Titleist is one of the great names in golf, having long been one of the major modernizing forces in the game.
In 1910, an M.I.T graduate and American sportsman Phillip W. Young decided he wanted to make a golf ball that would fly straight. Twenty years later, he would succeed. The company was founded in Fairhaven, Massachusetts in 1932, and the Titleist golf ball made its U.S. Open debut in 1949.
Today, in addition to making the #1 ball in golf, Titleist makes golf clubs as well, with a focus on advanced performance and feel, and boasts the “most precise club-fitting experience in the game.”
As Director of Club Fitting for Titleist, it is Brett Porath’s job to make sure the company can back that claim. He and his team are in charge of training over 4,500 club-fitters at on-course golf pro shops and selected off-course golf specialty and sporting goods stores worldwide.
As Matt Gilley, one of Intellum’s co-founders puts it, “His challenge was a difficult one to solve, given the global nature of the audience that he was trying to reach. Secondly, Brett’s audience is not employed by Titleist. These are external resellers.”
Brett’s unique approach to vetting, choosing and, ultimately, making the decision to switch LMS vendors is worthy of study, not only because of the magnitude of his challenge, but also because his rigorous approach on the front-end has driven post-implementation buy- in from his resellers and widespread usage of the system well beyond initial goals.
Titleist had been using e-learning to supplement their face-to-face training workshops. Their existing LMS was an open-source solution, as customized and operated by a third-party vendor, but with a new product launch scheduled for early 2012, it was time to consider an upgrade – which meant a costly second-round of customization.
As Brett puts it, “The user interface was not terribly intuitive, so we answered many service calls that dealt with ‘What should I press next?’ ‘Where should I go?’ and that was a concern, because we’d rather answer questions about our products and methods than how to use the system.”
Nevertheless, the fear of jumping into the unknown is always difficult to overcome. With a vendor in place, historical data, and courseware that works (no matter how well), making the switch can be a risky proposition.
Brett had a plan for addressing those fears, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist: “After our initial vetting process (we did quite a bit of searching online, looking at other companies and who they used to see who kept coming up among the best providers) we had whittled down the list to a more manageable number. We selected three vendors, had sample accounts created, loaded up courses, and literally tried to break the system, or at least find out what the pitfalls were for each of a few different solutions.”
“Don’t take the vendor’s word for it. Try the solution out. Don’t assume anything.”
Having tasked one of his more technically-savvy club pros with generating the shortlist of finalists, it was next up to Titleist’s IT department to do some off hours testing on each solution.
The team set up trial accounts and went through the process of uploading and viewing content. Most vendors will be willing to oblige this practice, and Intellum’s Matt Gilley, for one, highly recommends this more methodical approach when considering any LMS decision. “One of the big catchphrases is ease-of-use, but unless you go and try it yourself, you don’t know how easy it is to use. Too often, what folks do is put together an RFP, check boxes, and then watch demos from a slick salesperson and say “Dadgum! that looks really easy to use,” but if you haven’t tried it yourself, you don’t know. You’ve got to do it. Even if it seems cumbersome and time consuming, you’ve got to do it.”
Brett agrees, and offers this advice for companies con- sidering a switch: “At the very least, go through the full cycle for a single module. Upload it. Launch it. Have users login and take the course. Then run some reports on completions. That helped us immensely to get over the fear of leaving a known entity – one that I didn’t like – but at least I knew it.”
“We launched around the world and have been very pleased. It’s been almost seamless in the sense that users from other countries can access our courses easily.”
The goal was to train 1,500 club fitters, but Titleist trained 3,500 in their first month on Intellum’s Exceed LMS. The total trained to date (just six months later) is now closer to 6,000.
Of interest—Titleist is not paying “per user.” Instead, their license agreement calls for pricing based on course completions. Essentially, Titleist pays only for the amount of content delivered via Intellum’s LMS, no matter how many unique users are in the system.
This pricing model made sense for Titleist for a number of reasons. “Some of the people that work in the field are club-fitters and they require a higher level of knowledge,” Brett says, “But then there are some of our partners who want their floor staff just to get the product knowledge. So, some of the modules have product information only. The per-completion pricing model really allowed me to go to a wider audience of people that didn’t necessarily need everything we offer.”
Brett also notes that Intellum has been “willing to update their LMS application—at no extra fee—when I have made suggestions and feature requests.” But the most important thing to Brett is that his team has more time now to consider the opportunities before them, to create more and better content as opposed to worrying about the user experience of their LMS: “I think we’ve had maybe two dozen phone calls with questions like, ‘I’m having trouble signing in…’ which, for the number of users, is smaller than I could ever have hoped for.”