Soapbox: iPad Takes on Sales Mission

Cognizant created a learning application—the iPad Sales GYM application—based on the principles of collaborative learning with a focus on performance enhancement.

By Sairaj Vaithilingam, Director, Content and Design Services, and Ramanathan Srinivasan, Senior Consultant, Learning Solutions Group, Cognizant Learning Solutions Group

Why can’t I learn what I want, when I want? This is a common question posed by the sales personnel at Cognizant.

With the company growing at an industry-leading clip and expanding its workforce,

Cognizant’s sales force, too, has grown and is spread across more than 50 countries, interacting with 5,000-plus senior management personnel to ensure our business pipeline stays healthy. Mobile learning through mobile phones was not a realistic solution, as the real estate offered by mobile phones and non-multimedia capabilities were major handicaps. So last year, we embarked on a mission to find a practical solution to this issue, and the protagonist for this mission was the iPad.

An analysis of the training needs of the sales force highlighted the following expectations:

  • The training medium should be simple to use and should be available anytime and anywhere.
  • The integrated training should be available both online and offline, and should be updated.
  • With peer-to-peer interaction accounting for 70 percent of the learning, the training should provide and motivate collaborative learning.
  • The ultimate aim should be to not just train, but also enhance performance.

It was clear we needed to move from a traditional to a Millennial learning strategist avatar and create a solution more specific to the needs of the Millennial sales force. So we created a learning application based on the principles of collaborative learning with a focus on performance enhancement. The result: the iPad Sales GYM application.

The Sales GYM training application encapsulates the principles of exploratory, push and pull learning, packaged with Web 2.0 technologies. Users can save feeds, artifacts, blogs, videos, and other content for offline reading. The Sales GYM learning application consisted of eight learning sections or apps:


  • YouTube-style video framework.
  • Video can be integrated with PowerPoint slides or text information, which enhances knowledge retention and delivery.
  • Pertinent artifacts such as case studies, white papers, brochures in various formats are integrated for knowledge enhancement.
  • Offers the ability to save content for offline reading, share content using the corporate mail application, and rate content and provide feedback.
  • Assignments through RSS feeds for the sales team to monitor their learning.


  • cFeeds or Cognizant Feeds help the sales team to be in sync with the latest news about Cognizant, across various domains and business offerings.
  • Offers the ability to save news for offline reading.


  • Pre-configured, must-read blogs for the sales team.
  • Sales personnel can use the app to comment on existing posts and post their own blog entries.
  • Sales personnel can add more blogs based on their preferences.
  • Blog entries can be saved for offline reading.


  • Twitter-style social app.
  • Sales team can tweet to find business contacts or relevant contact information within Cognizant.
  • Offers the ability to tweet to a focused audience group such as Cognizant Innovation.


  • cBrain connects to the internal knowledge repository site.
  • The app provides access to an asset repository, which contains many gigabytes of artifacts essential for the sales team.
  • Effective usage of the KM portal reduces the time taken to create a presentation by more than 40 percent.


  • Connects to Cognizant sales forum.
  • Critical pull learning medium for the sales team, as the ability of sales personnel to utilize this forum is critical for them to perform their job successfully.
  • App provides bookmarking, ranking, offline saving features.


  • Connects to Cognizant 24X7 virtual library.
  • Pre-populates with the latest sales books as ranked by the sales and leadership team.


  • Fun site full of games with learning value.
  • Has a memory-based game in which users are required to match leaders with their business profiles.
  • Games have increasing difficulty levels and are connected to a social forum for leader ranking.

Key Challenges

  • Visual Design:The transition from the Web medium to the tablet medium was the biggest challenge for the design team, requiring us to concentrate on the unique design needs of the tablet.
  • Human Interaction Design:Many technology initiatives fail due to the fear of technology and low adoption rate among their users. The iPad’s main strength lies in its simplicity, which appeals to techno-averse people, as well. The challenge was to design an interactive solution that was simple, intuitive, and needed no training on the use of the application.
  • Technology:It was a significant challenge to design an application that not only works on the iPad, but is also easily portable to other media, including the Android, Blackberry, etc. This was necessary to enable optimal use of the application irrespective of the delivery medium.
  • Infrastructure:The main challenge was deployment of the application in the corporate environment and the ability to update content in a timely manner.

Results to Date

From the user feedback captured over the last five months, it is clear Sales GYM is fulfilling its objectives effectively. The 1-5-10 strategy of providing learning content for 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 10-plus minutes of learning (depending on the learner’s available time) has proved to be an instant hit with the sales team. Integration of presentation slides with video helped us achieve a much better learning retention. The RSS feed-based training assignments enabled learners to use the various social learning and internal tools not just to complete the assignments, but also to articulate when to use them effectively. This proved to be a critical feature that elevated Sales GYM from a training application to a performance enhancer.

The offline feature of the application has enabled the sales team to read, review, and work on sales artifacts during transit. This helps them further utilize an estimated 20 percent of the travel time effectively. In summary, the application has received an average user rating of 4.75 on a scale of 5. Overall, Sales GYM has helped in reducing the time required to respond to a business need, which is one of the main performance criteria of the Sales team.

Quick Tips

  • Keep visual design and navigation simple. The learning application was designed such that the learner does not have to tap more than three times to get to any piece of information.
  • Create a pilot audience with representative samples drawn from all users and involve them from the design stage. This avoids costly rework.
  • Use PowerPoint for visual UI and navigation testing; it’s a simple and easy way to avoid rework.
  • Do not convert existing courses for the sake of adding content. Clearly define the learning objective and target content that caters to the needs of mobile learning.
  • Create motivational strategies for collaborative learning.
  • Create a marketing/user adoption plan to ease users into the new medium.
  • Make sure the security features are well integrated and work at a single point sign-on. It is annoying to log in every five minutes or every time one enters a new site.
  • Provide offline capability as it is one of the most commonly used features of iPads.
  • Create a framework that can be expanded to accommodate future needs.
  • The most important lesson we learned was: “Create a learning application the learner wants, and not a learning application you think the learner wants.”

Sairaj Vaithilingam is director, Content and Design Services, and Ramanathan Srinivasan is senior consultant, Learning Solutions Group, at Cognizant Learning Solutions Group. They can be reached via e-mail at and Cognizant’s Learning Solutions Group assists organizations in implementing, measuring, and nurturing the learning culture through its Learning Consulting, Enterprise Managed Learning Services, and Learning Technology divisions. For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.