Corporate University

In working with more than a dozen companies over the past two decades many struggled with designing and building a corporate university for both internal and external students. Among the many factors limiting the implementation of such corporate educational programs is that many had people who knew public or even traditional university programs often lacked the skills for a corporate university.

First, they had very limited knowledge of what channel partners need much less the ability to design and deliver courses these partners would attend.

Second, they focused the learning on what the company knew not what the prospective and potential partners needed to manage complex projects.

Third, they delivered the programs via means that the did not meet partners learning situations. In other words, they build traditional education delivery rather than smartphone and virtual training delivery.

Here is the culmination of all the work but importantly, this is just one approach, there are also many others. Here is just some of the research completed:

  • Research into more than a 10 strategic plans for corporate universities and others
  • Reviewed corporate and mobile websites and systems such as smartphone apps
  • Reviewed industry standards associations and certifications
  • Interviewed potential channel partners
  • Completed more than 100 hours in research, development and preparation of this presentation

Here is the phased approach required to build a corporate university

  • Phase 1 – Assessment Research
  • Phase 2 – Design
  • Phase 3 – Development
  • Phase 4 – Delivery
  • Phase 5 – Global Implementation
  • Phase 6 – Future Directions

Here are the details for each phase:

Phase 1 – Assessment – Overview

In this phase, exploratory research needs to be completed to determine what is really needed including a “gap” analysis.

  • Based on management direction
  • Conduct 5-10 personal indepth interviews with current and prospective channel partners and determine, among other things:
    • What do they know now
    • What they like and why
    • What they don’t know and what areas they need help on or are confused by
    • What they would like to know on any topic (like internet, wireless, network services, technology and other topics)
    • Other topics business, technology and management
  • Corporate staff
  • Channel existing and potential partners/developers
  • Customers, industry experts and others
  • Research industry “best practices”
  • Research/gather competitive analysis
  • Review and integrate with Corporate values and strategic goals-values
  • Review existing knowledge sources
  • Develop budget
  • Write report
  • Present findings to leadership

Phase 2 – Design

There may or may not be enough to begin program design, however, with any agile process, beginning now get results faster.

  • Based on guidance from Phase 1
  • Design certification curriculum plan for:
    • Corporate staff & leadership
    • Channel partners including suppliers
    • Customers
  • Evaluate metrics, cost and ROI
  • Review options with:
  • LCMS-Learning Content Management System
  • TMS-Talent Management System
  • Evaluate industry standards and directions
  • Integrate and align with Corporate Corporate “Core Values” and strategic goals
  • Develop current year budget for development, delivery, etc.
  • Time and if desired, design five-year plan
  • Present “Best Practices” for current year and five-year plan to leadership

Phase 3 – Development

In building more than 100 courses including many on agile development, development always takes longer than you think.

  • Based on inputs/outputs from Design Phase 2
  • Evaluate
  • Insource
  • Outsource
  • Packaged off-the-shelf source
  • Build learning matrix of delivery options – video – live and via tele/presence, web, mobile, instructor-led, virtual, hands-on, simulation, expert system, other
  • Integrated with internal business processes and consider ISO9003
  • Determine external governance, regulatory and compliance requirements
  • Evaluate timelines and constraints
  • Formalize plan update budget for Delivery
  • Present to leadership and socialize

Example of Certification Curriculum

Phase 3A – Development of Online Courses/Certification

In a rapidly changing marketplace, few can attend onsite much even live virtual classes. This really means start with online first and then build backwards.

  • Online Certification
  • Each Level with added incentives
  • Online Tutorials
  • Online Webinars
  • Value Proposition
  • Customer Solutions-Applications
  • Portals
  • “Best Practices”
  • Online Sales Solutions
  • Online Customer Case Studies
  • Weekly Newsletter – Blog-Twitter-FB-LinkedIn
  • Online white papers
  • Build mobile access to content
  • Connect with onsite training for group classes
  • Build glossary/FAQs

Phase 4 – Delivery

The adage few ever want to go to training. Pilot and pilot again until they can’t get enough.

  • After course content is developed, an initial pilot of each course is delivered and evaluated
  • Courses are monitored (in-class and by evaluation form) and reviewed on:
  • Evaluate user acceptance
  • Integration with business processes
  • ROI-Return On Investment
  • Metrics including budget
  • Other issues
  • Incorporate input, changes and recommendations
  • Schedule for further delivery

Phase 5 – Global Implementation

From the start look at where you are going and be ready for multi-national and multi-language deployments.

  • Plan national/global pilot
  • After pilot, evaluation of training on users is completed based on performance, integration, business process and other issues
  • If approved, then build delivery master schedule along with:
  • Monitoring and evaluation techniques
  • ROI, metrics, user acceptance
  • Review and present findings to leadership

Phase 6 – Future Directions

Always be looking five-years or further ahead as that is what the company product team should be working on. Indeed, technology always changes faster than we predict though customer acceptance lacks almost as much. That is not to say they are not ready for or wanting your solutions. However, they are often working on other ideas they also want and corporate budget cycles generally are 2-3 behind any rollout. In addition, global deployment is generally 1-2 years behind as well.

  • Prior to and part of course evaluation is the ongoing development of a long-range strategic plan which would include:
  • Integration with current and future business processes
  • Leadership and business strategy
  • Review of emerging learning techniques including modeling, e-learning and simulation to augment existing training methods and enhance the training experience
  • Optimize potential for personal learning development and long-term career path options
  • Continuous evaluation of ROI, metrics, user needs and direction from leadership
  • Maintenance of long-range strategic plan
  • Review and present to leadership


Educational pedagogy is a complex and ever-changing process. I use a quote from Winston Churchill to reflect what most students agree with. He said, “I am always ready to learn, though don’t always like being taught.”

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