Jay Waldron, who leads Massachusetts-based training solutions vendor Knowledge Impact Inc. (KI), got some good career advice early on: A co-worker in an auto body shop, where Waldron worked as a teenager said, "Listen to your math teacher, because this is no place for you."
Waldron took the advice and, fatefully, ended up in a high-tech arm of the teaching business himself: the red-hot arena of e-learning. KI designs and delivers e-learning functionality to major CRM players, such as Siebel Systems Inc., Nortel/Clarify and Witness Systems Inc., among others. Its flagship product, KnowledgeMate, uses exact simulations of CRM systems to teach business processes, rather than functionality. In other words, with KnowledgeMate, employees being trained in the use of a new CRM system learn how to do their jobs within the system, rather than just the bells and whistles of the system itself.
It is no secret that many expensive CRM solutions lie dormant because users never learned them or forgot how to use them. At KI, Waldron strives to change that. "We are riding an interesting trend," he says. "Knowledge Impact is making systems relevant to users."
The relevance of technology is something Waldron knows firsthand. In an industry that places great value on specific expertise, Waldron is a renaissance man: He is a former software engineer who, after working for several years designing applications for Raytheon Data Systems and The Foxboro Company, made the jump to marketing. "The major difference I saw was that companies look at solutions from the ground up," he says. "They think, 'if we build it, they will come.' The fact is, you have to look at things from the customer's perspective. You have to ask, 'What problem do you have that I can help with?'"
With his focus on customers over technology, Waldron made his way to the leadership position at CRM vendor Applix Inc. Then, two years ago, he left to join KI and the ever-expanding world of e-learning. "My challenge here at KI is to let customers know there is a better way to deliver the training and learning their employees need in order to be successful."
Based on customer experience, Waldron is rising to the challenge. He points to KI's success with brokerage giant Charles Schwab, which relied heavily on KnowledgeMate as it rolled out a Siebel CRM system to its enormous sales team. Other companies are following in Schwab's footsteps, as well. A growing recognition of the need for better training places Waldron and KI in a promising position, the kind of position companies and executives wait years to reach. Waldron says, "It's like catching a wave. You have three waves crash over you, and a fourth one comes along, and a company can ride it just right."