The Big Share: A Q&A with CloudShare’s Lee Berkman on Virtual IT Labs and Best Practices
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The Big Share features interviews with leaders and influencers from across CloudShare’s extensive community, happy to discuss their experiences and provide expert advice on a range of business topics.
In this edition we speak with Lee Berkman, CloudShare’s own virtual IT labs expert.
Five years ago, Lee was working as an executive sales rep for a major electronics wholesaler in South Africa. He decided to take a sabbatical, rented his place and locked up his car, intending to return in months. He traveled, fell in love with Tel Aviv, and discovered an intriguing technology company called CloudShare.
Lee never left. And while he brushes off being “called an expert on anything,” he’s been with us since, expertly helping prospects and customers resolve pain points and grow with virtual IT labs.
CloudShare (CS): What are the top use cases you see in the virtual IT labs space?
Lee Berkman (LB): The most popular applications are pretty consistent – training and sales enablement – but this means different things to different companies.
For instance, customers leverage virtual labs for traditional face-to-face training because instructors can easily administer and distribute training to users and then later allow access to that same teaching environment on demand for self-paced learning. Students can also quickly access the labs from any laptop with a modern web browser.
Others use it for virtual instructor-led training (VILT). This is the most widely used training application because you can reach anyone, anywhere. Plus, our platform bridges that gap between face-to-face and virtual with features like over-the-shoulder monitoring of student progress and chat for assistance, while automating time-consuming class management tasks.
At the same time, you have access to global talent. If you’re doing cybersecurity training, and there’s a white hat hacker on the other side of the world with unique skills, you can easily put them in front of your team.
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CS: What about sales enablement?
LB: Virtual labs means having demo-ready instances of complex applications or network environments ready to spin up in minutes and delivered anywhere, whether remotely or in-person in a prospect’s conference room. This extends to proof of concepts (POCs). In fact, you can close a meeting by emailing decision-makers a link to a fully functioning trial that offers them a hands-on experience. And you can even specify a number of available hours and/or provision a shut off date to control resources and costs.
The cloud and virtual labs eliminate a lot of technical red tape and IT approvals. Using cybersecurity as an example again, let’s say you’re trying to get a bank to buy your software. The decision-makers need to see it in action in a real-world environment, but getting a financial institution to open up their infrastructure is a nightmare.
Virtualizing and replicating a scenario is far easier and faster to approve and get up and running. There’s no threat to the prospect’s network, no need for IT involvement or even to ship a product. Virtual labs streamline the entire sales cycle and allows for hasslefree, real-world assessments. And, with our platform, you get insight into POCs. It illuminates what was previously a black box. You know who is using it, what features caught their attention, and can sense if they have become stuck. And if there were any issues, you can step in to offer assistance.
Still, regardless of whether you use virtual IT labs for training or sales enablement, no matter how simple or complex the environment, you can take a snapshot and replicate it. That one golden image can quickly scale to accommodate any number of people. With the process is automated by CloudShare, you save a ton in preparation and administrative time.
CS: Are there specific features or functionality that training and sales leaders should look for when choosing a virtual IT labs solution?
LB: Absolutely. Begin by asking yourself who the labs are going to be used by? Understand that your instructors might not be very technical. Even sales leaders who sell complex software might not know how to provision virtual environments, manage POCs, and spin up demo-ready instances as needed. Make sure the virtual IT labs provider and platform supports the actual users by making it simple and intuitive for all users, regardless of use case or role.
Keep in mind, providers come in many forms. Some are highly specialized, others, like the big commodity clouds, aren’t purpose-built for training and sales enablement. Turnkey solutions make life easier. When a provider automates functions, your team isn’t wasting time and can focus on developing the most powerful content possible. You want to ensure everyone involved – from tech admins to instructors or sales persons to end users – has a seamless, streamlined experience.
Further, be certain your provider and platform are transparent with such things as billing mechanics and resource consumption, and that they provide reporting so you can measure ROI. And, make sure they have the key functionality you need, whether it be tech tools for nested virtualization or adaptors for network sniffing.
I’m a bit partial but I’d recommend starting with CloudShare; talking to the industry leader at the outset will give you a good benchmark for comparison.
CS: Are there any particularly successful use cases that spring to mind?
LB: My favorite is an actual customer story. The training department at Advanced, a leading software and services provider, had just adopted CloudShare. However, it was early in their ramp up and they hadn’t moved everything over to our platform; they were still doing traditional face-to-face training. This meant shipping physical hardware to customer sites, installing and configuring, providing each learner with the right physical workstation and more.
Besides being tedious and costly, it’s a clunky process. Worse, when an instructor arrived on a customer site for a session, they found the gear hadn’t due to poor weather. Instead of delaying the training, the instructor – on the fly and within minutes – was able to spin up and prepare a CloudShare class, providing access to all individual students through a web browser. No physical workstations needed to be created – they could simply use their Mac, Chromebook, PC – and the training went off as scheduled.
That’s as turnkey as it gets.
CS: What advice do you have for training/sales leaders who are building a team and trying to foster a culture of learning?
LB: Whoever your users are, make sure the learning you provide is engaging. Theoretical learning is important but it’s limited and I believe it can stunt comprehension. Providing users with a tool that enables them to learn real-world scenarios they are likely to encounter on the job is key to making sure that they’ll be effective. By replicating an environment with virtual labs, you’re doing just that, and in a safe-to-use, isolated environment. You’re giving users hands-on learning with real products without risk.
CS: Are there any books you think other training leaders can benefit from?
LB: Honestly, I’m not the biggest reader of “how to” or professional help type books. I am reading “Shoe Dog,” a fascinating memoir from the creator of Nike, Phil Knight.
He had a serious passion for what he wanted to do, which was running related; but beyond that he didn’t have a detailed vision. He started from square one, tried things that hadn’t been done before, and if they didn’t work, moved on to the next step. And he ended up being massively successful.
The takeaway for training and sales leaders is to try different ideas, see them through, and quickly move on if they don’t pan out. There are many training and sales enablement approaches but not everything will suit your delivery. Put yourself out there, consider a new platform, try virtual training labs, introduce self-paced training. It might take you out of your comfort zone if you’ve only done face-to-face, but make no mistake, it will pay off.
Interested in changing your training and sales enablement approach? Get in touch with our virtual IT experts today.
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