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Critical success factors: How one multinational company develops global e-learning

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Edward Pavel Nathan
Abstract:
This research study examined how a multinational company determined what the critical success factors (CSFs) were for developing global e-learning. The study analyzed how these CSFs were grouped together in order to make their management more efficient. There were 21 participants in the study who were key stakeholders and came from one of four groups: headquarters, external vendor, regional, and overseas personnel. The results demonstrated that not all CSFs were deemed critical for every program and that what were considered CSFs early in the project often changed by the end of the project. Additionally, the study showed that grouping the CSFs into common categories allowed the program development stakeholders to be more consistent and thorough in their ability to manage those CSFs throughout the project. Another outcome of the study suggested that what were often considered as CSFs for global, multinational programs were also important factors in developing a single market program where the learners were culturally, socially, linguistically and academically diverse. Finally, the results demonstrated that the best way to manage CSFs, at least for the study company, was to develop best practices and SOPs which prescribe the actions needed to address them. The nature of these outcomes suggested that these approaches could be generalized to other companies that wished to develop global e-learning programs.

CONTENTS Acknowledgement.........................................................................................................................iv List of Tables...............................................................................................................................viii List of Figures...............................................................................................................................iix CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION.....................................................................................................1 Introduction to the Study.................................................................................................................1 Background of the Study.................................................................................................................1 Statement of the Problem.................................................................................................................4 Purpose of the Study........................................................................................................................5 Rationale..........................................................................................................................................6 The Research Questions...................................................................................................................6 Nature of the Study..........................................................................................................................7 Significance of the Study.................................................................................................................8 Definition of Terms........................................................................................................................10 The Conceptual Framework of the Study......................................................................................20 Assumptions and Limitations........................................................................................................22 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW........................................................................................25 Introduction....................................................................................................................................25 Self-Directed Learning: Its Importance to E-learning...................................................................25 Global Issues and Considerations for Developing Global E-learning...........................................28 Critical Success Factors – Relevance to Global E-learning...........................................................32 Addressing Critical Success Factors for Global e-learning...........................................................38 Summary........................................................................................................................................40

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CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY............................................................................42 Introduction....................................................................................................................................42 Methodological Framework...........................................................................................................42 The Study Goals.............................................................................................................................45 The Research Questions.................................................................................................................46 The Methods..................................................................................................................................47 Validity of the Study......................................................................................................................50 Conducting the Research...............................................................................................................53 Special Considerations...................................................................................................................61 Conclusion.....................................................................................................................................61 CHAPTER 4 DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS..............................................................63 Background to the Data Analysis..................................................................................................63 Data Collection..............................................................................................................................66 Data Analysis Tools.......................................................................................................................67 The Research Questions: Obtaining the Data................................................................................68 The Context of the Study...............................................................................................................69 Research Question 1......................................................................................................................74 Research Question 2......................................................................................................................78 Research Question 3......................................................................................................................85 Additional Company Documents and Tools..................................................................................99 Validity of the Study....................................................................................................................102 Summary of the Analysis.............................................................................................................103

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CHAPTER 5 RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.............................105 Conclusions: Answering the Research Questions........................................................................105 Limitations...................................................................................................................................109 Implications: Generalizing the Results........................................................................................111 Recommendations for Additional Research................................................................................116 Final Reflections..........................................................................................................................117 REFERENCES............................................................................................................................119 APPENDIX A INFORMATION ABOUT BRANDON HALL RESEARCH............................125 APPENDIX B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR HEADQUARTERS (HQ) BASED STAKEHOLDERS................................................................................................................126 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR REGIONAL BASED (RB) TRAINING MANAGERS.........................................................................................................................130 APPENDIX D INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR AFFILIATE BASED (AB) TRAINING MANAGERS.........................................................................................................................134 APPENDIX E INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR E-LEARNING VENDOR (EV)...................138 APPENDIX F SAMPLE OF A HEADQUARTERS WEEKLY STATUS UPDATE REPORT................................................................................................................................143 APPENDIX G COMPANY STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE (SOP) FOR DEVELOPING GLOBAL E-LEARNING............................................................................144 APPENDIX H PROJECT CHARTER TEMPLATE.................................................................156 APPENDIX I PROJECT ORGANIZATION CHART...............................................................159 APPENDIX J RESPONSIBILITY MATRIX............................................................................162 APPENDIX K WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE............................................................165

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List of Tables Table 1 List of Study Participants..................................................................................................55 Table 2 The Nine Steps of the Research Study Process................................................................57 Table 3 Roles of Headquarters and External Vendor Study Participants......................................70 Table 4 Summary of Qualitative and Quantitative Responses to Contextual Questions...............71 Table 5 Ranking of Issues and Considerations at the Beginning of the Project............................75 Table 6 Ranking of Issues and Considerations at the End of the Project......................................76 Table 7 Change in Ranking from Beginning to End of Project.....................................................77 Table 8 Grouping of Critical Success Factors by Headquarters Participants................................79 Table 9 Grouping of Critical Success Factors by External Vendor Participants...........................80 Table 10 Grouping of Critical Success Factors by Regional-Based Participants..........................81 Table 11 Grouping of Critical Success Factors by Affiliate-Based Participants...........................82 Table 12 Suggested Grouping of Critical Success Factors for Developing Global -learning.......84 Table 13 Participants Assessment of the Success of the Global E-learning Program...................87 Table 14 Solutions for Driving the Project Forward.....................................................................91 Table 15 Summary Responses to Local versus Global CSFs Question.......................................113 Table 16 Examples of How CSFs are Relevant to a Single Country as well as Multiple Countries.................................................................................................................114

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List of Figures Figure 1. Conceptual Framework for the Proposed Research Study............................................21 Figure 2. Model of International Transfer of Training.................................................................30 Figure 3. An Interactive Model for Research Design...................................................................43 Figure 4. Contextual Factors Influencing a Research Design.......................................................44 Figure 5. Data Analysis Process..................................................................................................60 Figure 6. Sample Project Management. Gantt Chart for the Global e-Learning Program...........93 Figure 7. Sample Monthly Update Report from HQ to the Affiliates..........................................96 Figure 8. Project Development Process........................................................................................99 Figure 9. Project Development Process: Phase 1, Milestone 2...................................................100 Figure 10. Needs Analysis Worksheet........................................................................................101

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Study As the process of globalization and the capabilities of technology have transformed the business world, so too have corporate training and development been affected by these trends. The successful design, development and implementation of effective e-learning is dependent on many issues and considerations that are further complicated when e-learning is used in many countries, cultures and languages. Identifying and addressing global issues and considerations, or GICs, has become critical to the successful implementation of global e-learning. Researchers and practitioners of Human Performance Improvement (HPI), who have described the observed GICs and their importance, may have elevated these factors to the level of critical success factors, or CSFs. By treating these GICs as CSFs and developing terminology and standards to support them, additional dialogue, research and common purpose among HPI practitioners may advance the field of globalized e-learning. If the GICs can be accepted as CSFs, then developing common strategies and tactics for addressing them becomes possible. This research study provides an in-depth look at how one company identified GICs, targeted them as CSFs, and effectively designed, developed and implemented an asynchronous global e- learning program. Background of the Study As globalization increases due to business, technology and politics, the products and services provided by multinational companies are no longer specific to a single country. Products such as the i-Phone™, Mercedes automobiles, Viagara ® , and Nike shoes are sold around the world. These proprietary products are designed to perform consistently regardless of the country of manufacture or the country in which they are sold and ultimately used. Due to the 1

proprietary nature of these products, customized learning is developed to train employees to successfully sell, service, and support these global products wherever the employees and customers are located. E-learning is often a part of that customized learning solution. E-learning encompasses a range of techniques and technologies, including synchronous and asynchronous methods. While this study focuses on asynchronous or independent study e- learning that is largely designed and packaged for autonomous use, there are other methods required to address global considerations and factors when utilizing synchronous live delivery. Such methods are highly dependent on the knowledge of individual presenters or subject matter experts (SMEs). These synchronous methods need to address spur of the moment interactions among participants, as well as live applications such as social networking or communities of best practices, which fall outside the scope of this study. In the biopharmaceutical industry, it is common practice to begin the development of e- learning programs in support of new biopharmaceutical products 18 to 24 months prior to the anticipated launch of the new product. E-learning has become a major delivery option to train company sales forces around the world to sell new products. To be clear, the e-learning methodology researched in this study was asynchronous in nature. Specifically, it was an automated process with individual learners working independently. The learners, who were employees of the subject company’s worldwide affiliates, were generally field-based sales people who worked out of their homes in their respective countries. They accessed the learning content at will via local company intranets or via distributed CDs. They were required to complete the training within a specific window of time, usually several weeks. The training window varied from affiliate to affiliate. In the subject company, e-learning is primarily used for knowledge transfer and, since 2

2001, has basically replaced print material as the standard asynchronous training tool of choice. The reason for transitioning from print to e-learning was that, when properly designed, developed and implemented, e-learning is more interactive and more engaging. It also has the potential to present more information effectively in less time due to its use of multiple sensory modalities (text, interactivity, audio, graphics and video). E-learning can also be delivered at a distance which significantly reduces costs, since classroom time can be decreased and sales people can spend more time in the field selling. The long time horizon needed to develop global e-learning is because the training is not just about the drug itself, but the circumstances in which the drug will be used. Any global e- learning program, whether synchronous or asynchronous, must take into account the differences between markets due to language, culture, local regulatory requirements, local competition, and local standards of care. How these issues are handled may vary based on the delivery method chosen. In this study, the subject company utilized asynchronous, distance based e-learning. Despite those differences and complexities, global organizations have recognized the value in attempting to leverage standardized e-learning for use in multiple countries as opposed to developing individual learning solutions in each country (Bentley, Tinney, & Chia, 2005; Fry, 2001; Tai, 2005). Leveraging e-learning across the globe is important, because a country like Greece does not have the resources to build the same quality e-learning program as the United States⎯yet learners are expected to perform at the same level of quality selling the product in Greece as in the United States. Given the complexities of designing and developing global e- learning with sophisticated program content, multiple cultures and languages, technology issues and financial resources, understanding the GICs that help address these complexities are essential for implementing high quality global e-learning. More importantly, understanding how 3

one multinational company responds to these GICs has the potential to inform other practitioners of global e-learning. It is important to point out that the study company has received recognition as a top training organization by Training magazine, and the global e-learning program examined in this study received a Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Award (see Appendix A for details of Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning awards). These external forms of recognition validate that quality global e-learning can result from the approach used by the study company. Statement of the Problem There is a good deal of information in the literature concerning the global issues and considerations multinational organizations need to address when implementing e-learning in multiple countries and cultures (Bentley, et al., 2005; Gayeski, Sanchirico, & Anderson, 2002; Newton & Doonga, 2007; Nathan & Gayeski, 1992; Nathan, 2008; Stewart & Waight, 2008). According to van Dam (2004), there are five “key drivers for cross cultural adoption of e- learning” (pp. 103-111). At the end of the chapter entitled, How Do You Launch e-learning to a Global Workforce?, van Dam provided a list of nine considerations that should be addressed in “crafting a multicultural e-learning strategy” (p. 111). What is not well known is how multinational companies determine which of these GICs should be treated as CSFs when developing global e-learning in a specific situation or in their operating environments. Related to this understanding, and what is also not as well known, is how multinational companies address these CSFs in practical terms when developing global e- learning for use in multiple countries, languages and cultures. This is not simply an issue of instructional design. It is an issue of organizational structure and management strategies, tactics, decisions, processes and resources that need to be employed to manage the design and 4

development of global e-learning. As will be seen in this study, the CSFs required for global e- learning for the study company fell into categories, such as organizational structure, resources, technology, learning content, culture, language, etc., that this research identified. A specific example of what one company views as CSFs for global e-learning and how they are addressed in practical terms are examined in this case study of a research-based, multinational biopharmaceutical company. In the biopharmaceutical industry, when new drugs are under development, customized e-learning content needs to be created to train the company’s sales forces around the world to sell the product. The content of these customized global e- learning programs is quite complex. The content of a program must include information about the relevant disease(s), patient types, current standards of care, as well as competitors and financial reimbursement. In addition, it is not unusual that new scientific information needs to be included in the training as well. Supporting the concept of customized e-learning, van Dam (2004) pointed out that: More online courseware will be available for various industries, applications, and functions. Companies will look for the best-in-class vendor courseware. Some course titles will be commoditized, which will have a positive impact on pricing. However, most e-learning courseware required by enterprises is not available to the public market, as it is very specific to an individual organization, product, service, or culture. Therefore, the demand for customized courseware design and development will grow significantly. (p. 111) In the context of this study, these e-learning programs usually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and are often created by outside vendors. The programs are expected to have a shelf life of up to 10 years or more, although an annual review for updates is a part of the process. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to characterize how a multinational company determined the CSFs for developing a global e-learning program. It also examines how the organization 5

managed the decisions and processes related to those CSFs to successfully drive the design and development of a global e-learning program. The history of e-learning effectiveness is one of mixed results. Many reasons were identified as the cause of those mixed results (Edmundson, 2009; Ettinger, Holton, & Blass, 2006; Hogarth & Dawson, 2008; Martin, Massy, & Clarke, 2003; Netteland, Wasson, & Morch, 2007). A review of the literature suggests that one of the most common reasons for less than optimal results are in part due to the way CSFs for global e- learning are addressed or ignored when designing, developing and implementing global e- learning (Edwards & Usher, 1998; Macpherson, Homan, & Wilkinson, 2005; Stewart & Waight, 2008).

Rationale Building on the models of self-directed learning by Houle (1972), Knowles (1975) and others and the concepts of cultural dimensions by Hofstede (1997), there were two important reasons for conducting this study. First, by identifying the GICs that could be regarded as CSFs for global e-learning, other stakeholders responsible for global e-learning may develop a better understanding of the issues they will need to address to successfully design, develop, and implement global e-learning. Second, it was important to observe how a company recognized as a leader in training and development addressed its CSFs using a variety of processes and tools. These tools may then be used or adapted by stakeholders in other organizations responsible for the successful design, development and implementation of global e-learning. The Research Questions Three research questions drove this study. The first question was: What are the global issues and considerations that an organization needs to address as CSFs in order to design, 6

develop, and implement effective global e-learning? The second question was: How does a company categorize or group the CSFs it identifies as relevant? The third question was: How does a multinational company address these critical CSFs when designing, developing, and implementing global e-learning? Nature of the Study The study used an exploratory, qualitative, retrospective case study approach examining how one multinational organization selected a range of GICs, identified which ones should be CSFs, and addressed those CSFs to successfully design, develop, and implement global e- learning. It provides a description of the methods and processes the company used for creating global e-learning for use by its global affiliates. The study used semi structured interviews with key stakeholders to ascertain their perspective of the processes used to develop global e-learning within the organization. This approach is consistent with Creswell’s (2009) description of qualitative research as: “The process of research involves emerging questions and procedures, data typically collected in the participant’s setting, data analysis inductively building from particulars to general themes, and the researcher making interpretations of the meaning of the data” (p. 4). More specifically, this exploratory, qualitative case study approach provided an opportunity to examine one company’s approach to a phenomenon that is already occurring in other global businesses. Stebbins (2001), in defining exploratory qualitative research, suggested that “limited exploration – stands out for the explorer’s interest in searching systematically for something in particular” (p. 2). This concept is important to the research study because the literature has made it clear that issues, considerations, and CSFs need to be considered when 7

developing global e-learning. However, how an individual company addresses these issues requires further systematic examination. In addition, the study is retrospective in nature as it examined, through the lens of the key stakeholders, their recollections and insights as to how the entire global e-learning development process worked in creating a specific program. While relying on participants’ memory of past events can be somewhat unreliable, interviews with key stakeholders regarding their roles along with documentation of the process can provide some evidentiary support for the process implemented and described in this case study. There is also some quantitative data to help add context and a sense of scale and scope to the research. The quantitative data includes demographics of the company, the affiliates, affiliate learner data, and business impact of the global e-learning program(s) studied. Even though there is a combination of both qualitative and quantitative data, which might technically make this a mixed methods project, the researcher’s goal was to use the demographic quantitative data for purposes of context (specifically scope) while focusing on the qualitative elements to examine the e-learning development and management processes. Significance of the Study Practitioners in Human Performance Improvement (HPI) have a long-standing vested interest in helping their clients successfully implement various forms of learning activities appropriate to the needs of the target learners. The successful implementation of e-learning in both a single cultural environment as well as in multiple cultural environments is an important element for training and HPI professionals to master. With the increase in globalization and organizational adherence to the concept of “act globally” and “think locally,” it is very important that professionals in training and HPI understand the true impact of globalization on human 8

performance improvement. Specifically, HPI professionals need to understand the CSFs for developing global e-learning and how they can be addressed in order to create effective e- learning that is suitable for use across cultures, languages and countries. This study builds on a number of theories and concepts important to the specialization. As an example, one concept by Hofstede (1997, p. 40) identified four national cultural dimensions that are important factors requiring consideration when adapting learning for use in different cultures. Theories related to self-directed learning by Houle (1972), Knowles (1975) and others are also addressed in terms of how culture can impact the learner’s approach to self- directed learning. Characterizing CSFs for global e-learning is one thing, being able to address them in an effective manner is another. Since the literature cites numerous CSFs for global e-learning, this study looked at proposed CSFs and provides a detailed look at how one multinational company selected and addressed the CSFs relevant to the organization’s situation. In addition, the literature tends to focus on implementation of e-learning with less of a focus on the design and development phases within the global context. The study’s conclusions may provide this specialization, with additional approaches via processes and procedures that can be offered to other clients for use in the earlier phases of design and development. It may also provide useful insights into the decision making processes behind global e-learning that can ultimately lead to decision trees or decision matrices that will be universally beneficial to clients of HPI practitioners. As business, technology and politics continue to globalize, it is extremely important that training and HPI specialists be in the forefront to support global organizations and their learners to meet the performance demands of the 21 st century. 9

Definition of Terms For purposes of the study, there are a number of terms that require definition. The first set of terms is related to the phases of creating an e-learning program. Since the organization studied follows a variation of the ADDIE model for creating its e-learning programs, those process steps need to be defined. The company’s variation to the ADDIE model includes S for Sustainability, making the acronym ADDIES. Therefore, the definitions will include the concepts of analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation and sustainability of e-learning. The second set of terms that need to be defined are tied to the actual research questions and focus on the key issues of this research study. They are: critical success factors, global e-learning, localization and self-directed learning. While an attempt to define these terms is put forward here, further discussion regarding these terms will occur in the literature review chapter of this case study. Defining ADDIES from the Perspective of the Proposed Study Analysis Floyd (2003) suggested that needs analysis “is often used to describe the process of identifying performance or skill gaps, analyzing data, and determining the most effective strategy to roll out a training curriculum” (p. 38). That definition is supported by Rummler (2008), who stated that “Needs assessment and analysis are the only means of measuring a results gap and demonstrating whether a [workplace learning and performance] intervention has closed the identified gap” (p. 78). Building on this explanation, it is also evident that a needs assessment and analysis will identify gaps that exist whether an intervention has occurred or not. Therefore, for the purpose of this study, analysis refers to the process of identifying what learning and performance gaps need to be addressed by the program when preparing for the launch of a new global product. 10

Design and Development The ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals provides definitions for both design and development of instructional materials. The handbook defines design as “…a planning and structuring process that creates a blueprint (that is, specifications) that developers can use as a guide for drafting the instructional components, along with the methodology by which these will be delivered to trainees” (Mager, 2008, pp. 174 - 175). Additionally, the handbook refers to the concept of the blueprint used in its definition of design when defining development. According to the handbook, the development process includes the “…collection, creation, and stitching together of the bricks and mortar resulting in the structure itself (that is, the instruction)…” (Mager, 2008, p. 175). In terms of this study, these concepts are important. It is through the design process that global issues impacting the structure of the e-learning program need to be considered, and it is the development process that attempts to bring all the relevant pieces together to make it happen. It is also during the design and development phase that many of the global issues are first examined and considered. Implementation The definition of implementation and the activities it includes varies from author to author. Donovan (2003) reported that Collis (1996) defined implementation as a process that takes place by “…moving a learning event from ‘special project’ or ‘experimental’ category, to some level of incorporation into the regular instructional routine of an instructor or institution” (Donovan, 2003, p. 318). Donovan carried the definition further suggesting that implementation needs to be considered within the context of a single learning program as well as within the broader organizational context. That is, implementation of an individual learning program needs to be viewed in terms of the overall curriculum it is a part of, and the curriculum itself in terms 11

of organizational objectives and strategies. Therefore, context becomes an important factor in evaluating whether a particular learning program is implemented successfully or not. Evaluation The issue of successful implementation touches on the next definition: evaluation. Without evaluation, an organization cannot determine the success or impact of any learning program, not just an e-learning program. In discussing the concept of evaluation, Kirkpatrick (1998) made several points about evaluation: …to ensure the effectiveness of a training program, time and emphasis should be put on the planning and implementation of the program. These are critical if we are to be sure that, when the evaluation is done, the results are positive. (p. 14) Building on this concept, Hale (2002) suggested: There are a number of reasons to evaluate. The main one is to get better at what we do. Evaluation helps us improve the quality of our work, better predict future costs, and prove that what we do makes a difference. (p. XIX) Hale (2002) continued by stating the importance of proving that an intervention has the desired impact on performance. Looking at Kirkpatrick’s (1998) four levels of evaluating training, evaluation needs to include some or all of the following measures: level 1, reaction; level 2, learning; level 3, behavior; and level 4, results. Phillips (2003) added level 5, ROI, but Kirkpatrick contended that what Phillips called ROI was actually a business result and belonged in the level 4, business results category of the Kirkpatrick model. The Kirkpatrick approach, using four levels including ROI within level 4, was the methodology used by the subject company examined in this study. 12

Sustainability The concept of sustainability is often used interchangeably with the concept of maintenance. For this case study, the difference between the two terms does not seem to be relevant. Therefore, both terms will be defined here in order to provide a broader definition of this process step when creating global e-learning. In terms of measuring sustainability, Rivera discussed sustainability using the word maintain in the description. Rivera (2009) stated that measuring sustainability is “…the extent to which the learning function can both maintain its current level of success, and scale to meet future strategic needs” (p. 589). Further, Rivera argued that the dimension of sustainability “…supplies the learning professional with the means to ensure the learning function remains connected to the organizational strategy” (p. 591). Similarly, Piskurich (2003) discussed maintenance as a “…system that requires each training program to be reviewed at regular intervals. Depending on the program and its content, this review might happen every six months, every year, or even every two years” (p. 100). Piskurich continued stating that learner performance, when aligned with business and performance needs, drives what changes, updates or deletions may be required to keep a learning program up-to-date. In reviewing the definitions as described here, the difference between sustain and maintain is minimal. However, the definitions provided suggest that either process involves updating content and methods, and learning program review should occur on a predetermined regular cycle to ensure the content is current and aligned to the performance and business need(s). For the purposes of this research study, sustainability will also include the concept of maintenance. 13

Full document contains 177 pages
Abstract: This research study examined how a multinational company determined what the critical success factors (CSFs) were for developing global e-learning. The study analyzed how these CSFs were grouped together in order to make their management more efficient. There were 21 participants in the study who were key stakeholders and came from one of four groups: headquarters, external vendor, regional, and overseas personnel. The results demonstrated that not all CSFs were deemed critical for every program and that what were considered CSFs early in the project often changed by the end of the project. Additionally, the study showed that grouping the CSFs into common categories allowed the program development stakeholders to be more consistent and thorough in their ability to manage those CSFs throughout the project. Another outcome of the study suggested that what were often considered as CSFs for global, multinational programs were also important factors in developing a single market program where the learners were culturally, socially, linguistically and academically diverse. Finally, the results demonstrated that the best way to manage CSFs, at least for the study company, was to develop best practices and SOPs which prescribe the actions needed to address them. The nature of these outcomes suggested that these approaches could be generalized to other companies that wished to develop global e-learning programs.