case study

Virtualizing learning at scale with IBM

Learn how IBM Consulting has digitized its core consulting training with dynamically personalized learning tracks to reach 20x more learners.

Virtualizing learning at scale with IBM

Just-in-time, just-enough, just-for-me learning



Download as PDF


IBM Consulting


Scale learning from 5,000 to 100,000 members of the IBM consulting team while improving engagement and providing verified improvement in power skills.


Diagnostic simulations provide adaptive learner journeys to test-in learners to highly personalized learning tracks. Development simulations then upskill through immersive learning practice.


  • On target to achieve a 20x increase in participation from 5,000 to 100,000 learners.
  • $5.6 million reduction in program costs based on initial rollout to 45,000 learners.
  • $13 million in additional seat time savings when the program scales to 100,000.
  • 81 learner Net Promoter Score for immersive simulation experiences.

Massively improving yield without multiplying cost


Pre-pandemic, consulting skills training at IBM was largely classroom-based. It was expensive to run with too much of the investment going towards travel and venue costs instead of the actual learning. More importantly, it was impossible for IBM to scale to more than 5,000 consultants a year.

The process of virtualizing the curriculum really opened the door for even more change. The team decided to exploit this opportunity to drive full-scale transformation and build something a lot more impactful and personalized for the learner.

IBM wanted to shift away from what they wanted learners to know, and towards what they wanted learners to do differently. The new program is aligned towards demonstrated mastery of the skills, versus just completion of training.

For IBM technical skills are “table stakes”. It is the core consulting and client engagement skill (aka “power skills”) that drive a differentiated client experience.

More effective, more efficient, and more engaging learning

IBM shared all of the training materials for each of the consulting bands with ETU - which amounted to a total of 140 hours of training content. ETU's strategic advisory services team processed all of these training materials and produced a design architecture and implementation plan to address IBM’s key challenges.

The new design starts each learning module with a diagnostic simulation. This simulation either tests-out the learner or tests-in the learner to an adaptive learner journey. When a learner is tested-in by the diagnostic simulation they are redirected to specific learning based on the demonstrated skills and behaviors from the diagnostic. Learners don't have to do every part of the e-learning, instead they are directed to the learning topic where they have demonstrated a gap in competence. Learning modules also include development simulations to provide the right level of skill development and practice in each track.

For this program ETU co-built more than 40 simulations with IBM.

The new approach to self-paced learning:

  • Is highly effective and scalable at upskilling
  • Allows learners to apply new skills in realistic situations
  • Ensures learner decisions drive the experience
  • Provides relevant coaching feedback in the moment
  • Includes a safe practice environment

IBM Adaptive Personalization


Personalization at scale optimizes seat time

IBM now has a scalable core consulting training program. Based on the success so far they have reset their target from 45,000 learners to 100,000 to be achieved within 30 months of launch.


20x participation 

through new learning academy

-$5.6 Million 

reduced program costs

-27% seat time

due to adaptive personalization


learner net promoter score



Quantifiable effectiveness of upskilling is evident within the simulations. Skill improvement varied depending on skill, simulation and cohort with up to 50% improvement in some skills.

Combining skills data across the program will deliver new insights on upskilling and drive the transformation agenda. Pinpointing lower performing skills helps focus additional learning and development efforts.

Digitization of the program also democratizes access to learning. Rather than being restricted based on role, all learners across Manager, Senior Manager and Director (bands 7, 8 and 9) have access to learning based on skill needs.

next case study

Reimagining mandatory training at Merck


Other resources you might like

Improve your leadership skills

Your action plan to improve leadership skills

People aren’t born as leaders - they’re made through training and practice. In this article, John Fallon outlines an action plan to improve leadership skills centered on immersive learning simulations and scenario-based training to create a safe practice environment.

red-right-arrow red-right-arrow Learn More red-right-arrow
ATD research report: Bridging the skills gap

ATD research report: Bridging the skills gap

The ATD research report, sponsored by ETU, examines the current and future skills gaps organizations are facing, as described by 356 talent development professionals. 


red-right-arrow red-right-arrow Read More red-right-arrow