The Russian Tea Room, E-Learning, And The Future Of Work

Fred Isbell

elearning-1I recently traveled to New York City for a combination of business and fun. It’s amazing how certain landmarks can bring back memories from long ago. I walked past the famous Russian Tea Room – not far from another favorite destination, Carnegie Hall. I was instantly transported back to the year 1985.

No, I didn’t run into Doc Brown from “Back to the Future,” nor did I jump into the DeLorean time machine with Biff clutching a sports almanac. Instead, I recalled a group celebration I attended there after three days of intense marketing research training. Colleagues, great food, vodka, Russian folk dancing, more vodka, camaraderie –  and more vodka. Well, you get the picture. While the worst hangover ever still haunts me to this day, it also reminds me how learning and training have changed so much in 30 years.

When it comes to learning, we’ve evolved

Back then, training was an expensive, time-consuming endeavor. We traveled to the city, stayed in a hotel, attended three days of instructor-led training in a stuffy hotel conference room, and lugged huge binders of printed materials home. I’ll also add that the content was presented on slides and foils on an overhead projector. No digital content – not even PowerPoint.

Although I now attend and work at multiple conferences for SAP to learn from and engage customers and experts, I can’t remember the last time I attended an in-person instructor-lead training event. My marketing research training in New York City is increasingly a thing of the past. As a self-professed lifelong learner, I practice what I preach. Most of my learning is done online either through live interactive sessions with an instructor or self-paced, on-demand e-learning.

We have a great system for this at SAP, and we’ve implemented and used our own learning management system to deliver training to more than 75,000 employees worldwide. SAP Education has evolved our business model and continues to do so. Content is now entirely digital. Talk about a massive change in a relatively short amount of time and a fundamental transformation of an entire industry!

The future of learning is here – get ready

It’s obvious that this is a big change – but how big is it? According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the worldwide e-learning market is currently US$26.2 billion. The majority of this spending is devoted to content, followed by infrastructure and services. Content consists nearly two-thirds of the total share and is almost equally split between IT-related spending and non-IT expenditures. While e-learning is growing at a rate of about 6% per year and content at a higher rate closer to 7%, the non-IT part of content is growing nearly twice as fast.

These findings do sound similar to the world of enterprise cloud solutions, where line-of-business growth exceeds that of IT and adoption of cloud technology outpaces on-premise solutions. And for good reason: The future of learning is in the cloud.

To help businesses prepare for this emerging future of learning, I am very pleased to host the first episode of our new SAP Global Service & Support thought-leadership Webcast series: Simplifying the Future of Learning. Join me and SAP Education experts Kerry Brown and Jan Meyer as well as Deloitte Consulting’s Jody Payette on Thursday, November 19, at 11:00 a.m. EST as we explore this topic and perspectives from some of today’s best subject-matter experts. Click here to register.

As a bonus, I highly recommend checking out the blog authored written by my colleague and good friend Alwin Gruenwald: How Learning Transformation Can Boost your Chances for Success in the Digital Economy.

Going back to the future at the Russian Tea Room (well, maybe)

Having just celebrated “Back to the Future Day” last month, not everything we envisioned in 1985 has come true. I don’t go to work in a flying car, and I don’t wear self-tying Nikes – at least, not yet. But when it comes to education, training, and e-learning, the future is very much here.

FMI-JThe next time I walk past the Russian Tea Room, I’ll be sure to take note of how far we’ve really come. And who knows? I may finally, after 30 years, have the guts to actually go back inside and have a drink or two again.

Fred Isbell is the senior marketing director and head of thought leadership service & support marketing at SAP.

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About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.