• United States



by John Santos

Time to Knowledge

Nov 06, 20006 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

In the new digital economy, companies must expedite new product time to market to sustain competitive advantage. However, with shorter and more complex product cycles, organizations must deal with a second strategic dimension: time to knowledge.

META Trend: Throughout 2001/02, information leadership will have the greatest impact as it transitions from the context of customer relationship management to information channel management – decreasing the time and distance between customer and product. As savvy CIOs increase their knowledge of information channels, the lines between IT groups and marketing will further blur, making IT groups key collaborators in Internet and e-commerce branding.

E-Learning: Instantaneous Knowledge. Technology, competition, erosion of value chains, and globalization demand that companies excel in the speedy introduction and delivery of new products and services to the market. Customers are becoming increasingly fickle and mercurial, and less loyal and tolerant – yet also more assertive and demanding.

This innovation focus (introduction of smarter products and knowledge-based business) has changed the nature of the relationship between suppliers and customers and created a double whammy:

  1. it requires high technical proficiency from employees to support and train consumers; and
  2. it demands even smarter, more knowledgeable, and capable consumers to operate with ever increasingly complex technology. Therefore, the traditional training and after-sale-support models, which have proven to be expensive, ineffective, and inefficient, must evolve to provide instantaneous knowledge. They do not accommodate the needs and realities of companies competing in a global, knowledge-based economy.

Global 2000 companies must transform their current training methods for employees and simultaneously develop highly customized “educational experiences” for consumers. This is possible only by delivering a full spectrum of self-learning and self-serving solutions directly to the desktop, through sophisticated engines based on self-adapting user interfaces. By eliminating barriers of time and distance, the Internet enables dissemination of real-time interactive multidimensional information, allows business to gain knowledge about their consumers while teaching them about new product/service offerings, and builds cohesive long-term relationships up and down the value chain.

This new reality demands that CIOs expand their notion of customer support and staff training, to gain greater alignment and perceived value. This is attained by developing a working/learning infrastructure for the digital economy, based on new interactive online systems to retrain employees and “capture consumers” through Internet-based educational pre- and post-sale experiences.

Our research indicates that technology-based training will increase fourfold during the next five years. The online learning market will generate $600M in 1999 in annual revenue, and will exceed $10B by 2002. E-learning is cost-effective, enabling 30% more learning in 40% less time, at 30% less cost.

During 2000/01, we believe 90% of G2000 companies will conduct some form of online training. Furthermore, by 2004, CIOs of leading corporations will have built their own systems of online “courses,” not only for internal staff training, but also for consumer self-education via the Internet or corporate intranets.

A Working/Learning Infrastructure

As the knowledge era unfolds, employees and consumers are striving to keep abreast of the pace with which they are expected to assimilate new technologies. The benefits of adopting new technologies are directly proportional to how quickly people can learn to use them. The longer and less effective the learning cycle, the less chance the organization has of achieving payoffs. (There is no point in developing and producing a new product in record time, if it then takes several months to make sales and support people conversant in the new technology.)

Leading CIOs know that their corporation’s ability to learn and translate learning into action is their ultimate competitive advantage. As a result, G2000 companies, such as GE, IBM, Cisco, DuPont, and Dell are all actively converting their existing internal training systems to the Internet and making employees and consumers ultimately responsible for their own learning.

The fast-expanding digital realm demands that CIOs devise innovative ways to:

  1. help learners find and assemble information;
  2. present to learners (consumers and employees) important questions to consider; and
  3. make the process of self-learning more efficient and practical.

The 3M Model

In the highly competitive market of fiber-to-desk cabling, 3M – competing against Lucent Technologies and AMP – pioneered an innovative online system that not only provides real-time extensive training (internal and external), but also offers a substantial marketing advantage. The system (, which is accessible to anyone with a standard PC, demonstrates the product to potential customers, supplies pricing information, has links to virtual seminars, and most importantly, enables consumers as well as technical staff to self-learn everything needed to install the Volition Cabling System.

3M understood that training on the Web removes the barriers of distance and time. Its system allows consumers and sales staff easy access to a continually updated version of the system.

Digital Consumer Education

Until now, online learning’s biggest attraction has been cutting costs. Companies with training budgets in the magnitude of $500M stand to reap enormous savings by eliminating the expensive duplication of millions of quickly outdated paper manuals and documents.

Instead of a having a cost-based perspective, we believe leading enterprises must couple online staff training with an astounding consumer “post-sale experience.” This will provide a matchless combination for the use of Web-based technologies and will revolutionize the interaction between organizations and their constituents, thereby enriching the brand’s perception in the market.

This new approach will provide corporations with instantaneous access to their own corporatewide employee skill base, which enables more effective staff deployment. Moreover, it will enrich the interaction between consumers and business, thus enabling the development of long-term association and brand confidence. One of the subproducts of this newly strengthened relationship will be the concentration of large amounts of invaluable customer data, which will be used for marketing and service innovation.

This new model will replace the current cumbersome processes of: equipment installation, outdated and awkward instruction manuals, repeated calls to ineffective hotlines, warranty processing, maintenance requests, system upgrades, and future product information – thereby creating an active post-sale relationship that is nonexistent in traditional business models.

Business Impact: To harness the potential instructional power of the Internet, corporations must make their knowledge-based products fully accessible to the market, while ensuring that consumers use them effectively, therefore creating a market perception of brand superiority.

Bottom Line: In the current digital culture, CIOs that implement working/learning infrastructures provide their organizations with the ultimate means for market differentiation. Knowledge is power is information, and the exchange of knowledge serves CIOs to gain invaluable information, while further stamping their own corporation brand onto the market.

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