Factiva delivers thousands of wire service stories, newspaper articles, business publications and other documents to the global corporate business community. The company’s products and services help clients integrate news and business information into their daily workflow to increase organizational intelligence and leverage content in the knowledge management function. With 750 employees in 32 countries and millions of customers, Factiva has to provide just-in-time access to knowledge about its products for internal employees and external customers.
To provide this information at the point of need, Factiva has employed a Brainshark tool called an e-topic, a very short unit of information about specific aspects of Factiva products, including how to enter a password, formulate a query, look at search results or create a folder that will track searched topics for future use.
Factiva first employed Brainshark in 2001 when the company decided to create a new product to replace the flagship products of its parent companies, Dow Jones and Reuters. “At the time this happened, we were a global company with a new product coming out, but we did not have a formalized product training group,” said Anne Caputo, director of knowledge and learning programs, Factiva. “We had about five weeks in which to roll out knowledge of this product to our employees before it became available for customers, and no department or function that was funded or resourced to do this. So we turned to Brainshark to create quick, electronically accessed modules—these e-topics that would allow us to do this in a very timely fashion.”
Before e-topics were introduced at Factiva, instructors flew around the world to various offices to do face-to-face training in a traditional classroom environment. Caputo used Web conferencing and some other virtual tools, but e-topics technology enabled Factiva to expand its product offerings beyond basic product information to include role-based training tracks for its employees, such as technical consultants who answer very intricate questions about the company’s products and platform. Factiva also uses the technology to disseminate internal corporate communications and messaging, such as accomplishments for 2004 and strategic initiatives.
Brainshark is based on simple Web technology, and anyone with a Web connection can use it to quickly create e-topics. The process involves two components, a PowerPoint presentation, either flat and static or loaded with Flash animation, and a voiceover or recording. The presentation is loaded onto a hosted server, then the Factiva author calls and uses a menu system to narrate the PowerPoint script. “It can be done literally in an hour or less depending on the length of the PowerPoint,” Caputo said.
The results have been significant. Factiva saved 558 percent of the cost to train via conventional methods. The technology also measures the number of times people click on a product and actually view the e-topic or segment created. “Over time, views have grown substantially, but it waxes and wanes, which means it’s responsive to new products that we offer or new initiatives, new messages from our CEO and leadership team, etc.,” Caputo said. “We can track by month the number of views that have been used and the average amount of time people spend on these units.”
Factiva is planning to use the technology to acquire or develop a more sophisticated learning management system that includes the ability to track who has attended which courses or which e-topics have been viewed, and track assessments or deploy some kind of certification program. “As new products are rolled out or products are modified, we need to continue to increase the number of authors who use e-topics or use the technology,” Caputo said. “We’ve already made an enormous inroad—a quarter of our company or more use this—but I think we can probably increase that number.”
Kellye Whitney is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.