During the past few years, industry pundits have stressed that in order to survive, security system integrators must train all their technicians, designers and even some salespeople to the IT standards currently in place. This is easier said than done, as we all now know. ©iStockphoto.com/mbbirdy
The above quote is just what you would expect from a Marine: simple and to the point. I trained hard during my four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. They educated me to think, adapt and solve problems.
Are there some lessons to be learned from the best trainers in the world regarding convergence training and education that apply to our business challenges today? I would say: "Sir, yes, sir!" Once a Marine, always a Marine.
IT Certification Processes Set Pace
Since those early days, I have designed customized training and education programs in security, business, sales, marketing, convergence technology and coaching. Delivering business value is about understanding people's needs, operations, capabilities, behaviors and peeves. So how has training for the convergence market changed in the past five years?
The obvious way is how it is delivered with streaming multimedia, Internet access and powerful mobility hardware. In this regard, everyone has done a pretty good job of keeping up with change and the Joneses. The more challenging aspect of designing scalable content is accomplishing both training and educating. We don't have to look too far for some relevant examples from which we can learn. The IT world provides many examples.
Cisco can be credited with taking the concept mainstream, a leading example being its certification process. Train and educate. Task and solve. The company teaches technicians how to perform critical network "tasks" to accomplish the "mission" of keeping a network uptime in the 5 nines, a standard in the IT world. Cisco educates people to understand the big picture and solve problems designing a network that is sustainable and can survive a variety of potential operational threats.
This may be all well and good, but how does this apply to our world? Convergence makes this both relevant and urgent. During the past few years, industry pundits have stressed that in order to survive, security system integrators must train all their technicians, designers and even some salespeople to the IT standards currently in place. This is easier said than done, as we all now know.
Many different companies have committed to having key personnel undergo extensive training in networks, as it should be, to fuel the growth of network-centric system solutions. To be sure, this is not a cheap date and requires a serious financial commitment.
So what can we look forward to in the future? Let's first look at training from a traditional vantage point, and then consider some new perspectives, guidelines and suggestions.
The 3 Distinct Areas of Training
So what are the two common denominators for the vast majority of traditional training approaches and methodologies?
The first factor is the audience. Historically, training has been narrowly targeted to the general or specific needs of efficiently performing a task based on the trainee's work role. The second factor is perspective. From whose perspective is the training content developed? Manufacturer, distributor, company training department or an outside resource all bring different perspectives to their training roles. Are there built-in biases to training from audience or trainer perspectives, and does this affect results? You bet it does, and sometimes not positively.
If an audience has experienced marginal training in the past, they may actively or passively resist "wasting" time in the future. Trainers may become jaded or stale with certain audiences. Past experiences may lead trainers to believe the audiences just don't "get it." This can result in no appreciable increase in task performance or skill development. It may also drain valuable resources during tough economic times, like today, or give a false sense of confidence to owners or senior management.
Can this situation be improved upon? I think so. Training costs impact the entire food chain in the security market. We have all been customers and suppliers. How have the expectations of convergence customers changed how we should think about training? From my experience with suppliers, dealers/integrators and end users, I can identify three distinct areas.
Width of training — Responsibilities and expectations have widened, which means network-centric solutions encompass a broader perspective of what your role may include. Technicians are routinely expected to provide "customer service," while sales teams can rightfully be expected to have "network knowledge." After reading one of my articles, Ed Meltzer, director of Cloud Hosting Programs at Niscayah, was kind enough to share 16 separate areas of technical expertise in which salespeople must be competent in order to sell in this converged market.
Depth of training — Individuals, regardless of job description, are expected to know more about lots of different subject matter. Specialization of knowledge is great when the economy and business margins can afford it. In some vertical markets, this is still the case and a distinct competitive advantage for companies that adhere to that strategy. But can this be said for broader small to mid markets that serve the majority of security customers today?
Height of training — At what level of performance and skill enhancement do people need to be trained? The IT world has consistently addressed certifications and levels of training, and for good reason. The network world understands clearly delineated entry-, mid- and advanced-level training that is required to apply the right resources to the right situation in order to deliver reliable system performance.