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Doing Digital Learning – the TWO People You Need

I was having a conversation with a friend in the industry (pharma sales training) this week, and a topic came up which I’ve addressed before with other clients.

What do you need as far as personnel to really get ramped up with digital learning/eLearning/distance learning?

The default answer – an “eLearning guy” (or gal) – is actually not the advice I give. At minimum, you need two people to start making digital learning really take off in a pharmaceutical environment.

You need a Digital Learning Strategist, and a Digital Learning Project Manager.

Two very different, but complementary skill sets and responsibilities.

The Digital Learning Strategist is in charge of setting direction – doing high-level needs analysis; program design; platform/solution evaluation; internal communications, evangelism, and change management (this takes up a HUGE percentage of the time); rollout sequencing; business case analysis; high-level curriculum design – need I go on? It’s a major job, and it requires a mix of strategic thought, business savvy, great communication and team-building skills, commitment to training as a discipline, and a love for technology. Oh, and curiosity.

On the other hand, to actually make all this stuff happen, it is crucial to have a Digital Learning Project Manager. This is an operations- and technical implementation-minded person dedicated to the myriad tasks of making technology training solutions happen in real time. Working under the direction of the Digital Learning Strategist, primary responsibilities including interfacing with vendors; coordinating with IT and user support desks; RFP/technical spec design; user experience analysis; troubleshooting; scheduling; and, of course, overall project management. This is NOT an IT position – you need a tactical person with proven project and administrative skills who is excellent at getting results working through and with a wide variety of people. Someone with the patience of Job.

Trying to combine those two positions is disastrous. It’s too much to do, and two very distinct skill sets are needed.

Once you have a Learning Management System fully up and running, there is yet another position dedicated to that – LMS Administrator. That role should not be conflated with the two positions I’ve outlined above – it’s a huge job in and of itself.

Some of you have put in place positions like this, and in a very large department, other roles also may evolve. But at minimum, these two roles should come into play if you’re going to take digital learning at all seriously.

Now, I have a favor to ask of you, for the sake of your colleagues who want to do this right. If you’ve spec’ed out job positions similar to these, would you mind sharing your documents (edited for any company-specifics, of course) with me? I’d like to come up with a couple of generic documents to share here for others who want to justify these roles. If you’re willing to let me see (no-one else will get your documents) what you’ve come up with, please send a however-edited-you’d-like copy to Maybe we can create our own “Best Practices” documents for creating these important roles!

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