the new course would be taken 500 times in its first year of availability.

SAP marketed details of the new course through several internal communication channels, including e-mails sent from executive managers to line managers, an article in the internal SAP newsletter and a mention of the course with a link to the movie trailer on the landing page of the corporate portal. The trailer video also was attached to broadcast e-mails sent to all project managers and their managers.

Total costs to design, develop and produce the six course modules were about 300,000 euros. With generous reuse of course content, the movie trailer cost less than 3,000 euros to produce. In one year, from 2005 to 2006, 1,152 SAP managers took the course, more than 125 percent beyond what was anticipated.

Additionally, using the Boudreau learning utility formula (described below), SAP University computed a net utility for the virtual team management course of 1.3 million euros, on a total program cost of 800,000 euros. This represented an ROI of about 500,000 euros, or more than $750,000 (as of February 2008).

Boudreau Formula: U = TxNxdxSDY-C

U = the dollar value of a training program

T = the duration, in number of years, of a training
program’s effect on performance

N = the number of applications of the training

D = the true difference in job performance between the
average trained and the average untrained employee
in units of standard deviation

SDY = the standard deviation of job performance
in dollars that is affected by training

C = the cost of training

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