A job like mine

A job like mine

Williams, Peter

Each month e.learning age talks to the people who are carving out a career in this industry. This month Mike Alcock, Operations Director, Atlantic Link.

For Mike Alcock, one of the key reasons for the success of Atlantic Link is down to the way that the customers are empowered. A lesson that he has learned over his time in the software industry is the need to put the client in charge. Alcock says: “Too often we saw that customers would buy a solution and would then be grabbed by the short and curlies by their IT suppliers. We set up Atlantic Link so that customers could look after themselves and could have some sort of control over their e-learning.”

The idea of being able to update e-learning without expensive and time consuming return trips to the IT supplier was conceived by Alcock and Tony Reddington, now Atlantic’s chief executive officer in the pub over a pint. Unlike many a good idea discussed with a beer in hand, this one actually saw the light of day. But not without some commitment from Alcock and Reddington. Alcock says: “It was a high risk decision. We had to remortgage the house. I had been out of e-learning for a couple of years and in a steady job. But I was looking for a more exciting challenge and it was the best decision any of us ever made.”

Alcock attributes a large chunk of Atlantic’s achievement to date down to a software contact in Kiev, in the Ukraine. The development team – now 15 people and now owned by Atlantic Link – gave the company vital access to Microsoft.NET technology.

“We had this high level thought process that we wanted to make e-learning content manageable, to create or edit. We are talking about reasonably complex changes, so we looked at web-based tools for the content management of web sites.”

The biggest challenge for Alcock and his colleagues now is to implement the systems to handle the heady pace of growth. And much of that is putting in place the necessary structures so that the company can support its existing customers. A lesson learned by Alcock over the years is to look after existing customers as much as possible.

While it is true that authoring tools do give customers a chance to re-edit their e-learning, Alcock dismisses the idea that his technology can damage other players in the e-learning industry. He says: “At the end of the day there will always be a need for elements such as good instructional design and graphic design. However much customers may love our tools they will still need help with certain aspects.”

As operations director Alcock has responsibility for the development of new software and an important element of that is talking to customers to ascertain what they would like to see in the next release of the software. Alcock says: “Learning is set to be one of the biggest applications on the internet. If we look at the market indicators, we believe we are in the right market and we’re hoping to sustain what we’ve achieved.”

Peter Williams

Copyright Bizmedia Ltd. Nov 2005

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