Globally Up to Date

Spy for Business

Employment Law

Community Development

Fiber Optic Training

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These articles were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on October 21, 1998. All rights reserved.

Distance Learning

Most people, when they think of distance learning, think first of technology, says John Foster. If you've got a hammer, then every solution is a nail. The real question should be: "I've got a person out there. What do they really need to know? And what tools can I give them that will help."

Foster, a former Merrill Lynch executive, will explain "Distance Learning 101" in a morning workshop for the "Learning as a Competitive Corporate Strategy" conference on Friday, October 23, at 10:30 a.m. at Hilton Gateway Center in Newark, presented by Thomas Edison State College. He joins William Seaton, associate vice president for distance learning at TESC. Cost for the day: $185. Call 609-984-1168 or E-mail mpost@call.tesc.edu.

Foster has a two-year old consulting business, Trenton Training Works. For his major client, Discover Card, he helps build systems that allow people in the sales and customer service departments to access customer information. His association with Thomas Edison College dates from when he was a vice president and manager of training technologies at Merrill Lynch, and the college asked him to help put together the master's of science in management program.

Foster grew up in Trenton, the son of a union printer for the Trentonian and went into the service and then to Trenton State, graduating in 1968. He earned a master's degree in Celtic linguistics from the University of Chicago and began to teach college but, as he says, "I got tired of translating" and thus started his career in instructional design. He was a pioneer in that emerging field at RCA Service Corporation, which had contracts for self-paced learning in government and industry. Then in the '70s and early '80s he worked with another ground-breaking learning system, Control Data's mainframe-based Plato.

"It did then what the Internet is starting to do now," Foster says. "It delivered instruction to the desktop, but it was expensive." In the early '80s he went to Merrill Lynch, first in New York, then on Scudder's Mill Road. He left and started his own company in 1996.

"Taking training from the classroom and placing it on the desk next door or 2,000 miles away is distance learning, as long as you are providing directions that are reasonable, gathering feedback to help the person and improve the learning situation, and maintaining records. It could be high tech -- using the telephone or video conferencing -- but it could also be using the U.S. mail. It really doesn't matter how you pack the box."

The box is a reference to a lesson well-learned at Merrill Lynch. He and his cohorts carefully designed the boxes of sales materials that went to the new sales people. But if someone unpacked the box carelessly and lost one of the carefully color-coded sheets . . . They were out of luck.

"You need to try to think about what the learner is going through," says Foster, "Maybe what we should have done is make a phone call directly to the person as soon as we knew they existed. Or provide an 800 number that has a message playing saying `Welcome, you just got a box, and here's what it is going to do for you.'"

-- Barbara Figge Fox

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Globally Up to Date

<B>Patricia M. Traynor took the concept of the salesperson's "introductory box" and turned it into a worldwide information resource, an intranet that revolutionized training and information delivery for the AT&T sales force.

Traynor is the vice president of global services markets at AT&T and is a keynote panelist in a full-day conference entitled "Learning as a Competitive Corporate Strategy" on Friday, October 23, at 9:15 a.m. at Hilton Gateway in Newark. Kent Manahan, senior anchor of New Jersey Network, is the moderator, and also on that panel is George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College, a cosponsor of the conference. Cost: $185. Call 609-984-1168.

Two years ago, says Traynor, technology was changing so fast it was hard to keep the sales force up to date. Yet these consultants were selling to AT&T's 2,500 most important clients. They were expected to know the client's business and, as technology experts, tell the client what to do and why. Under the traditional training methodology -- develop course materials, announce a course, take registrations, go away to take the course, and come back to service the client -- the learning curve lagged far behind the knowledge news.

"It was a formula for failure," says Traynor. A history major at Boston College, she has a law degree from Fordham and an MBA from the London School of Business. "We set out to invest in our sales people, to help them make a difference for our clients where they live and work. We realized we needed to rethink the entire system."

She was the initial strategic architect of the design for the intranet, called IKE, and got it up and running in two years. It has seven full-time editors, one for each "knowledge community," and seven people on the production staff.

"We have built here a copyrighted marketing and sales application," she says. "We operate a live intranet, behind a firewall, designed for the sales executives and our technical and sales specialists. It is like creating, running, and managing a daily newspaper," says Traynor. The site holds more than 600,000 documents, and 3,000 to 4,000 sales people in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada have access to it. Other AT&T people are learning to delve into the site as well. It has 14,000 unique users and 100,000 hits a day.

Her advice for those who would follow in her wake:

The technology is a critical and strategic enabler but it could not stand alone.

The bigger change was creating knowledge communities, teams of specialists, each with a home page. "Through the knowledge community they can communicate and share experiences. We also have a Q&A board, and up to 30 percent of the questions are answered by another member of the community."

That's a remarkable development, she points out, when less than two years ago an individual could turn only to another member of his team or call headquarters.

Those who access the intranet for their own benefit are ready to provide additional value to others.

To design a delivery system that is clear, concise, and prescriptive, understand the context of how information is used .

Under the old E-mail system for delivering information, anyone and everyone could send E-mail to the sales staff. Each individual salesperson had to decide what was important, file it, store it, and remember where they put it. With the IKE intranet, the choosing, filing, and storage of information is accomplished by the editorial and production staff.

Traynor's favorite example: A week before a joint venture with British Telecom was announced, all the materials for the sales reps were prepared and waiting to be put on IKE: not just the press release, but also key messages, questions and answers, a letter from the president, a call script on how to go over the material with a client, links to other websites -- everything a sales person would need to answer a client's worried call. The announcement was made at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, and sales people accustomed to logging on to the intranet could review the information on Sunday or at least on Monday morning.

"Before, they would have had to reiterate a press release, made up an answer. or said those dreaded words `I'll get back to you,'" says Traynor. "We have gained hours of productivity."

Content management requires full-time resource and expertise so users come back time and time again. "I believe we get one or two times for our sales execs to access information, to build up a level of trust. With that trust comes a tremendous amount of work and content management."

Traynor refuses to predict the future. "When I entered the field of knowledge management, I didn't know where I was going," says Traynor. "Life is like a rowboat. Picture yourself in it, sitting and rowing, and what you can clearly see is where you have been."

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Spy for Business

<B>Paul Houston tells this story about competitive intelligence. He was a consultant in Kazakstan for a large oil company that was getting blindsided by local politics. He went to Moscow, collected a copy of every newspaper sold there, and after hours of reading and marking articles found a bonanza, a story in Russian about the president of Kazakstan with his views on oil companies, including why he didn't like Houston's client, and his desire for his children to study in the United States. Bingo, a competitive intelligence solution: Address the company's business problem and then set up a long-term relationship by arranging stateside schooling for the president's kids.

Houston speaks on "How to Turbocharge Your Career as a CI Professional" at the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) meeting on Wednesday, October 21, at 6 p.m. at the Somerset Marriott. Cost: $35. Call 609-520-7334 or 703-739-0696.

Houston graduated from the United States Naval Academy, served as a Russian-fluent intelligence officer, earned an MBA from the University of Denver, founded and then sold a top management subscription service called News Track, and then started his current endeavor, Results Management Consultants, a Denver-based firm specializing in strategic planning, organizational development, and CI executive search.

Americans have mixed feelings about intelligence gathering, says Houston, telling the story of his first venture, when he was in Little League. His grandfather gave him a little black notebook and told him to go scout the competition. He collected all the signals for the opposing teams. "At the playoffs I showed my coach, and the coach said that was the worst example of sportsmanship he had ever seen. That is the American attitude toward intelligence."

But as a Naval Academy graduate, he considers the SCIP code of ethics very important. "One of the greatest benefits of SCIP membership is you have a fraternity of people who operate ethically. Some of the firms not affiliated with SCIP may not."

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Employment Law

Prevent workplace mistakes from happening and the other employers will be the ones to worry about lawsuits against them. At the seminar "The Changing Face of American Law," Reginald E. Jones, commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will provide a comprehensive EEO update and help employers identify and deal with some common growing workplace problems.

Organized by Grotta, Glassman & Hoffman PA, this all day seminar will be held on Tuesday, October 27, at 8:30 a.m. at Sheraton Woodbridge Place, Iselin, and on Wednesday, October 28, at the Marriott Saddle Brook. Cost $75. For more information call Michael E. Jackson at 973-992-4800.

The seminar will also include live dramatizations and analysis of workplace situations like harassment claims against supervisors and disruptive employees with psychiatric and stress problems.

Recent developments such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the proliferation of harassment suits, age claims, race and reverse discrimination suits, and suits based on religious accommodation, will be discussed.

Before joining the Senate staff, Jones was a labor and employment practitioner in New York City. A graduate of Yale, Jones has degrees in law and business administration from New York University. Jones began his tenure at the commission on July 29, after being unanimously nominated by the Senate.

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Community Development

In the 1970s there was a general perception that banks needed to contribute more to community development. The Community Reinvestment Act (1977) was an attempt by Congress to make it happen. But over the years, banks have realized that being good corporate citizens in their own neighborhoods not only gained for them the goodwill of the community, but also that it is a good and profitable business practice. At some level or the other, on their own or as partners, every bank today contributes to community development.

"CRA and Community Development: A Practical Clinic" on Tuesday, October 27, at 8.30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Centerpoint, Jamesburg, is organized by the New Jersey Bankers Association and New Jersey League-Community and Savings Bankers. Community development and CRA compliance experts will discuss their experiences, respond to questions and offer practical tips. Registration is $95. Call 609-924-5550.

Representatives from intermediary community development organizations will discuss successful projects in which they have been involved. Panelists include Gordon M. Ur, president of the Thrift Institutions Community Investment Corporation of New Jersey and Garret G. Nieuwenhuis, chairman of the New Jersey Bankers Association Community Development Committee.

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Fiber Optic Training

Move toward a new career in telecommunications with a certification course at Mercer County College starting October 29. Three noncredit courses, each 12 hours long, meet on six Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Domenick DeFino teaches the course in conjunction with the Fiber Optic Association. The courses are entitled Intro to Fiber Optics, Fiber Cables and Connectors; Single Mode and Multimode Fibers and Splices; and Light Source Detectors and Power Budget. For information call Lynn Coopersmith at 609-586-4800, extension 3241, or E-mail her at cont.ed@mccc.edu.


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