The Academy Program Matrix

The Core Functions of an Academy Operating System

Academy Program Matrix

First, what is Customer Education?

Here at SaaS Academy Advisors, we define Customer Education as:

Any purposeful and organized content designed to impart attitudes, knowledge, and skills to customers.

Below are some popular examples of customer education content:

  • Blogs
  • Webinars
  • Documentation
  • Instructor-led training
  • On-demand courses

When you want to invest in customer education, you do it in service of a greater goal. This is why understanding the definition of a customer education program matters too.

Here's a definition of a Customer Education Program:

Strategic initiatives by organizations to educate customers in service of improving top and bottom-line business metrics. The end goal is to improve retention, upselling, cross-selling, product usage, etc.

Educational Product (Content)

This is the heart of your program. Educational content is the core of the Academy Program Matrix. It should be designed, developed, and continuously improved to meet the learning needs of your users.

Design and build your educational content like a software product not like marketing content.

The education you create will need to be improved and iterated upon to stay relevant and deliver the intended outcomes to your users.

Design your product's code (content) and infrastructure to be modular to minimize content debt and maximize scale.

One of the differentiating factors between successful Academy programs vs. others is the impact on the users after completing learnings.

We call this transformational education. It's the philosophy of how to approach the discipline of building an Academy Program with your product (content) at the center of it all.


1. Leadership & Management

“Αs the leader of a customer education program, it is very important to consistently reinforce the purpose, the mission, and the principles.” Chris LoDolce

Above all, a leader needs to have the right mindset. Education and training professionals with excellent learning programs embody extreme ownership, take responsibility, and exude excitement for their job. Their focus isn't just around teaching people how to use the product, but for the impact ecosystem learning can have on the learners' lives and the business.

According to ProductPlan, program management is defined as:

Program Management is an organizational function that oversees a group of individual projects linked together through a shared organizational goal or common area of impact. This programmatic grouping of multiple projects provides synergy, consistent management, and greater visibility to stakeholders than individually managed projects.

As a part of the program management, learning professionals must do the following:

  • Study and understand a company’s business model, strategy, and metrics. Knowing these aspects makes it easier to align your program to the business and drive growth in the areas that matter most.
  • Create a roadmap that communicates your team’s output, timelines, and impact. A safe, and realistic, way to build the the roadmap is to double the time and budget.
  • Pick a project management methodology. Will your team follow agile methodologies or waterfall? This workflow process is imperative to decide ahead of time, stick to it, and improve over time. A key part of building a successful corporate academy program isn't just about creating content, but creating a powerful machine that scales.
  • Use metrics and reporting to prove the value of your program. Break down your metrics into 3 sections: 1) Business goals (e.g., Customer Acquisition Cost, Retention, NPS, Customer Satisfaction). 2) Department goals (e.g., Time to Value, Cost per ticket, Product usage), and 3) Team goals (e.g., engagement, completion rate, learner NPS)

2. Operations & Development

Content design and development should include:

  • Content Architecture: The program’s layout you design can drive efficiency and effectiveness with your content. This will make it easier to reuse, repurpose, update the content, and share it with employees, partners, and customers. And the more you can reuse and repurpose your content, the more powerful your team's work will become.
  • Content Development Process: It should be repeatable and flexible but robust enough to ensure the content is scalable and that the expectations regarding the time and cost are met. Without a content development process, it will be hard to scale your content. Here at SaaS Academy Advisors, we love the ADDIE model.
  • Content Update Process: The content you’re developing can quickly become outdated due to product or industry changes. This is especially true for products which are new or have large product teams and iterating fast. To avoid your content becoming stale, create a database with important information related to your content to store and track it. In addition, you need to have a priority update model. Just like a product team has a prioritization method for deciding what to update and when, your content update process should have a prioritization process as well.

3. Stakeholder Relations

According to ProductPlan, stakeholder management is defined as:

Stakeholder management is the process of identifying, prioritizing, and engaging stakeholders throughout the product development process. It’s an essential component of product management because stakeholders – the individuals or groups who can either impact the success and execution or impact the product – ultimately play a significant role in a product’s life.

While it isn't a common used paralallel, building a customer education department or corporate academy division is a lot like building a product.

And similar to building a product, a CE program won't drive value if it is built in a vacuum.

Learning leaders need to think about how their education programs align with the organization's various departments (sales, marketing, customer success, and produt) and how it can help them to do their job better or achieve their metrics easier.

It's improtant to recognize that program's may need to pivot when priorities and resources change so that it still brings value to the business where it needs it most.

For stakeholder management, build out:


4. Tech Stack

This section is all about the tech tools you use when creating the customer education program.

  • Content delivery tools: They refer to how you’ll deliver the educational content, e.g., PDFs or via a Learning Management System (LMS).
  • Content development tools: How are you developing on Google Sheets? Are you using authoring tools? These are your content development tools.
  • Assessment tools: These include quiz software, test certification software, etc.
  • Reporting tools: Tools that give you qualitative and quantitative learning metrics.
  • Operations: The tools you use for Project Management.
  • Integrations: The tools that get learner data into your data pool and the CRM.

Remember that each time you add another piece of software to your tech stack, it will most probably make things more complicated for your processes. Ask what’s going to happen if you get rid of that tool. Will it make things harder or easier? Could you replace it with a more beneficial tool?


5. Marketing & Distribution

The following teams can use your content to make their jobs easier:

  • Sales team: Customers want to know that their success matters.Your sales team needs to communicate to potential customers that your company invests also invests in its customers successful implementation and usage of the product.
  • Marketing team: Ensure the team has adequate resources and access to the necessary website pages or integrations into your LMS so they can send emails to prospects and others as needed.
  • Customer success: An easy way to grow your program is to align it with existing processes. Integrate your educational content into customer onboarding, introduce to new POCs, share it at user group meet-ups, in the community, etc.
  • Product: Is there a place for your customer education to live in the product? If it isn't yet, this could be a big opportunity for growth. Consider using just a snippet of training for just-in-time learning options.

[Ready to grow your education program? Download our Marketing Your Corporate Academy Templates to help you track your growth, experiment with confidence, gather ideas for a backlog, and successfully launch your program.]


6. User Enablement

An overlooked part of customer education is how you'll support your learners.

Full customer education support includes technical issues (like login or badge inquiries), and content discussion.

Give multi-channel opportunities for communication with learners. It’s essential to find ways (e.g., through a discussion forum in your LMS or emails) to open up the lines of communication and show customers you’re there for them.

When the teams engage with their learners, they understand their needs, obstacles, and questions better which results in better content.

When getting started building a customer education program, ask yourself:

  • Who will be responsible for supporting it (users' questions, stakeholder questions, etc.)?
  • Who will be responsible for improving processes, operations, and infrastructure to improve scalability over time?

Deciding this from the onset will make expectations clear and streamine your team's workflows.


Want to learn more?

Watch our recorded webinar on the Customer Education Blueprint in partnership with LearnWorlds.

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