Time is that critical resource L&D teams never seem to have enough of. For many, being able to dedicate sufficient time to creating customer training materials that make an impact is very difficult, particularly when it involves engaging subject-matter experts (SMEs).
Luckily, there is a time-saving approach that L&D teams can use that results in satisfied customers, impactful courses, and engaged subject-matter experts.
In this interview, I speak with Joe Ryan, Program Manager of Training at Maltego, about how he developed his deep dive investigation approach with the goal of freeing up SME’s time, whilst ensuring their company’s domain knowledge is spread throughout the organization and that customers still receive high quality content.
Read on to hear how Joe unlocks domain knowledge through his deep dive investigation approach.
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Maltego is software used for graphical link analysis. The company works with many data partners and pulls in information from various data sources. As a tool, Maltego presents all of this data visually.
“Our goal is to help analysts and investigators speed up their investigations by enabling them to manipulate and visualize that data in one location,” says Joe.
“When it comes to our tool, the software can be pretty complicated. Many software pieces tend to be that way, especially for new users. So, we put a lot of emphasis on training in that regard.”
A big challenge for Joe and his team is that Maltego has a vast array of different types of users using their software.
“We serve three primary customer segments: people in government, cybersecurity, and trust and safety,” he explains. “And on top of serving these three different categories, our product ties in with different data integrations, and every customer has different data they use.”
For example, if Joe is designing training for Customer A, he first has to understand their use case and the data they can access.
“This makes it tough to prepare training for each customer because we have to customize everything and ensure that the information we're giving them is setting them up to use the tool effectively both now and in the future,” he says.
This makes it tough to prepare training for each customer because we have to customize everything and ensure that the information we're giving them is setting them up to use the tool effectively both now and in the future.
To add to the software complexities, many of Malltego’s domain knowledge lies with specific individuals—their subject-matter experts.
As Joe explains, “if we have an SME who has extensive experience working with cybersecurity, and that person is on vacation the week we need to train a cybersecurity customer, we run into issues.”
Or, if Joe and the team have a customer who would like their training to be delivered in Spanish, they have to figure out how to transfer the information from the knowledge SME to the SME who speaks Spanish.
“At this point, we were creating bespoke training for each customer, which took up a lot of time. It became apparent that we need to find a new method of training. ” says Joe.
So, where did Joe start his journey to unlocking the organization’s domain knowledge? Read on to hear about his three-step deep dive investigation approach.
Looking for more insights on how to engage subject-matter experts? Download our free cheat sheet: 5 Ways to Win Over Your Subject-Matter Experts
Joe and this team have started to make the switch from customizing customer training to developing a more standardized approach. Now, they are building out courses based on their customers’ use cases.
First, Joe and the team start by identifying those use cases.
For example, cyber threat intelligence is an essential topic for many of Maltego’s cybersecurity customers.
“Instead of having to talk to every single customer individually, learn all of their needs, and then spend hours, days, or weeks building a training course specifically for that customer, we now produce material that covers what we think any cyber security customer might need to know,” Joe explains.
Next, Joe and his team talk to the customer to identify exactly what they need. They then pull out three hours of material that they think is best suited to that customer from the pool of cybersecurity trainings they have created. “With this standardized method, we’re able to give trainers and SMEs back a lot of time,” says Joe.
“We call these investigated deep dives. Our customers experience this deep dive session into a topic of their choice. But on the back end, we have a large repository of information we can pull from instead of having to do these custom trainings every week for a different customer.”
As joe explains, they are still building custom content for different customers because they have a particular use case. While they have standardized some training, the team wants to retain the higher quality training they previously delivered to customers.
“So, it might be that instead of developing 100% of the content for this new customer, our SME would develop 20% of new content that fits the use case. This means, we would take 80% of the content from our repository,” says Joe.
Maltego’s deep dive investigation approach spotlights the many advantages of upskilling from within through collaborative learning. By collaborating with subject-matter experts who know the product, Joe and the team can design targeted content that meets their customers’ use cases while also freeing up their SMEs to do more research which can drive more content in the future.
One of the main observed impacts of Joe’s deep dive investigation approach has been the ability to free up SMEs time, giving them a chance to do more of what their role entails.
“I can speak on behalf of our SMEs that what they love to do more than anything is research. They love to learn more about their field, conduct their own investigations, write proposals, and attend conferences.”
“Now we’ve freed up their time, we've been able to let them do more research. The best part is that in return, that research often turns into more content that we can deliver through training.”
By standardizing the training process, Joe and the team have taken their L&D practice away from a reactive form of training to a more proactive one. They get to research what they're interested in and what is relevant, new, and exciting in their field.
“Their research naturally becomes training content for us. So, it's a win-win for our training team, the SMEs, and the customers.”
“We have been able to deliver more training to more customers because we don't need as much preparation time. We don't need to dedicate as many resources to each individual training.”
For example, Joe explains that he is not a cybersecurity expert, but with the standardized material, it is easier for him as a trainer to learn and understand the material and present it to a customer instead of all that information being locked away with one cybersecurity SME.
We have been able to deliver more training to more customers because we don't need as much preparation time. We don't need to dedicate as many resources to each individual training.
“This has allowed us to deliver more training, which for us is a major achievement. When customers buy a piece of software, if they don't know how to use it or don't feel comfortable or confident with it, they just won't use it.”
“The more training we can deliver, the more confident they will feel with the tool. This impacts the business return as a result of satisfied customers who tend to stick around a lot longer.”
For Joe, one crucial tip is that growing your L&D practice takes time. The leap between where Joe and the team are and where he sees them going is likely to take years to achieve.
“For us, it’s about focusing on the small wins and looking at how we can improve our processes already in place. One of the things that I frequently tell my team is that right we're not working on a new way of training, we're working on updating our current way of training to best suit our customers.”
“Once we have this in place and we're happy with what we're offering, we can then go out, innovate and make these big jumps and changes,” he explains. “Sometimes I have to reel myself back in and realize this is a process that takes years, not months. So be patient. That's the one piece of advice I could share.”
Thanks to Joe for sharing his deep dive investigation approach with us–we wish the training team at Maltego the best as they continue their journey!
Looking for more insights on engaging with your subject-matter experts? Check out how Kirk Werner at Udacity is creating memorable learning experiences with subject-matter experts and Riyaz Adamjee’s method to convert subject-matter expertise into impactful learning experiences at GTreasury.
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