Why do companies underperform?

Thursday, May 1, 2003

Peter Senge summed it up perfectly when he wrote in his best seller “The Fifth Discipline,” “in today’s environment, the only sustainable competitive advantage an organization has is the ability of its people to learn and perform faster than the competition.” The security industry is being dramatically impacted by technology and change every day. So we must address why companies, across the industry, underperform. The answer lies in what I call a knowledge sharing problem.

The average Fortune 500 company loses $64 million a year due to ineffective knowledge sharing. According to a study by the Delphi Group and CIO.com, this happens for several reasons. First, over 50 percent of a worker’s time is spent looking for information. This is valuable time that could be spent on business core competencies such as product development and sales. Then, 10 to 20 percent of their time is spent replicating answers for others. After all that time is spent, amazingly, less than 20 percent of the knowledge available to the company is ever actually utilized.

The results are hazardous to our business health. For instance, the knowledge sharing problem affects our bottom line by extending sales cycles. If your salespeople cannot respond right away to customers’ most pressing questions, sales cycles will be prolonged and your company’s sales will suffer. Or what about delayed time to market? Failure to quickly locate expertise to solve business problems inhibits smooth transition between various stages of the product development cycle, delaying your products’ time to market. These are just two of the many examples.

The reasons for the problem

Until recently, there were only document-centric solutions for knowledge sharing. But only a small percentage of a person’s expertise is captured in documents. Smaller organizations also relied on “folklore training,” allowing mission critical knowledge to reside in employees minds and to be passed on by informal training events.

Also, many companies did not value the importance of training. Seen only as an expense, training took a back seat to other activities. Yet, recent studies have proven a direct correlation to a company’s market value and the amount invested in education – training no longer takes a back seat when one realizes the impact it has on your bottom line! And I am excited to see the security industry beginning to embrace this philosophy.

The solution

The knowledge sharing problem requires a complete solution; one that captures expertise, catalogues it, transfers it to those who need it when they need it, and stores that valuable knowledge for future use. It must be able to be shared internally and with all our value chains – dealers, distributors, and resellers. Traditional learning methods just don’t work in this environment.

With the rapid pace at which things change today, many companies are finding traditional classroom training to be too late, too infrequent and too expensive. Manufacturers who offer dealers and installers onsite training are missing the bigger picture. Travel costs, time out of the field and materials are just the direct expenses that online programs eliminate. But the indirect and far more strategic values such as consistent quality of education, reliable metrics, ROI and the ability to reach a global audience at any time all make e-learning a necessary tool in your education tool kit.

Today’s reality is that e-learning is proving to be a versatile ingredient for customer satisfaction and e-business. It is a business model that can garnish many situations to generate revenues, increase productivity and bolster brand image. It is also a competitive advantage for those companies that adopt early. In our knowledge economy, learning isn’t a “nice to have,” it is a must have – and is the only solution to the knowledge sharing problem.

Connie Moorhead is president of The CMOOR Group, an education and custom e-learning development company with exclusive focus on the security industry. Moorhead can be reached via email at connie@cmoor.com.