This paper is a companion to “Widening Your Sphere of Influence: An Introduction to the Extended Enterprise,” which laid out in detail the concept of the Extended Enterprise platform, its key elements, features and general benefits. Building on that foundation, the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the Extended Enterprise platform can help specific verticals to promote and sell their products to external audiences. In particular, it investigates the value of the Extended Enterprise solution in financial services/insurance, government, retail, manufacturing, healthcare and associations. Feel free to read ahead to the section that is most applicable to your own organization.
Financial Services and Insurance
The regulatory arena has expanded considerably over the past decade, placing an enormous compliance burden on the insurance and financial services industries. Meeting Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory requirements alone involves a tremendous amount of management complexity. The result is a communication tangle spanning the various employee categories across multiple locations. And that’s only one of many regulations affecting this sector.
Now, factor in the strategic management of workforce knowledge in the financial and insurance markets. In many organizations, this comprises a central headquarters and perhaps a few regional offices servicing a large external network of remote offices, brokerages, agents, financial advisors and customers. In such an environment, it is critical to consistently deliver a superior managed service in order to achieve profitable growth.
Traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) are aimed mainly at head office personnel. They provide great value in terms of managing performance, aligning goals, facilitating training and development, and proactively managing succession planning. However, their limitations are exposed when it comes to federating knowledge and information to external reps, tracking the status of development initiatives and verifying compliance to ongoing programs.
Armed with the Extended Enterprise solution, insurance companies and financial services organizations can gain control over their far-reaching networks of brokers, dealers, advisors and customers. Knowledge and information can be made available to them online as an effective means of managing certifications and upcoming expirations to avoid lapses in licensing. Additionally, workforce productivity can be maximized by accelerating delivery of knowledge on key skills, policies and mandated instruction.
A well-designed Extended Enterprise solution can often pay for itself or even directly generate revenue. In a financial services organization, for example, training puts your company’s message and value proposition front and center. While brokers may have dozens of packages to choose from, the addition of a relevant knowledge nugget or the right training element (either free or available for a small fee) as a value-add for the broker or potential customers can tempt many to select you as opposed to one of many alternative vendors. By aligning a simple content item to a sales or business goal, customer retention and acquisition can be boosted.
Similarly, existing customers can be kept up to date on the latest offerings in an interactive manner. They can be encouraged to view short pieces of online content to increase their knowledge of a specific field and to keep them actively involved with your company.
Remote employees and independent agents can also be comprehensively serviced online without the need to mail a piece of information, wait for knowledge transfer to occur in a non-structured format or bring everyone to the head office once a year for a week-long course. In those cases where a trip to headquarters is desired, the Extended Enterprise solution can greatly reduce costs by slashing the annual stay to a day or two with the balance of the knowledge and information delivered online.
These are just a few of the ways that the Extended Enterprise solution can enhance the value of human capital. As everything is managed within one system, it is easy to track compliance and certification. Training programs can be assessed against organizational programs at a global, national, regional and individual level while promotional activities intended to generate new business can be evaluated against measurable results.
Organizations already taking advantage of the Extended Enterprise solution include BankAtlantic, First Niagara Financial Group, PHH Mortgage, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Utica National Insurance Group.
Manufacturers, of course, have unique business challenges. They must compete in a global economy and find lean and cost-effective processes to bring their products to market and manage their supply chains. At the same time, they must deal with corporate policies and strategies, and a seemingly endless stream of government regulations. To make matters worse, many manufacturers have to compete in a retail sector overrun by competing brands, each one attempting to capture the hearts and minds of retail sales staff. As these staff work for the retailers and not the manufacturers, how do you ensure your message is front and center and your goods are the ones they instinctively reach for?
The answer lies in the Extended Enterprise solution. Providing a platform for the creation of a sustainable and scalable knowledge network, such a network helps manufacturers to efficiently sell and support their products. How? Let’s take a look at business as usual.
Each manufacturer has probably prepared sales literature to ship out to all retail outlets. While the intention is to have sales reps read, understand and appreciate the nuances of specific products, what happens to these materials when they are distributed is anyone’s guess. Some are diligently handed out to employees who then sit down and study them. Others are distributed but merely glanced at. In a few cases, the literature sits in a storeroom never to see the light of day.
Some companies attempt to circumvent this outcome by a variety of means. They post materials online and hope to entice staff to view them. They sometimes send their own personnel out into the field to train sales reps on the peculiarities and fine points of their product lines. They perhaps send out newsletters and e-mail in an attempt to engage external audiences. The issue, though, is that competitors are conducting similar efforts. Without the Extended Enterprise solution, it is impossible to gauge success and bring your goods to the front of the line.
The best way to boost brand image in this situation is to initiate an Extended Enterprise program. Captivating Webcasts and presentations can be made available online to rapidly take sales personnel through the key points of your pitch. They can be briefed on why your goods are superior. Further, progress can be tracked right down to how many reps have accessed or completed the content asset on a per store basis, how many have started, how far they have gotten, their feedback and even how this is related to sales performance in that area.
Consequently, programs can be adjusted to ensure maximum success through integration with incentive and award programs, using certifications to vest sales people in your offering, and providing a consistent and accurate message that can be evaluated for effectiveness. This ultimately leads to sales personnel at a retail level that will push your products instead of those of a rival. Why? Because you have gained mind-share.
Manufacturers already enjoying the benefits of the Extended Enterprise solution include Black & Decker, Harris Corporation, International Rectifier, United Technologies Corporation, ZLB Behring and Anixter International.
The medical world is probably one of the most dynamic sectors of the modern economy. Constant changes are the norm as new technologies, procedures, and compliance requirements are introduced. Combine this with the complexities and pressures of healthcare staffing shortages, a constant demand for cost containment and ongoing efforts at reform and you have an industry like no other.
What isn’t so well appreciated, though, is the fact that many healthcare organizations typically service an area that consists of smaller clinics, outpatient facilities, field caregivers and other external workers whose livelihood is dependent upon the primary facility. Delivering knowledge and information to these individuals on health, safety, hygiene and organizational protocols can be a nightmare given the busy schedules of most of these personnel. As a result, the critical exchange of information often takes a back seat.
Enter the Extended Enterprise solution. Federating knowledge and information online allows doctors, nurses, technicians and support personnel in the field to work their way through the content they need during the small windows available to them. Whether it is a few minutes or a couple of hours, the Extended Enterprise solution keeps track of where each individual is at and makes it easy for them to return and complete their activity when time allows.
This is also important when it comes to continuing education and certification. Staff needs to put in a certain number of hours annually to maintain their accreditations and stay up to date. The Extended Enterprise solution facilitates such activities, often bypassing the need to transport individuals with skill sets in short supply to a seminar on the other coast or, worst-case scenario, another continent.
When it comes to regulations such as HIPAA, FDA, The Joint Commission, OSHA, and those of the EPA as well as state and local authorities, keeping track of compliance is a simple matter with the Extended Enterprise solution. All Web-based assets within the solution can be tracked for external staff progress and completion. This can be vital when it comes to defending the organization against legal actions – success or failure in court can depend upon being able to prove that one person completed specific requirements of a given program at a specific date.
Additionally, the Extended Enterprise solution is of great value in the area of customer acquisition and retention. Prospective patients, for instance, can view presentations online about the facility, their specific condition and available procedures to help them gain confidence in commencing treatment. Existing patients can be offered value-added information and knowledge on such topics as preventive medicine, or how diet and fitness can play a role in their recovery.
Healthcare customers currently taking advantage of the Extended Enterprise solution include HealthQuest, Kaiser Permanente, Sisters of Mercy Health System, SwedishAmerican Health System, US Oncology, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses and MedAssets, Inc.
Employers in the highly competitive retail sector are challenged to disperse knowledge and information to employees on a wide range of skills, including detailed product knowledge, how to sell, complaint handling, price products and services, objection handling and much more. To make it even more challenging, sales associates, clerks, floor managers, distributors and dealers comprise a geographically dispersed population, many of whom are not direct company employees. Nevertheless, how they represent your organization to customers directly impacts revenue and customer satisfaction. It takes the right methodology and system to maintain your brand image while improving business performance.
This is made difficult due to the high turnover rates experienced in the retail sector. Under these circumstances, it can be difficult to maintain any consistency of brand. That’s where Extended Enterprise solution comes in. It provides the right vehicle for updates to product information, training, sales programs and service management information to those on the front lines.
Take the case of education about a new product line. Short online courses can be accessed by personnel as time permits and managers can keep track of everything to ensure everyone completes in a timely manner without impacting productivity and ensuring consistency of the message.
It gets even more interesting when you deal with more complex goods such as personal electronics. In many cases these goods are so sophisticated that the general consumer requires formal initiation to gain proficiency. One retailer, for instance, was experiencing a heavy rate of returns for its latest phone. Many customers complained that their products were faulty. Analysis showed almost all of them to be working correctly, and that customers simply didn’t know how to utilize them. An Extended Enterprise solution was introduced to train sales associates on how to use the phones, quickly making them experts in its use.
When customers came into the store with the latest wave of returns, sales associates were able to educate customers on these products resulting in a tremendous drop in the rate of return, adding millions to the bottom line in a short period. Such courses can also be made available to customers as a means of improving their purchasing experience. Furthermore, by capturing customer-support-related data, small media-based snippets on “how to” can be pushed to the mobile device in order to reduce call-in rates for similar knowledge deficiencies.
Finally, there is the aspect of harnessing the External Enterprise solution as a direct revenue generation engine. Some organizations are so dominant in their field that agents, dealers, service technicians and other professionals are clamoring to be associated with them. By requiring these individuals and groups to complete paid certification programs and maintain their credentials annually, significant amounts of income can be generated. And by taking the burden of this training off the organization and positioning it online, resources can be freed up for more pressing matters.
The Extended Enterprise solution, therefore, helps retailers to reinforce their brand and heighten the customer experience by providing consistent information for thousands of employees across multiple franchises, geographic regions and languages. This directly drives revenue by providing associates with the knowledge and skills to cross- and up-sell to meet customer needs and boost repeat purchases. In addition, it reduces turnover and supports career planning initiatives, as well as streamlining new employee orientation and on-boarding for full-time, part-time and seasonal employees.
By targeting sales personnel in a retail chain, it is possible to incentivize them to access and complete specific content focused on helping them become better informed about specific products. By aligning these types of programs to a distinct business purpose such as the improvement of sales, a small investment can pay substantial dividends. In a world where a multitude of brands are vying for attention, a professionally produced program is an excellent way to reinforce brand recognition. Done correctly, it cleverly differentiates a brand in the eyes of external audiences.
Another critical factor: In many verticals, speed to market is a major component of success. Particularly in industries such as computer hardware, software, durable goods and telecommunications, rapid development of products is rarely enough. It takes velocity and agility on the marketing side to ensure results.
Take the example of a security software release. In many cases, multiple vendors come to market at the same time with their latest offerings. Extended Enterprise solutions can help differentiate products by educating channel partners and resellers about your new release. The speed with which that knowledge gets out, as well as the ease of access and management, can make or break a marketing campaign. This doesn’t mean that formal training has to be involved. Distribution of a webcast, PDF or PowerPoint in conjunction with accurate tracking of viewing patterns might be enough to move your product to top of mind in the target audience.
Another way to become more nimble in an evolving marketplace is in the area of centralized training. Many companies require external sales personnel to come in to the head office for one week every year for an update on products, pricing and policy. This represents a hefty annual expense for all concerned when you take airfares, hotels, food and lost productivity into account. What if that week could be either eliminated entirely or reduced to only two days, with the rest of the training done online? The Extended Enterprise solution is a way to facilitate the transition.
Organizations currently using the Extended Enterprise solution include AMC Entertainment, Cabela’s, Hudson’s Bay Company, Pilot Travel Centers and Oreck.
The Extended Enterprise solution is especially suited to federal, state and local government organizations. In the federal arena, There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience in developing premier human capital management and development solutions for federal agencies- systems that raise workforce productivity, improve employee retention, aid regulatory compliance, cut expenses and reduce training time (GSA Contract Number GS-02F-0114R).
This depth of experience has been used to full advantage in the Extended Enterprise solution. Agencies that sell services to the public can deliver knowledge, information, training and certification, harnessing the platform to improve time to market and increase customer satisfaction. The system can also be used to provide solutions to a geographically dispersed employee base. With many agencies having offices in all 50 states, it can be daunting to maintain control and accountability for the individual progress of thousands of employees. Failure to keep track of No FEAR Act, ethics, sexual harassment and other mandated training and information initiatives can have serious consequences.
Federal agencies deploying the Extended Enterprise solution have saved taxpayers millions of dollars by reducing expenses associated with the exchange of information, knowledge and formal training to remote employees. In terms of cost avoidance, the GoLearn.gov Learning Center alone saved taxpayers approximately $20 million in expenses related to travel, lodging and time away from work in just the first 20 weeks of operation.
Smaller agencies provide one-stop access to high quality knowledge, learning & performance products and services by unifying initiatives across departments, thereby eliminating redundant procurement and licensing costs. The platform is compliant with Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which requires all public institutions to use information technology accessible to persons with disabilities. Further, world-class security infrastructure has been audited by independent organizations on behalf of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The hosting environment utilized by the Extended Enterprise solution meets OPM Baseline Security Requirements, for a certified and accredited host for the e-government learning initiative.
More than 50 agencies, including OPM/GoLearn, the Departments of Education and Interior, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Office of Personnel Management/GoLearn and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, have implemented the Extended Enterprise solution.
In the state and local category, the Extended Enterprise solution is used in local agencies such as Loudon Water as well as state agencies such as State of Arizona Department of Health Services, State of Washington, State of South Carolina, NY State Police Academy, State of North Dakota and Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Agency administrators are able to track compliance to vital initiatives around the country and create content tailored to their needs. A searchable catalog provides all the information and knowledge required by a diverse community.