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use an LMS as a fast growing software company

How we use an LMS as a Fast Growing Software Company

LearnUpon has enjoyed some stunning growth spurts over the last few years. When Des and I founded the company four years ago, we were a team of two. Since then, we’ve regularly doubled and tripled in size, until we reached our current headcount of 55. And that’s still rising! That rapid growth has been rewarding to watch. It’s what every founder wants. Out of the tens of thousands of tech startups in the world, very few get to scale like this. But it’s also created challenges, partly due to the vision and values Des and I shared when we founded LearnUpon. Our focus was on building an amazing platform while redefining the concept of how to provide excellent customer support. Our vision of customer support was to be human, personal, and above all, helpful. In the early days, the culture we instilled grew organically with us. When we hired people like Shane, Caoimhín and Caroline, we had time to sit with them individually, teach them about LearnUpon and our customers, and to manually pass on tasks like support tickets and product demos. Above all else, we could personally explain the reasons why LearnUpon is different in a crowded marketplace of over 600 LMS vendors. Our early hires all got it and played a key role in the success and reputation LearnUpon has enjoyed since and continues to enjoy today.

Learning from fast-growing software companies

No other approach made much sense when we sat facing each other in our little office in Leeson Street in Dublin. As our growth ballooned, things got stuck. We’d acquired almost 500 customers and added new locations in Belgrade and Sydney over a few years. Our LMS was evolving quickly, as we pushed new features live every month. It became impractical to share knowledge face-to-face when 2-3 new team members needed training every month. It was time to get smarter about how we managed onboarding and training. We realized we needed a scalable process to make sure everyone was up to speed with the latest changes and improvements. The solution to that challenge happened to be right under our nose. We’d already seen first hand how other fast-growing software companies used LearnUpon to overcome the same challenges and drive growth. Just as they’d turned to our LMS, so did we.

How we made onboarding and training easier for everyone

The onboarding process we developed looks radically different. We started by creating a training portal in our LMS called Dog Food, a play on the idea that “every software company should eat their own dog food”. We already had good habits that made launching the new process easier. When we pushed new features live, we presented them to the team in weekly tech sessions followed by what was often a very lively Q&A. Each of these sessions was recorded and added to our Dog Food portal as a new course available for anyone who’d missed it. That then became a library of video content that we used to simplify onboarding for new hires. Senior customer support reps had also drafted documents that answered common queries new team members were likely to receive. We transformed that content into a training program. Now when new people start, they no longer need lots of face-to-face time to understand our LMS and its users. Instead, they can access the repository to absorb the information they need when they need it. The new process works better both for existing staff and new hires. Training had become time-consuming for team members with already busy schedules. Because eLearning is specialized and often quite technical, the learning curve was steep. New hires were sometimes overwhelmed by the volume of information they had to absorb at once. But now they can access a learning portal and progress at their own pace. It allows them to learn by doing, as they move between videos and documents to apply what they’ve read in their work. We encourage all team members to create their own LearnUpon portal and play with it. It’s a place where they can test out what they’ve seen in a tech session, explore the different use cases and workflows of customers or prospects, and get a first hand experience of the latest features we’ve pushed live. One benefit is a more efficient use of everyone’s time, from Des and myself to senior team members and newbies. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what a few of them have told me. Emma said:

I found the videos really useful. In the past, I felt that when someone new is training you, it’s hard to find time to stop and ask them all the questions you’d like to. The great thing about LearnUpon’s onboarding program was that I could stop, pause and rewind, as often as I needed to. I could progress totally at my own pace – speed through the things that seemed obvious and focus on the specialized areas that were new to me. It was great to dip between theory and practice, to try out the LMS features discussed in the knowledge shares. Sometimes, by the time you put training into practice, it’s forgotten. Here, I can access all of that helpful material any time I need it.

Sarah, a customer support rep who joined in April, said:

I loved that I could stop and send questions using the discussion feature in the learning portal. I found that much easier than interrupting someone in the office. The risk with traditional training is that you don’t ask questions because you know that people are busy. And that makes it harder to learn. As I moved through LearnUpon’s onboarding program, I could stop whenever I wanted and ask a question, knowing the relevant team member could deal with it in their own time. So I asked every question I wanted to because I didn’t feel like I was a distraction.

As new team members graduate from the program, we’ve found that they’re more likely to create the training content they’ve found helpful. When someone, for example, customer support rep Brendan Cregan creates a screencast, that’s an asset we can reuse to help team other members facing similar challenges. I can’t wait to see how that library develops as the team expands past 100.

Using our LMS to train our customers

For our next project, we’ll apply everything we learned to make onboarding more fun and efficient for new customers. Customers can already access lots of resources during onboarding and training. The most popular is the Knowledge Base, full of help guides, tutorials and best practices to support customers as they get to know their LMS. To make those resources more engaging, our customer success team is using them to create a structured onboarding course, mimicking the experience that’s worked so well for new hires. Soon, new customers will begin by being guided through the most important things they need to know, targeted to their use case. Those processes help us to stay true to our values and maintain the quality of onboarding, for new hires and customers, at scale. It’s great to know that our own LMS is the most valuable training tool we use. It’s one reason why our LMS has proven so popular with other fast growing software companies. When you start out on your startup journey with just a couple of founders and an idea, the need for an LMS to train employees is so distant it’s barely a dot on the horizon. I’m delighted that we’ve grown so quickly that we need to use an LMS to efficiently onboard new hires. That new reality for LearnUpon is a testament to our success to date. And obviously, when we needed to select a platform, we were only ever going to choose the best cloud LMS on the market.  


  • Cindy McPherrin

    What a great article Brendan! One of the things we do is test our own products for e-learning before rolling them out to our customers. We also work with several departments to make sure each has the training they need. On our upcoming "to do" list is assisting our Human Resources department develop an online orientation similar to what you have described in your article. I love the blogs and newsletters you provide to us, as customers, regularly and the great customer support from Carrie and the tech support from your team. Noria has been with LearnUpon since 2014 and back then I remember working with you, Des and Caoimhín and learning so much about your product. Any time I'm asked about our LMS I am proud to say LearnUpon is a partner not just a vendor and I highly recommend it! BTW - Congratulations on your marriage. Des told me you recently were married. :)

    1 reply 2016-07-27 17:00:29
    • Brendan

      Hi Cindy, Thanks for the feedback on our blog posts, delighted to hear you find them useful. Great to hear you are using a similar approach in testing out your own products with your team first before rolling out to your customers, its definitely a great way to get early feedback on what people like and what might need to be changed. Yes I got married to Grace in May which was an amazing day (I had Des there as one of my groomsmen, he did a great job!). We had our honeymoon after in South Africa which was also amazing, loved every minute of it (and I am already wondering when I can get back there again!). We are delighted to have Noria as a long standing customer and really appreciate your support and recommendations. As always if there is anything we could be doing better be sure to let Carrie, myself or a member of the customer support team know. Have a great day, Brendan.





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