Telus solutions d’affaires Thursday said the sale of its training division to e-learning specialist BigKnowledge will allow

it to enjoy the benefits of an in-house training organization without the accompanying management responsibilities.

The equivalent of Telus Enterprise Solutions in Quebec, Telus solutions d’affaires has included the Versalys Formation training division since Telus Corp. acquired QuebecTel Group Inc. in June 2000.

But training is not really part of Telus’ telecommunications and services business model, and Telus had been looking to shed the division provided the right suitor came along, said Eric Bourbeau, vice-president of marketing for Telus solutions d’affaires. He said training was only going to be responsible for $8 million of Telus solution d’affaires’ $54 million 2002 revenue. Telus Enterprise Solutions does not have a training division.

“”Telus, as a whole, isn’t really into training nationwide. Telus is a telco and IT services (provider). Training is a separate beast,”” he said. “”It’s a volume business. Profit margins are low, competition is high. It’s a business that has to be run extremely efficiently to be profitable.

“”It’s difficult for us to allocate the amount of energy to make the training business grow.””

Bourbeau said only companies that focus solely on training, like BigKnowledge, which also offers in-class education, can be successful in that business.

“”To them, training was an unrelated business,”” said BigKnowledge president Alain Lafrance. “”For us, that’s our mission.””

Even for companies focused solely on training, profitability can still be mission impossible. Last year saw financial difficulties result in the closing of Information Technology Institute (ITI) campuses and the demise of Nova Scotia Web-based education provider Knowledge House Inc.

BigKnowledge, which specializes in CRM training, and Telus, which claims to be CRM giant Siebel’s largest client in Canada, began working together last year. So BigKnowledge, which is actively looking for acquisitions, saw Versalys Formation as a natural fit.

Though ownership of the Versalys Formation has changed hands, the relationship between the companies to a large extent remains unchanged. Customers that come to Telus for Siebel solutions are referred to BigKnowledge for Training, and BigKnowledge clients are referred to Telus for solutions. Telus employees also instruct some of BigKnowledge’s in-class training, which Bourbeau said helps keep them up-to-date on new technology.

“”We can offer our clients access to training as part of a turnkey solution to clients,”” Bourbeau said. “”On the flip side, BigKnowledge has Telus to give a significant part of their courses.””

Though the transaction’s financial details were not disclosed, Lafrance said it involves a few million dollars in cash and the transfer of $10 million in assets and 150 staff.

He said BigKnowledge is looking for further acquisitions in Ontario, Quebec and the eastern United States, specifically private IT training companies with $10 million to $15 million in sales.


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