The Way to Design Product Knowledge

You should always emphasize to your personnel, how important it is to know your product or service inside out for guaranteeing the best possible customer experience to your clients. The nature of your business describes what is vital to be included to the definition of useful product knowledge and what are the skills required for making your business shine. 

Your products and services are in the core of your operations. Performing well in following processes, like R&D, production, marketing, sales, logistics, aftersales, reporting and business controlling requires deep product knowledge of your personnel.  HR and training professionals play a key role in creation of the required skills.  Skills of the personnel and the knowledge how to use these skills are more important than you first would think. In normal businesses, product and service sales are the main sources of revenue. This is the main reason to focus in sales and marketing on good product knowledge and product related skills. 

Trained personnel is in possession of flexible product and service sales related skills.  When you want to evaluate the effect of those skills on monthly and quarterly sales figures, you need to understand the situation of your personnel’s pooled sales skills in detail. Taking a broad view, you have to know, on aggregate level the standard of their skills broken down by product group or product.  When your product managers want to know more about the impact of these skills on sales, they have to drill down to data on market-, country- and territory levels.  This analysis needs to be carried out for different product groups and main products.  Affiliated members of your sales and service teams could also be viewed through this prism.

The aggregated skills of your personnel are not static, but fluctuate constantly, because the composition of your personnel undergoes a continuous change.  This is a result of normal life. New personnel is hired, employees rotate between jobs, capable persons are promoted, seniors are pensioned and normal churn in the workforce occurs.

On top of the normal churn, the skills in the workforce undergo a constant transformation. 

The time value of the skills is in constant decline because of the following reasons:

– People forget

– Knowledgeable personnel leave the company

– New hires don’t have necessary required skills and experience.

– The courses have fixed periods of validity

– Older expiring skills, have lower value than sharp and current skills

The training courses have restricted shelf lives, and because of that the employees need to be frequently retrained within the period of validity of the courses, if they want to hold their positions as acknowledged professionals in the skills pool.  Successful companies usually specify expiration dates to the validity of their normal product related training courses, like the practice is with certain mandatory vocational courses. 

These elements need to be included in the calculations to explain the status of product skills in different product areas and geographical locations of your company not only today but also in the future.  Advanced companies train also their partners and members of the distribution chain locally and abroad.

Appropriate data management plays a major role in assuring correct training data evaluation. You need a purposefully built skills analytics system to collect and administer course data on present measured and future estimated skills.  This exercise is drilled down to different geographies and products for more precise understanding of the relationships between skills and performance.   

Each individual product requires from the personnel the accomplishment of several individual training courses.  The tracking of the validity of these courses combined with calculated time decay deductions is complex because several values are interdependent but their impacts on KPIs are independent.  Including all these elements into the calculations can easily lead to huge number of data points to be actively monitored.

New way to ensure product knowledge in sales organization.

The simple question of: ”What is the level of personnel’s skills?” can reliably be answered with a data driven approach. This simple sounding question becomes immediately more complex, when you drill down to multiple segments, like, what is the level of product skills in different markets, countries or sales offices.  Multiply these with different language groups, product groups and most important individual key products and you arrive at – reality. Complex reality, where we all live. 

We are here just basically discussing trivial issues like knowledge of your personnel’s competence levels for all products, markets and locations at all times. It is important to know the distribution of skills, the locations of best performers and the products they are working with. In all companies the top performers can usually be identified, as well as those individuals, who need support to perform according to the requirements.  But who can testify to know the level of skills among the silent majority. The detailed skills level of 60 to 80% of your personnel are usually uncharted.  Nobody knows for sure, what their skills are, but everyone thinks, that they are O.K.  What is the distribution of skills, remains a common unanswered question in the business world.

There should be no unqualified persons in your company.  Skills should be certified and all these skills orientated issues should be left on a backburner and the management should focus on improving sales revenue.

It is important to know where in your organization training is needed and when it should be completed.  To accomplish this, you have to monitor all skills in your company on a continuous basis. This requires a systematic approach to utilization of collected training and skills data, and the ability to make reliable estimates based on these for future needs.

Basically, this boils down to intelligent use of systematic use of training data with defined acceptance- and target levels for all of the important skills.  You can easily retrieve the necessary data from your HR systems to include all personnel, position and skills changes, including calculated residual time values of the skills.  The results will be included in reports which grants benefits to sales and HR management. 

Many critical questions which can now be answered. What is the sales skills situation in named countries and locations for key products?  Where do we have enough skills to meet our new product or service sales targets?  

At the end of day, we will gain an understanding about what is the effect of skills on sales for different products and markets. In other words, to find out relationship between skills and sales. This knowledge may lead to further questions like:  Where the training of personnel should be improved for gaining additional sales, or are we sure that all training results will have residual values within acceptance levels also in the future with present training actions. 

All these answers are gained by monitoring and analysing the skills within your organization on a regular basis. This way, you know exactly what effect the skills in your company have on your revenue.

The unique possibility to have a reliable outlook, which on a daily basis indicates your number of people trained with certified product knowledge, gives you more time to focus on other issues having effects on sales revenue. Your sales director sleeps better when he knows that the defined sales skills of a key products also in selected sales channels are on an acceptable level.  He has also more energy to focus on real sales issues, when he can be certain, that the skills are on correct levels at all locations within his company and its sales channels.

Written by Kari Hartikainen, Sales, Boudin Oy

Fruitful Cooperation Creates Best Possible Content

Boudin Analytics Content Master is a great tool to benchmark the functionality of different content versions of training courses using estimated sales results as perspectives in various markets. The simple question, ”Which version of the training course boosts your sales best?”, is a common source of headaches for numerous Product- and Human Resources Training Managers, when they make decisions what courses they should buy and why. 

When making decisions about selecting courses, there are two kinds viewpoints to be considered.  Shall we concentrate on achieving learning results, like in traditional conventions or reach out for better learning outcomes, like increased sales, or other improved Key Performance Indicators?  Predicting the latter answers is much harder and traditionally causality issues have clouded these relationships. Now Boudin Analytics has the capability and sophisticated tools that to answer both questions at the same time.

Additional questions, like which training content works best in a new language area, or are there differences in KPIs with different language versions of the course, arise soon. In global companies, an English language version is usually the starting point for localised versions, and there is nothing wrong about it. 

The English version is usually simply translated into the wanted languages and there we are, or are we? We now have one single language version of the course for example in Mandarin, but do we know, how well it fulfils the local requirements.  If we do not have any baseline for effectivity comparisons, we do not know, what effect the training has on motivating the personnel towards company goals.    

Content Master can test the impact of different contents on any KPI and can be used for benchmarking purposes. Hence, we can smoothly find the specific content version to be launched, which helps for example to increase sales in this case, or on this market with estimated probability.  You get the answers immediately without need to wait for a long time for actualised sales results. By using the application this way, you get reliable several months earlier than by using traditional methods, and there no risk of training leading to detrimental effects.  These unwanted consequences are eliminated and the Human Resources professionals have all the relevant information available for making correct training decisions. 

Good cooperation creates best possible content.

Summarised, the use of the application creates confidence during a content design project that the team is creating courses, which are fun and give the personnel skills, which are certainly goal orientated skills. You get these results rapidly.   

Usually there are members of three parties participating in a training course project. Firstly, professionals from the company’s HR training organisation, followed by e.g. a product manager representing the demands of the business owner, who work together with representatives of digital designer companies.  All these parties have different perspectives on the quality issues of the specific course and the ways and means, how the course should be implemented. 

The application gives an unbiased, objective KPI as the yard stick for the course quality to be shared by all of the participants.  The results open new horizons for fruitful discussions, when all know that they are mutually cooperating for the best possible courses.  From now on we are sure to train with the best content.

Written by Kari Hartikainen, Sales, Boudin Oy

Measurable Results with Outstanding Course Content

Boudin Analytics Content Master is a tool for communicating the efficiency of training materials with different content producers in a new way. The basic idea is to find out the financial bottom line effect of training. Content Master gives as outcome, how well company personnel will learn as result of a specific training course content. The result for the affectivity of learning is given in the form of an estimate for a potential increase in product- or service sales.  After analysing training results, you get an estimate about the probability of a sales increase.  

The training of personnel by using a specific course content can be described to lead to have an effect to increase sales by 5% with 85% probability. By testing the different offerings of several content providers for the same training course, the course offerings can be ranked by their effectivity. These results can be used as normal KPIs for the quality of training courses. The differences of learning results between courses of content providers can now be measured with an objective scale.

The application has an intuitive, efficient and user-friendly user interface for relaxed use. In order to analyse the quality of training courses, you need to test it with just a small a number of persons in order to get the results for quality ranking.  The size of the test population is fixed and you get reliable results regardless of the distribution of the test scores.  Previously the only result of a small test was a message telling you that the sample is too small for reliable test results.  Then you were forced to increase the size of the test population, but it did not guarantee a usable result.

Content Master gives you for the first time the unique opportunity to create reliable connections between the individual employee’s test scores and the financial impact of the new course on the financials of the company. This is a major game changer for HR. When using this service for testing the quality of learning materials you get usable and reliable results over sales forecasts as soon as test group scores are available. 

There is no need to wait for sales data from the markets, which was the practice previously and this normally took up to several months to collect.  Now your training department has the results immediately available, when using analytics routinely as the tool for connecting the dots of individual test scores and their final impact on product or service sales.

You now have a common language for discussing course quality issues with your content producers. You have the possibility to test the impact of different versions of content in advance to determine, which of the alternatives could lead to potentially best possible estimated sales increase. 

Measure course content quality.

Using content which is uniquely pre-tested for its effects on your sales numbers, along with your established quality control methods for your training materials, is vitally important and an essential help when new products or services are launched in several markets. It is helpful to start this process with a rapid testing of various versions in one country, followed by fine tuning of the content for optimal results. This hopefully leads in the end to successful product launches in the various markets with rapid results.

Boudin Analytics uses advanced algorithms for estimating the performance of training course materials in generating increased sales. In principle, it compares the results for courses to be evaluated with existing, previous learning results of older courses, where the learning results and their effect in turning learning scores into sales and revenue are known.  

The application takes also into account the differences between individual companies analysing the effects of their personnel’s qualifications, impacts of the individual products or services on sales volumes.  The system takes into account differences between individual learning methods and the impact of the company culture on motivating the personnel to learn and on supporting individual employees to perform. 

Extensive use Boudin Analytics improves the accuracy of results, because the algorithms of the solution learn from the existing results. This makes benchmarking possible, easy and opens a new angle for evaluating the importance of skills of the personnel and how sales results can be improved by selective training of the workforce. The HR gets an effective learning analytics tool for their managers to use in making procurement decisions between alternative content providers. 

Now you have a mutually understandable, functional language for corporations and their content producers.  Content Master is an insurance for companies which guarantees that they are able to purchase better courses. Content producers can be confident, that their courses are according to the specifications of the customers and this helps them to make the contents with better efficiency. This inevitably leads to better economics with better products and better learning results. Content providers, who can show a proven track record of efficient courses can gain competitive advantages.Let’s make valid and reliable pretesting of course contents possible and get your personnel trained with it for achieving visible financial results.

Written by Antti Kurki, Sales, Boudin Oy