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Implementing a Digital Academy: a Technological and Organizational Challenge

Actually implementing a Digital Academy, transforming and integrating an existing organization, is a demanding challenge that requires time and analysis. In the case of Festo Academy, the integration process took about 6 months to start the first experiments with Forma Lms, and about a year to get up and running.

The path can be summarized in the compromise that must be found and implemented between: the technological dimension of the tools, which must dress and replicate the company's training model by communicating with the other processes of the corporate ecosystem, and the organizational one, that requires a certain operational and cultural adaptation to the new opportunities and rigidities we're faced with when it's about technology.

Technological Integration

When you create the digital alter ego for an existing Academy that already has a structured training offer, consolidated workflows for years, and implemented and functioning management tools, there are two options: integrate the existing one, or start from scratch.

Both options are costly for the company, and the choice may be less obvious than imagined:

  • If the processes and the training offer are not too complex, and if the digital management tools are missing or external or obsolete, then replacing them with new platforms could be the quickest and cheapest choice, albeit "traumatic" from an organizational point of view.
  • If the training offer and processes are complex and highly formalized, with solid digital management tools already implemented to measure, then integration with the existing is probably the best choice.

 Obviously, there are also compromise solutions, but Festo Academy definitely falls into the second case; fortunately, the pre-existing management systems had been implemented directly within the company by an autonomous IT, structured and competent both on processes and solutions. This condition has allowed integration to be developed effectively and quickly: interfacing with an external vendor or proprietary software would have been more complex, more expensive, and would probably have led to different choices.

Interventions on the platform have all been designed so that they can then be integrated into the public core of Forma: 

  • Some initial software limitations were overcome by extending and integrating the core functionality of the platform
  • Some features have been integrated via plugins, such as webinars and open badges
  • In addition to some aesthetic adjustments, the dashboard functionality (co-financed by Festo) and the more "social" refactoring of the "course card" module were implemented
  • The APIs have been extended with some missing features to complete integration with all corporate management processes, including B.I. linked to teacher evaluation questionnaires
  • The management of teaching materials has been revised to improve their usability for teachers who upload and manage their own content: given the amount of courses managed by different teachers, it was also very important to improve their user experience

Today, the system is almost completely "piloted" by the original management software of esto Academy, which communicates with Forma through the platform's native API system: from an operational point of view, the platform acts as a "provider" of contents, while the organization of training activities (creation of training plans, enrollments, assignment of certificates, etc.) is controlled by the original management software, already interfaced with the site and other company applications.

Organization of training processes

Replicating the training offer of a traditional academy in a digital system can be an important challenge. The types of training projects to be managed, for example, are different in terms of organization, delivery and registration: Masters, courses, seminars, experiences, webinars, on-the-job training.

Often in "traditional" training category, "exceptions to the rule" are managed that are difficult to replicate in a digital system which requires a structured regulation of processes: for example, it may happen that a person enrolls in a master but completes a few modules only, or replaces a module classroom with a webinar; or there are people who miss a classroom day in a module and make it up in a subsequent edition, or… in short, there is more than enough to undermine any digital system!

Luckily, Forma LMS offers a great variety and granularity of options that it was possible to fold in order to replicate all the different modalities of the Festo training offer:

  • The organization chart function has made it possible to reconstruct the list of hundreds of customers with whom Festo has worked over the years, as well as their offices and branches, to import the history of already trained users.
  • The tree-like organization of the course categories has allowed, with careful planning, to faithfully replicate the entire training offer
  • The management of editions and dates made it possible to easily manage both the modules in presence over several days, as well as the webinars and the blended and flex solutions
  • The "Aggregate Certificates" made it possible to respond to all the flexibility required to certify even partial participation in masters and courses

Festo Digital Academy has now been fully functional for about 2 years and has successfully overcome the hurricane of the pandemic which forced the adoption of new radical training methods.

Today it's ready to grow with new challenges as it's going to open to customers' HR managers, who will be able to access in order to monitor the progress and training history of their employees, integrate with on-the-job experiential training,  and expand by integrating with an advanced method of mapping of competences.

Here's how Alessandro Enna, Manager of the Festo Academy, describes the experience:

"We worked on the transition to a digital academy with the Elearnit and Forma Farm team. They accompanied us following our needs and going into the detail of the existing processes to model  Forma functionalities in an appropriate way. We've had confirmation of the solidity of the Forma core , of its flexibility and scalability , which is combined with an excellent cost / performance ratio. However, the transformation into Digital Academy is still in progress and, like all transformations, it will be continuous. For example, in addition to those already mentioned, another objective is to activate the "portability" of individual training contents coming from the Festo international platform (on another LMS) to that of the Italian Academy and not only with the LTI protocol. This will further open the possibility of building the content offer in a way that is flexible and tailored to the needs of our local customers. "

In short, the implementation of a Digital Academy and, even more so, the digital transformation of a traditional corporate academy require an important work of technological and organizational integration to be done upstream of the methodological aspects and cultural challenges: if this work is not effective, methodology and content could be stifled by small problems and continuous compromises on workflows and functionality. Yet, if this work is done properly, your Digital Academy will not only be an effective evolution for your current training offer: it will open up new market scenarios, and will respond easily and quickly to even the most unpredictable new trends and challenges that your company will be willing to face.

About Festo:

Festo Academy

Festo Academy is an Industrial Management School operating on the issues of industrial processes, organization and business management with Executive Masters, role paths and training initiatives.
Its mission is to support companies in expressing their maximum potential by expanding and developing the skills of their human resources.
Festo Academy and Festo Consulting are part of the multinational industrial group Festo A.G., a leader in the industrial automation sector, constantly focused on innovation and the enhancement of people.

Festo Academy is:

Affiliate of the Demand Driven institute
ATP of the Project Management Institute (PMI)
Certification body for maintenance skills (EN 15628) and fluidic technologies (CETOP)
Collaborator of Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org.

Iso 9001 certified as EA37 consulting and training company

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