Supporting Managed Learning Services - An Interview with Blake Henegan
Optimus Learning is a Managed Learning Service (MLS) Provider causing ripples in the MLS industry. Successfully competing with the likes of QA and KnowledgePool, Shona Blackhall, CEO of Enterprise Study wanted to find out what their secret was, and whether the ES TMS platform had contributed to their success.
Optimus Learning had been utilising the ES TAS and MLS software for just over 12 months at the time of this case study interview.
Optimus launched towards the end of 2009, a difficult year to start a business. The UK was in deep recession and the waves of the financial fall out where still being felt. Counter-intuitively, training is always the first department to be cut during hard times, at a time when employees and businesses are being asked to do with less, and the skills of employees are being tested the most. Training departments have reduced budgets, reduced teams, and many look to outsourced models for support.
In talking to potential customers and L&D departments Blake Henegan, CEO and Founder of Optimus Learning (then Optimus Sourcing), understood L&D teams in medium to large organisations (1000 - 5000 employees) were struggling. Identifying that these organisations, and their L&D teams were suffering the most, Optimus was created. Initially supporting L&D teams and their stakeholders by offering an outsourced administration and training sourcing service.
In the last nine years, the company has gone from strength to strength, growing from learning admin outsourcing to offering a wide range of learning services. A rebrand in 201to Optimus Learning Services, cemented the new company offering. This, coupled with a slick SEO strategy and exceptional customer feedback, means that Optimus Learning (OL) is a force to be reckoned with in the MLS market.
Enterprise Study (ES) first became aware of Optimus Learning (please use Optimus Learning in case study. Happy for you to use “they” more if need be. in 2015. ES was aware that OL were users of the Administrate platform, and although this platform has good training management features, it is not designed with Managed Learning Services in mind. Enterprise study knew the LearningNetwork and brokering features incorporated into their Training Management Software (TMS) would save OL vast amounts of administration time supporting their sourcing provision - time they could reinvest strategically with customers.
Optimus Learning (OL) went live with the Enterprise Study TMS in 2017. The implementation included a bespoke adaptation of the platform, to incorporate some business critical fundamental procurement and brokering processes unique to OL.
"The system we had up until then was good system for booking training, however, it had its limitations. We'd moved our business to the next level, and we needed a platform which supported this. We needed a platform where clients could self-serve, and we needed better reporting. The previous system was hard to generate reports, and it didn't have the inbuilt, rich reporting of ES".
Reputation is paramount for OL, to compete with the likes of QA and Capita in this market you have to be offering an alternative solution. Excellent customer service, building lasting relationships and understanding the customer and earning their trust of clients are core drivers for Blake and his team.
Moving platforms can seem risky for some, what risks did ES need to consider and help mitigate?
"The big risk was data. We couldn't risk losing client training histories in the transfer; knowing what training they've done in the past; spend activity - this information is critical in us understanding our customers.
We worked with Shona (ES, CEO) to map our business processes and alight the TMS product to what we needed, this was fundamental in deciding to move forward with the new platform, and a successful implementation. I don't think we would have moved forward with the platform if ES hadn't taken this time to get to know us".
Has the ES platform met your objectives?
Yes! The reporting is easy to use, and this data is paramount for our business and our client services. Customers can log into the platform, access their courses; discounts; make bookings, without having to create separate client portals, although that flexibility is there for those that want it.
The LearningNetwork integration has made the admin of sourcing and brokering so much easier for the OL team. By having the supplier catalogues all in one network with auditable workflows, OL and their customers can easily access thousands of courses without having to go directly to vendor websites and make multiple phone calls.
Have you seen an improvement with productivity or admin time since implementing the TMS?
"We estimate that the TMS has saved about 40% of our time. We annually measure how much time it takes us and customers to make a booking, so can be confident of this number.
We've gone from quite a convoluted process with the previous software, to a straightforward process with ES. The challenge with any outsourcing provider is we sit in the middle of the vendor and the customer. We always keep things simple and use lean but robust processes. Once the bespoke adaptions where made to ES the platform simplified everything.
The report feature has also contributed to this time-saving. Generating reports is as easy as clicking a button – important for us and our clients."
OL currently work with 25 providers on the Network, with the intention to grow this in line with their clients' requirements.
How has GDPR affected you?
"Fundamentally our business hasn't needed to change. We've always use best practice methods for business data. Enterprise Study gave us confidence that they were adapting the system to support GDPR, and kept us up to date throughout. Additionally, ES is very open about data and security, sending process statements and updates when required. Therefore, when I have a customer who requests that type of information, I have it to hand. For instance, I know where the data is stored, what the backup procedure is. It's reassuring."
What does the future hold for OL?
The intention is to continue to grow, helping more companies throughout the UK. We are now working with some major names across a number of sectors, including the insurance, financial services, fintech and manufacturing.
Technology is at the forefront of this, using it to drive efficiencies and improve processes continually, but never at the expense of the customer relationship or the services we offer."