As part of our blog series on the value of training and certification, we’re talking with some of our top Learning Partners who deliver Microsoft training and who currently offer training for Business Applications. We kicked off the series with a post based on a conversation with representatives of Global Knowledge, the 2019 Microsoft Learning Partner of the Year. Today’s post focuses on Koenig Solutions and is based on a conversation with Subodh Kumar Chaudhary, Group Manager, Alliance and Corporate Sales (India), and Neeraj Sharma, Group Technical Manager, Dynamics 365 (India), both of Koenig.
Koenig Solutions has been partnering with Microsoft for 22 years, and in 2014 it was recognized as a Gold Partner. The company offers training for all major Microsoft Certifications, including Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform, with a focus on financials. “Koenig works with more than 25 vendors,” Chaudhary notes, “but Microsoft holds a special place for the company.” This is due in part, he explains, to the fact that its Microsoft trainings are its biggest revenue generator. But more importantly, “We greatly appreciate our working relationship with Microsoft.” Microsoft has a “genuine partner-centric approach that enables us to work together as a true team.”
Here’s one example of how that collaboration works. Every year in July, Koenig representatives attend the Partners Conference, so they can find out what’s new, track changes, discover technical approaches, and create new training or adjust existing training. After learning about Dynamics and the Microsoft emphasis on CRM at the 2006 conference in Boston, Koenig launched a CRM training program. At the time, it was the only Microsoft partner in India that was delivering CRM training. And the first instructor of Koenig’s Dynamics course was Sharma. Over the years, as Dynamics grew and became Dynamics 365, Sharma built a team that led Koenig’s journey as a Dynamics specialist. Today, Sharma is Practice Head for the Dynamics team, and most of his 15-member team members have been working with him for seven or eight years. “Koenig is in love with Dynamics,” he says. “Our practice with Dynamics is always evolving.”
Koenig offers Microsoft training in 182 countries, including Greenland, Norway, and the United States and on every continent (“Except Antarctica!” Chaudhary jokes. “No training there yet.”) With 170+ in-house instructors and 200,000 people trained, it’s one of the largest global training organizations. The commitment to retaining all in-house trainers and not hiring freelance trainers is one of its strengths and provides many benefits to the instructors, the learners, and the quality of the training it offers. It means, for instance, that Koenig can ensure a great work-life balance for its instructors. Each year since 2010, Koenig has been certified as a “Great Place to Work” by the Great Place to Work Institute in India. Why is its staff’s “happiness quotient” so consistently high? “Because we recognize that we’re in the service industry,” Chaudhary says, “and that human resources, our trainers, play a big role.” That’s why Koenig doesn’t overload its instructors. It keeps them operating at about 70 percent, leaving them enough time to learn and upgrade their own skills, which is essential for their motivation. That also means they don’t burn out and their motivation and excitement for teaching remains high. This translates to a great retention rate for the company and consistently engaging instruction for learners.
Using only in-house trainers also helps Koenig respond to three common industry challenges. First, in cases where an instructor cancels the day before a course is to begin, Koenig can supply another trainer, so the course proceeds as planned and learners don’t lose out. Second, it gives the company the flexibility to start courses when it suits the market—not based on the availability of a freelance instructor. Third, it helps keep costs in check. With a group of in-house trainers, some training many students at a time and others only a few, the cost of instruction can be spread out. This benefits students, as well. They can count on every course being offered as scheduled. All Koenig courses are “guaranteed to run,” which means that if three students sign up for a course, or even one, it will be offered. Koenig does not cancel classes, so students can depend on the fact that the training they plan and sign up for will take place.
Another benefit of using only in-house trainers is the ability to develop and maintain excellence in instruction. As practice head for Dynamics, one of Sharma’s tasks is to support the instructors. He meets regularly with them, to make sure they’re keeping up their technical skills and to hear and respond to any grievances. And the company maintains a shared repository of content that instructors can contribute to and consult to help them develop and improve the way they teach their courses. For instance, they can add case studies and other supporting content to the repository. And other instructors can use those resources to get up to speed fast—for example, if they’re teaching Microsoft Power Platform or Microsoft Dynamics 365 for an industry they’re not as familiar with.
Having in-house trainers also means Koenig can operate more cooperatively than competitively with other training organizations. If a freelance instructor is unable to teach a scheduled course for another organization, that organization can call Koenig and hire one of its instructors. This is especially important now that all classes are online.
Over the past several years, Koenig has invested in more online training. “Online training is not traditional in India,” Chaudhary explains. ”People want face-to-face, instructor-led training.” Three years ago, however, it started offering 5 percent of its trainings online, to help defray the cost of travel for companies and to accommodate international companies’ teams with members that work in different time zones. Ever since then, its online offerings have been steadily growing, so that just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 25 percent of its trainings were virtual instructor-led training (VILT). Now, during the pandemic, all of its trainings are online.
This is actually a good development, Chaudhary emphasizes. Rohit Aggarwal, CEO and founder of Koenig Solutions, notes one reason for this: “COVID has made the world flat for us as a training organization. Previously, distance, visas, and flights often limited access for some customers. Not anymore. Now all the world’s a stage. Thus, even specialized skills like those in Microsoft Dynamics 365 can now become truly big for us.” Moving everything online has brought other improvements as well, Chaudhary explains. Though reluctant at first to investigate more online training, the company now finds that virtual instructor-led training—with the delivery methods put in place by Koenig—is as good as in-person training. The company’s organization, along with several changes made to the delivery method, enabled it to transition so successfully.
First, he says, “When you have in-house trainers, you can efficiently make changes in delivery methods across the board.” Second, Koenig asked its learners what pain points they experienced in online learning, and in all learning, and then implemented changes to respond to those. For example, now that people are working from home, they find they’re not able to concentrate for eight hours or even to sit uninterrupted for eight hours. Learners also reported, and research confirmed, that their ability to absorb knowledges declines after four hours. So Koenig now gives learners two options: they can take a course for four hours a day for 10 days (in the afternoon or morning) or eight hours a day for five days. The company’s name for this is spaced learning, and it has found that with spaced learning the rate of knowledge absorption improves.
Koenig supports its learners in multiple ways. Learners reported that they were reluctant to take exams because of the fear of failing. Since passing the exams validates the skills they’ve learned and earns them certification, Koenig steps in to help allay learners’ fears. It designed a simple set of questions in-house that learners can answer to see whether they’re ready for the official exam. If they get 70–75% correct, they’re ready for the exam. It works like a “small test engine,” says Chaudhary. “It’s a great morale booster.” One more way it supports learners is by offering Doubt Clearing. Once you’ve attended a training, you get the opportunity to attend a Doubt Clearing session without cost. Learners can go to the session to practice their knowledge and to ask questions of trainers about issues that they’ve encountered using the software in their workplace.
Though its Azure trainings are among the most popular, due to demand for cloud skills, Koenig offers 86 Dynamics 365 trainings. As more and more companies have adopted Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform, it has continued to add training. These trainings cover all the major areas of Dynamics 365—sales, marketing, customer service, field service, and supply chain management—but they have a special emphasis on finance and Microsoft Power Platform, because of customer demand. “Every customer needs expertise in these two areas,” Chaudhary explains, “no matter which industry they’re in.” That’s borne out by popularity.
The Koenig Dynamics team works hard to keep its training up to date with the fast pace of Dynamics 365 changes. The team “actively watches” Microsoft Docs and Microsoft Learn, taking note of any updates. “It’s our routine practice,” Sharma says, “to keep us on our toes.” The skills expectations and help available on Microsoft Learn are “just great,” Chaudhary adds. Team members also try out exams themselves, so they can design better training. Another way Koenig “stays vigilant” about the changes is by having its instructors routinely talk with subject matter experts, especially in Azure, Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform.
Commitment to staying ahead of the curve is evident in the new courses the Koenig Dynamics team is working on—trainings in the latest Dynamics 365 offerings, Business Central, and Dynamics 365 Commerce. Though certification for Business Central was just announced and certification for Commerce is on the way, Koenig is ready to help learners learn and validate these skills. “There’s lots of material on Microsoft Learn and Microsoft Docs,” Sharma says, “and our team has been preparing courses that may launch as early as August of this year.”
Koenig’s record of partnership with Microsoft and its commitment to that close, ongoing teamwork at all levels are summed up well by Chaudhary when he says, “We love delivering Dynamics training, and all our Microsoft trainings, with pride.”
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