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Transforming Epic into Elearning Company of the Year

This post was written by Chris Tedd and first appeared on the Epic blog on 14th February 2013.

transforming epicIn this blog post, our Head of Production Chris Tedd explores how Epic transformed the business which culminated in our winning Elearning Company of the Year.

Over the past few years Epic’s dedicated staff have worked together to transform the business. We’re carrying on with a programme of continually improving all areas of the business, but the start of 2013 is a good time to reflect on the keys to our success so far.

Building a first class experience

We set out to improve the efficiency of our communications as well as ownership of relationships and of problems and to enable creativity throughout the business.To do this, we formed a single vision that served as the basis for everything that followed: “creating a first class customer experience every time”.

This may seem obvious, but used as a sincere reference point when considering how to behave or when cutting through to the heart of a problem, it gives a sense of clarity and promotes assertive decision making.

With this central tenet in mind, we recognised the need for radical change and decided to move away from a fully matrix-management approach where all the employees from a particular discipline sit together as a separate team. Instead, we rebuilt the business around a number of multi-disciplinary teams, each containing all the skills required to deliver our full range of projects.

Ownership from beginning to end

It’s natural to pay more attention to a task if a close colleague is going to be responsible for dealing with any mistakes rather than someone remote to us. In our teams, people who work together sit together and form close working relationships. They learn how other team members like to do things and gain an understanding of their co-workers’ weaknesses and strengths.

Another aspect to ownership is maintaining continuity in relationships. The team structure means that project teams work with their clients throughout the relationship and across multiple projects, from initial contact through to delivery.

These close relationships foster a mutual understanding and pragmatism that benefit all parties.

Finding the right size

Different clients and projects have diverse requirements, yet often production companies will approach them with an inflexible team and rigid process resembling an orchestral score. Delighting a customer on the kind of subjective and short timescale, creative projects that are common in e-learning is often as much down to the team’s ability to improvise as it is to meticulous planning of detail.

This holds true for both designing a creative solution and coping with unforeseen changes to requirements and timescales.

It’s important to have a clear plan so everyone knows what they are doing, but the team also needs to be able to react quickly and effectively when circumstances change. Epic operates with a core process which ensures that key checks and communication that help the client make the right choices are in place, but with the flexibility to adapt to specific requirements.

A vital element to enabling all this is team size – too big and you need a conductor and a score controlling all the actions, too small and you won’t have enough people to cope with peaks and troughs in work load or to allow for specialist skills.

In our context, we’ve found that a core team of around twenty people is big enough to allow for all the necessary skills, yet small enough to sit together, communicate well and develop a strong team identity.

Creative autonomy

As a method for enabling creativity, the teams are encouraged to follow their own path, develop a personality, enjoy their work, innovate and celebrate achievement. Lessons learned are shared through the team leadership and hardcoded into the evolution of our authoring tools. We actively encourage the different skillsets to get together and talk about what they are doing.

People confidently share ideas and play to each other’s strengths. Our experiences align with research which found that successful creative teams tend to consist of close-knit groups of people who know each other very well, together with one or two individuals who are new to the group and can bring new thinking.

As a growing business, we certainly get the benefit of a steady influx of new talent to complement and inspire our established team members.

We’ve also redesigned the physical working environment to foster creativity and the exchange of ideas. Our Brighton offices feature uncluttered desks, and a wide variety of meeting spaces, helping bring staff together on a regular basis – we know that’s how ideas get shared.

Measuring success

Two key metrics that we believe tell us we are on the right track are our staff turnover and our repeat business. We watch these figures closely and were delighted to see that last year they gave a clear indication that Epic staff are enjoying their work while delivering a first class experience for our customers.