DaimlerChrysler: A Case of Training the Extended Enterprise with Latitude Consulting Group

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Article ImageCompany: DaimlerChrysler Corporation
DaimlerChrysler Corporation, owned by the Chrysler Group, was created in November 1998 through the merger of Daimler-Benz AG and the Chrysler Corporation. DaimlerChrysler is a leading supplier of passenger cars, SUVs, sports tourers, minivans, and pickups, and is the world‘s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles. DaimlerChrysler's products are sold in more than 200 countries. DaimlerChrysler Academy is responsible for providing training and performance improvement services for retail employees working at Chrysler Group dealerships throughout the United States.

Business Challenge
The Chrysler Group has approximately 3,800 franchise dealerships in the United States, with more than 100,000 staff members. Training and certification programs help establish consistent performance levels throughout this large dealership network by helping technicians to stay current with required certifications, and helping management determine personnel training needs. DaimlerChrysler Academy needed to upgrade the Learning Management System (LMS) used to administer dealer certification and training programs to provide better web access, scalability, flexibility, and control.

Vendor of Choice: Latitude Consulting Group
Latitude Consulting Group Inc. is a technology consulting firm that helps enterprises optimize challenging, information-driven channel partner networks. They design and deliver channel portals, B2B applications, and the Ready Solutions learning management system for sales readiness, channel/client management, and certification programs. Headquartered in southeast Michigan, Latitude has worked extensively with companies in the automotive industry on large dealership portal projects and has expertise with their business processes and unique challenges.

The Problem in Depth
Dealership certification and training programs are crucial to a company like the Chrysler Group, which wants to ensure that customers have a consistent experience with sales, service, and parts technicians at every one of their dealerships. A flexible, dependable delivery channel for learning is critical to an extended enterprise like Chrysler.

In 2004, DaimlerChrysler Academy was revisiting its Learning Management System (LMS), which had been in place since the mid-1990s. Back when that mainframe-based system was developed, most training was done in person. But by 2004, almost half of the company's training was being delivered on the computer, and it was straining the capabilities of the old system. Says Patrick Kittle, director of the DaimlerChrysler Academy, "We needed a system that was one hundred percent web-enabled."

They also wanted an LMS that would be scalable and reliable, with the capability to handle what Kittle refers to as the "Easter Sunday" crowd, those rare but not unprecedented traffic spikes that put the old LMS under such pressure. Bob Hoyer, DaimlerChrysler Academy's manager of technical operations, estimates that the old system was down one day a month on average. DaimlerChrysler wanted a system that could continue to grow with the company and handle the increasing demand for access to computer-based training.

A third major element of the search for a new LMS was a requirement to gain increased control and flexibility. Certification rules for technicians changed frequently, and DaimlerChrysler Academy wanted an easier way to reflect those requirements in their LMS. With the old system, certification rules were hard-coded, and it took months to make any modifications—by which time the certification rules might have changed yet again.

DaimlerChrysler Academy assembled a cross-functional team that included stakeholders from the sales, service, parts, technical training, and administrative groups. A core cross-functional team did the heavy lifting in terms of looking at LMS vendors. The team also considered building a Java-based LMS from the ground up, but when they came across Latitude Consulting's Ready Solutions LMS, they realized they'd found a product that met all their requirements—and more.

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