Published in Comms Dealer Magazine – October Issue
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” said Benjamin Franklin, and Fidelity Group’s Alan Shraga is issuing the same dictum to UK ICT resellers, urging them to embrace e‑learning to ramp up digital revenues.
Shraga has relished being a disruptor during his 25-year career in telecoms. Fidelity, the company he set up with co-founder Simon Payne seven years ago, has already demonstrated the ability to pioneer new revenue streams for channel partners through endeavours into M2M and Energy. Shraga has now turned his sharp eye on the e-learning market, which he believes is an untapped cash resource for resellers keen to develop their trusted advisor status.
Fidelity has built a reputation for forging channel portals to simplify resellers’ business processes – Anvil was one of the first billing platforms in the telecoms space and Ambolt has enabled partners to simplify and manage moves into energy provision.
Now, Fidelity’s new education portal, developed with e-learning giant e-Careers, is helping comms and IT resellers offer customers valuable online courses across the business spectrum and help them boost revenues as margins in traditional services decline.
Shraga’s lightbulb moment came when he was investigating sending his own managers on PRINCE2 project management courses plus a Sage introductory course for a new account team member.
“The costs were astronomical. For PRINCE2 it was £2-3,000 for a residential 5-day course with a set of exams at the end,” recalled Shraga. “We were looking at a £50,000 investment in training to upskill our people and I thought there had to be a better and more cost-effective way to get our people qualified and have less impact on our business and their family life. We found out that e-learning was 10% of the cost and our people could do the courses in their own time at their own pace. It was a no brainer.
“We then came across e-Careers in Slough. PRINCE2 project management was a big course seller for them, and they had also sold thousands of other courses by partnering with educational providers in the UK, namely colleges, universities and adult education groups. Because of the Government cuts and the new fees that students are facing, colleges and universities have started to offer e-learning to reduce costs. It’s a combination course where you have tutor time and you have e-learning modules within the university or college framework.”
Fidelity’s e-learning platform now gives channel partners access to over 500 business courses to sell to customers including project management, Microsoft 365, cyber security, accounting, human resources and health and safety.
“Microsoft themselves have admitted there are not enough training companies to deliver the number of courses they are selling,” said Shraga. “Selling a 365 licence carries a minimal margin and installing it is all fine, but when you are deploying it across an SME, are they likely to invest £4,000 in training? No. But they will invest £150 for access to an online course for 1 year that educates employees on features such as OneDrive and Sharepoint for maximum benefit from that licence.”
When you look at channel partners with enterprise customers wanting to train hundreds of staff, the 20% margins resellers can earn from e-learning gets very exciting indeed, especially when corporates can get money back from the Government on the levies now imposed on them to train staff, as Shraga explained.
“The Government has levied a new tax on corporate companies, so if your PAYE bill is over £3m per annum, you now pay an apprenticeship levy. It is taken when corporates pay their National Insurance and you can claim that back if you invest in training. If you don’t do it, you lose it. Corporate reseller customers are paying that tax now so there is a huge demand for training. We have already had some enquiries for 500 training licences.
“With our data protection and cyber security courses available and providing up to 20% margin for the reseller, there are huge revenue opportunities for the channel to help their customers to prepare for the GDPR and to further protect their businesses.”