Skilljar Customer Education coffee chat with Planet

Skilljar Coffee Chats showcase different ways customers are using our platform, including demos with special guests. This month’s Customer Education Coffee Chat, hosted by Cutler Bleecker, Skilljar’s Customer Training Manager, featured a conversation with Chris Beck, Global Director of Education for Planet.

Planet provides daily satellite data that helps businesses, governments, researchers, and journalists understand the physical world and take action. Chris shared how he uses Skilljar to break down highly technical content to make it understandable for diverse audiences.
So grab your coffee and read the recap of how Planet built their customer education program geared to highly-technical audiences from the ground up, got buy-in from internal stakeholders, and leverages content for internal and external audiences through two training domains.

Skilljar does an amazing job enabling Customer Education specialists and professionals globally by connecting us and helping us share what we’ve learned.— Chris Beck

Developing training content for a highly-technical audience

Planet started about 12 years ago, and was mostly used by earth observation and defense and intelligence customers. Their customer base is unique in that they are increasingly finding new use cases all over the world, including journalists, agriculture customers, biodiversity conservation, NGOs and startups, along with anyone interested in using satellite imagery to understand how the world is changing. They needed a way to translate complex concepts around radiometry and earth observation into simpler terms that everyday users can understand.

Today, Chris’s team manages three platforms including customer-focused Planet University, Planet Community, which helps them garner product feedback, and Planeteer Academy, for internal employee education. Both Planet University and Planeteer Academy are powered by Skilljar.

Planet's education platforms for internal and external audiences (powered by Skilljar) and community

Getting buy-in from internal stakeholders

Planet works with internal SMEs and cross-functional partners (such as Marketing and Communications, CSMs, Account Executives, and Professional Services) to help them promote their platforms. These SMEs are closer to the customers, products and use cases, therefore, getting feedback from them about what’s missing from their education efforts and where they could make improvements is key to Planet’s training strategy.

Here is Chris’s talk track for getting buy-in from internal teams:

We have scaled resources that can do a lot of the heavy lifting and make your job easier.

At Planet, they used to do every training 1:1, and then moved to Zoom, but nothing was standardized. Now, they’ve evolved into a three-tiered system including self-paced, on-demand content for basic training; 1:many webinars for intermediate training; and paid, advanced trainings.

Planet's training courses are segmented into Basics, Intermediate, and Advanced level education

This model has really helped our leadership team as well as other internal stakeholders understand how we scale and the importance of using these platforms.— Chris Beck

Chris also stressed the importance of metrics for getting internal buy-in. They currently have users from 103 countries engaging with 650 hours of live training and 2,500+ session hours.

For internal employees, Planet used to onboard every single team member using Zoom meetings that weren’t recorded. Because of their global user base, conducting these in Pacific time was not sustainable. They’ve onboarded 318 new employees since the launch of Planeteer Academy through 2,100 session hours.

Metrics for Planet's scaled learning options for customers and internal employees

Every one of those hours was previously a 1:1 training that had to be done over and over again. We’ve made a huge impact allowing people to move from those 1:1 efforts to the scaled efforts.— Chris Beck

Typically, the Planet team worked with SMEs to develop training content based on existing content that had to be repurposed. A benefit of having SMEs understand how you create and scale content is that you can work with them to develop net new content.

Chris advises identifying those key cross-functional partners, getting their buy-in, and working with those individuals who are real champions for your program. Setting mutual objectives and key results helps to drive projects forward

If your professional services team has OKRs that are directly tied to your scaled learning programs, it helps you to grow your training that much quicker. Working with SMEs is also helpful for prioritizing projects and refining existing resources.— Chris Beck

Building a program from the ground up

When Chris joined Planet in August of 2021, there weren’t any scaled resources or training methodologies in place. They solved almost all of their enablement and education problems through a 1:1 training model that was very labor intensive and inconsistent. In short, Planet had never really thought about how to educate their customers  at scale.

With 300 or more customers joining per year, a continually expanding partner network, and rapidly growing internal team of “Planeteers” they needed a way to enable all those parties and scale as a business. They invested in an education department to solve these challenges.
Here is Chris’s advice for building an education team from the ground up.

Choose the right tools

In addition to Skilljar, Chris leverages tools such as Gainsight, inSided, and Zendesk, (all Skilljar integrations), in addition to workflow management tools Jira and They use Skilljar’s Salesforce integration to import historical data and benefit from tools like grouping students to better understand user behavior in their platforms.

It was really key for us to have the tools and resources that would enable us to rely less on 1:1 interactions and focus on scaling our framework to do a lot of the manual work.— Chris Beck

Invest in the right people

For Chris’s global team, this included technical content developers, instructional designers, learning experience designers, and community managers to run the Planet community, powered by inSided. In just two years, Chris scaled his team to include 11 Customer Education experts, which manage internal learning and development as well.

Listen and discover

Once you have your team and your tools, Chris recommends running a “listening tour” in which you interview teammates across the organization to get their thoughts about what’s working and not working, and where your team could have the biggest impact. (Chris met with 130 people across teams and regions all over the world in 18 months!) He also set up interviews with customers and partners to ask similar questions and get their perspective as well.

A listening tour helps you identity:

  • What are your company’s biggest gaps and needs?
  • What content exists today?
  • Who are SMEs that can partner with you?

Once you have this feedback, you can consolidate and present your findings to the customer success leadership team and executive team to get their input and blessing on your approach. This not only helps to determine the problems that need to be solved, but also helps to identify priorities.

Asking the right questions and getting leadership involved early on gives them some skin in the game and gets them excited about what you’re building.— Chris Beck

Determine learning audiences and goals

Chris uses the ADDIE model of instructional design, which stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. It’s important to identify your learning goals before you develop content and let those goals guide its creation.

People who aren’t familiar with instructional design don’t always understand how important design is in influencing content creation. Having a workflow is important for establishing reasonable timeframes and keeping task owners aligned.

The ADDIE model is a good reminder to stick to the process as you constantly iterate and improve your content as you go. Using project management tools are also helpful as you scale and connect cross-functional teams.

Build your foundation and expand

Chris stressed the importance of starting small and focusing on things that will have the biggest impact. Once he got all his feedback and suggestions, he put them into categories and started to prioritize.

If you have any existing resource that could be converted into a learning experience, start with that. Even if it could stand some improvement, take the easy wins when you have them and go back and refine that content as you go.— Chris Beck

Once you’ve built your foundation, then you can start to add new learning experiences. For Planet, Chris is rolling out a much broader 1:many webinar series for both internal and external audiences, and building new experiences around community.

I love Planet’s ‘build on it’ approach instead of feeling like everything has to be perfect day one out the gate.— Cutler Bleecker

Leveraging content for two domains

Having two training domains has been a game changer for us. It’s very simple to schedule content and make it available to all of our diverse users across internal and external.— Chris Beck

Once you identify your primary customer, partner, or even prospect audiences, and prioritize your efforts, then you can think about where there might be overlap between dual audiences. In these cases, you might want to consider multiple training domains.

For Chris, it was easy to shift some of the messaging he created for customers to serve new employees. The foundation of all of their content is technical, so that is not likely to change. Then, they can use a different intro video, piece of course content, or supplementary resource to add to the core product training to tailor it to a different audience.

Always think about how you can repurpose content for the maximum number of learners. What’s the common denominator? Keep that the same, then you can clone the course for a different audience and add content specific to that audience.— Chris Beck

In just two years, Planet has built three key platforms to host their training and deliver world-class content and experiences for their customers, partners and internal team. They’ve secured internal buy-in from internal stakeholders who help them create and promote their highly technical content. Their approach has replaced 1:1 training with what one might call a scalable model of intergalactic proportion.

See more resources from Skilljar on how to build your training program from the ground up and get buy-in from internal stakeholders:

The What, How, And Why of Transitioning to Virtual Learning (How to use self-paced, on-demand programs to give students access to the information they need, exactly when they need it. )

Skilljar Strategic Insights (Know how your program’s performance stacks up against others so you can make a case to stakeholders.)

Skilljar Customer Education Business Impact Template (Visualize the impact of customer education on customer satisfaction and retention.)