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KM past and future: It's about the customer

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Customer service is being aimed not just at multichannel access but also at "omni-channel," meaning that all the channels function as a unified system. "If the channels are siloed, it's not possible to make a global change," says Keziere, "or to ensure that if customers shift midstream from a mobile app to the call center, they won't have to repeat their identity."

Supporting employees

Another aspect of customer service relates to providing support to internal customers. For many years, human resources (HR) was paradoxically a person-centric but primarily administrative function. An employee's salary could be found in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and courses taken for professional development would show up in a learning management system (LMS), but those systems were not integrated and did not provide a 360-degree view of the employee or any real-time job support.

Increasingly, however, HR software is evolving into integrated suites of human capital management (HCM) software products. Those products are designed to support strategic initiatives, rather than just administrative ones. SumTotal Systems, for example, offers a suite of products covering talent management, learning, workforce management, payroll, analytics and other functions.

In fall 2013, SumTotal announced the release of its Talent Expansion Suite, which is focused on employee productivity and development. The Aberdeen Group cites career development as one of the most overlooked and underserved areas of HCM, despite the fact that it is also one of the most important drivers for achieving successful business outcomes. SumTotal's Talent Expansion Suite intends to address that need by providing personalized, context-aware learning opportunities for employees.

Achieving goals

Talent Expansion monitors the work activities of employees and makes proactive suggestions based on real-time needs. "Within applications they are already working in, such as Salesforce, employees may see an opportunity screen," says Steve Parker, VP of solutions strategy at SumTotal, "coupled with the specific learning activities as well as social connections that will help them better perform against that opportunity."

The window might present a list of relevant white papers, an expert or an online training course. "The information to build this context might be in several different systems," says Hardeep Gulati, COO at SumTotal. "Talent Expansion has predefined integration to enterprise systems in order to make sense of all this disparate data." The specific materials presented would depend on the role of the employee and other personalized factors.

Talent Expansion can also be used to deliver suggestions based on employee performance. "Executives can monitor performance through a dashboard, so a salesperson who is not doing well at selling a certain product can be referred to a more experienced person who is selling the same product effectively," Parker explains.

The system leverages analytics to see what courses or other resources are impacting desired goals such as improved customer service. "We establish causal relationships by bringing in business data and linking it to training," says Gulati. "These KPIs are available out of the box."

Parker says, "There is a huge ROI when an investment is made that impacts the performance of every person in the organization."

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