When Atos and ESCP Business School partnered to co-create the Service Delivery Managers (SDMs) Development Programme in February 2016, there was a strong awareness that they were launching an ambitious, far-reaching, and innovative learning journey. What neither realised at the time was that the programme would grow in scope and success over the following years and achieve in 2023 the EFMD Gold Award for Professional Development.
This is a summary of what Atos and ESCP Business School accomplished together.
Atos was growing fast internationally by 2015 – and needed to ensure that the technological services and solutions that were delivered to their customers were based on the same set of standards, best practices, and methodology throughout the world.
Atos needed a partner who would:
- Fully understood the role of Service Delivery Managers (SDMs) and their impact on business
- Integrate customised learning material and tools with Atos content and methodology
- Commit to innovation and a ‘Learn by Doing’ approach
- Deliver the programme anywhere, at any time
The programme also had to be able to evolve, just as the role of SDMs has adapted to customer needs. This is only possible when there is a spirit of co-creation and understanding of the SDM role and skill set.
Flexibility and trust in the SDM role
Service Delivery Managers must be problem solvers, coordinators, and influencers, have analytical, technological, business and people skills, and understand their customer’s business as if it were their own.
As can be appreciated, SDMs often find themselves having to integrate conflicting interests; thus, flexibility and trust at all levels are key.
Furthermore, creating a community of SDMs who could share their experience, learning milestones, and success stories was as important as ensuring a uniformly high standard, preparing them for quickly evolving markets and technology.
There was, therefore a lot at stake for both Atos and ESCP, given the complexity of the challenge. Expectations for 2016 were ambitious: to deliver at least 6 blended pilot programmes in 4 different languages, spanning 4 continents. By the end of 2016, over 120 SDMs had achieved full certification. The programme continued to deliver this success story over the following 6 years.
The 4-month Learning Journey integrated three parallel and interconnected paths, combining synchronous action learning workshops with asynchronous content – although this was first conceived as blended, with a growing number of cohorts from around the world, this soon became 100% online.
To be able to tailor each individual learning journey to Atos SDM standards and methodologies, participants completed a training needs assessment. Not only to define specific milestones to be completed by each participant over the programme’s four months but to be able to compare with results obtained at the end of the journey.
One key success factor of the programme was how it started: in a 2-day workshop, all members of the same cohort got to know each other, share experiences, shape their SDM community, and, of course, strengthen their influence and negotiation skills in customised simulations mirroring situations they had to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Monthly online participative workshops explored future trends for SDM roles, further developed customer focus, stakeholder management, and leadership skills, and fostered cross-cultural inclusion.
Enhancing learning with gamification
An element of gamification was introduced through an online in-tray case involving the same protagonist in the role of a recently appointed Service Delivery Manager. Through this “avatar”, participants were faced with key decisions, challenges, customer demands, and team performance issues. This meant having to find their way through a maze of issues and, of course, putting their skills to the test.
Each cohort was assigned their online home integrating learning milestones, indicators to measure their progress, and access to different contents and exercises, allowing for ongoing feedback from tutors. Each cohort was assigned a lead trainer, who acted as a mentor for the group, apart from the umbrella role of the programme manager.
In order to qualify for full certification, participants had to achieve several prescribed credits in the different dimensions of the programme as well as a required number of credits in the post-assessment test.
Seven years later, we can ascertain that the programme has evolved within the context of SDMs, always with the same purpose in mind – to ensure that practitioners all around the world share the same methodologies, standards, and best practices. Over 1000 SDMs from 43 countries have participated in the programme, of whom over 800 have become fully certified.
This has had several happy consequences
- Contributed strongly to individual career progression
- Had a positive impact on business and customer satisfaction
- Had a great impact on the community of SDMs’ knowledge and expertise
Looking at some other impacts, Surveys and post-assessments conducted internally in Atos show:
- Better outcomes of negotiations and management of customer expectations
- More transparent communication overall
- Better stakeholder management
Our primary goal was to address SDMs with less than 7 years of experience, but senior SDMs were welcome and had to go through a few extra challenges. These showed that the programme contributed to an increase in strategic thinking skills scores, industry knowledge and client strategy.
Of course, we cannot fail to mention what our participants say about the programme. A recent survey of SDMs – several years after their certification, shows that over 90% believe that the programme achieved the objectives it set out to accomplish.
We trust that this story will inspire others. Learning programmes cannot remain fixed in time, and only those based on partnerships and co-creation live up to their full potential.
We would like to give much-deserved recognition to hundreds of Service Delivery Managers who have supported the programme and worked hard to achieve certification while juggling their many everyday challenges and pressures.
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