In his bestselling book “Business at the Speed of Thought,” Bill Gates introduced the concept of the Digital Nervous System (DNS).  He described this phenomena as a “process that links every aspect of a company’s thoughts and actions.”  The Microsoft founder suggested that this linkage was key to making the basic operational data of an organization (including environmental information and feedback from customers) accessible in an electronic format so that it could be easily analyzed.  Gates theorized that access to this type of data would allow employees to quickly adapt and respond to said input.  He went on to assert that “successful organizations” would be the ones who developed a world class digital nervous system that allowed information to easily flow through the company.  Gates further suggested that this flow of information would facilitate maximum and constant learning, and as a result “shift” strategic thinking from a separate stand-alone occurrence into an ongoing process that would be integrated with all business activities.

Although Gates expressed the concept of the DNS in the context of running an entire business, it can be easily argued that this ideology can (and should) also be applied to the training organizations that support those businesses.

Training departments have a need to analyze operational data, including feedback from customers and environmental information.  Electronic access to this data eases the analysis process and allows the training professional to quickly adapt and make adjustments. Training organizations (and the professionals that staff training departments) need to consistently learn, if they hope to remain relevant.    Access to a constant flow of information maximizes this opportunity.  Finally, as Ed Trolley suggested in “Running Training Like a Business” shifting strategic thinking from a separate stand-alone activity into an ongoing integrated process is essential for training departments that are attempting to show the business value of their services. The proclamation by Gate’s that “successful organizations would be the ones who developed a world class Digital Nervous System” can easily be rewritten to apply to training departments by stating it like this: “The successful training organizations will be the ones that develop a world class Training Digital Nervous system (TDNS).”

The DTCC Learning Group embraced the concept of the TDNS over three years ago.  The customer training wing of the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation adopted a conviction that training professionals would be able to think, act, react and adapt more efficiently if the training group collected operational data, corporate decisions, environmental intelligence and industry trends, entered this information into a DNS and applied analytics. The leadership of the group believed that the results of this effort would be a better organization and better people.

This same leadership soon found however that developing, implementing and gaining acceptance (for a TDNS) was no easy task and would not occur overnight.  The results however were invaluable.  The adoption of this philosophy resulted in the business partner satisfaction (with the team) increasing from 43 percent to 96 percent and the group being identified as a “best practice organization” by Josh Bersin (in his training measurement study).  In addition, the learning content that the group developed has won numerous awards from the International Society for Technical Communications (as well as other organizations) and the DTCC Learning staff is constantly asked to tell this story at conferences.

My next series of blog posts will discuss the approaches that were used by DTCC Learning leadership in order to develop, implement and gain acceptance for a TDNS.