BlackBerry growth opens up IT training opportunities

An East coast firm wants to carve out a niche in the corporate IT training market by helping enterprise users get more out of their BlackBerry handheld devices.

Consilient, a push e-mail software provider based in St. John’s,

said its courseware for Research In Motion’s flagship product will cover training for carriers, system administrators and end users. Topics include installing BlackBerry Enterprise Server, server administration support and tips to raise the comfort level of those using mobile hardware. The courses can be offered with experts on site, through remote online access or a combination of options. For example, a head office may have courses led on site but allow employees in branch offices to dial in.

Judith Hearn, Consilient’s director of customer services, said the idea came after the company had already developed training for customers with whom it has worked to extend RIM software to other e-mail platforms. The growth of BlackBerry, which according to RIM has already surpassed two million subscribers worldwide, has led Consilient to recognize an untapped market for training.

“It grew organically out of what we do as a core business,” she said, adding that issues of scale typically led to administrative problems that the right training can help solve. “Most system administrators can handle five or 10 users. BlackBerries sort of start small and then all of the sudden you’ve got thousands of users.”

BlackBerry training has been available from other sources. RIM, for example, offers its own ongoing series of workshops and tutorials covering server administration in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto. A company called Creative Consulting based in Frederick, Md., provides an e-learning course for BlackBerry users that is sold on a per-seat licence basis. Hearn acknowledged that there are other options, but argued that Consilient has a home-grown advantage.

“What we uniquely have is that five years of installation training and support,” she said. “We have a real understanding of the customer issues and the frustrations in adopting wireless.” 

Greg Ambrose, a corporate IT training analyst with Toronto-based IDC Canada, said some companies tend to look at handheld education as a remedial step only after devices have been rolled out. This is in part due to the varying levels of experience among users.

“They’ll assume it’s fairly intuitive or some of these people will already have experience with it. The challenge is you’re going get varied levels of sophistication of the user,” he said, adding that user needs may be different within an organization. “Some people are very happy to use it as remote e-mail. Other people are interested in more sophisticated functions.”

Hearn said there may be some interest among executives who are given a “technology allowance” but don’t receive much guidance about their purchases.

“Once you get out of a pilot stage and you have your C-level executives using it, you want to be proactive about troubleshooting and support,” she said.

BlackBerry users were caught off-guard by network outages earlier this year, but Hearn said she expects demand for Consilient’s training services to come out of positive user experiences.

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