Iron Mountain’s Information Economic Academy

IRON MOUNTAIN AND THE CHANGING DATA LANDSCAPE

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Iron Mountain is the largest provider of data management, storage, and destruction in the world. Iron Mountain was started in 1951 with the goal of managing information and analyzing risks, costs, and benefits produced in the collaboration of valuable ideas. Among the services it provides are: records management, secure shredding, document imaging, federal records storage, risk management consulting, and more.

Traditionally speaking, Iron Mountain has focused on physical and print records. However, these types of media are becoming more obsolete in a developing digital age, where most conversations and information are kept digitally. With this shift, an additional issue for Iron Mountain emerged: in order to maintain their position as the leader in data management, Iron Mountain would need to shift its focus to compensate for this growing prominence of digital information.

Iron Mountain responded to this by creating the concept for an "Information Economics Academy" (IE Academy). This academy would educate their global sales organization on modernizing their marketplace to reach clients that needed help and information on managing digital data.

While this was progressive, Iron Mountain did not know what the academy would encompass, how they would present it, or how they would motivate their sales organization to participate. Ultimately, this necessary step meant a large shift in client interaction and relied heavily on salesforce engagement. The goal of the IE Academy was to help the salesforce understand the need to evolve the level of their knowledge and conversations with clients to continue being trusted advisors. Doing so would also inform which salespeople could best adapt to and support Iron Mountain's forward looking view of records and information management professional roles and responsibilities.

Knowing that this major shift would disrupt salesforce activity, Iron Mountain approached SDI Consulting in January 2015 to help create a curriculum of courses that would assist the salesforce in understanding the need to evolve. Traditional training and development focuses on learning objectives, or the information that is delivered to employees. What this training fails to account for is the performance, goals, and desired outcomes of the information delivered. In short, it focuses on the training information and not the employee or user experience.

Because of SDl Consulting's experience in learning and change management, we understood that both are equally important and interconnected. Without an engaging experience and content, users will not retain critical information, and that would lead to these training modules being less effective. Knowing this, Iron Mountain asked that SDI Consulting help create a learning experience that evolves the mindset of their salespeople to match a shifting industry so that employees would be better suited to communicate and advise their global client base.

ASSESSING IE ACADEMY'S NEEDS

Initially, Iron Mountain was looking for SDI to develop a pilot curriculum for the IE Academy, containing only three courses. To maximize the effectiveness of this program, SDI developed a program around the emerging issues. We shuffled around objectives and topics until we landed on a structure for the course that would guide transformation of the organization.

In creating the content, we had to take into consideration that we were working with a global sales force that was constantly on the go. Our courses had to be quick and consumable, so that the learner could engage with the materials on their own time for a last-minute refresher before speaking with clients. These micro-learning sessions were developed for mobile and global access. Topics would also need to be sequential, giving users full context before getting into more detailed information. This put users in the right mindset to connect the information directly to the sales conversations they have with clients on a daily basis. These programs were able to push participants through open-ended questions to think about how they could apply what they have learned.

These courses also needed to visually represent a new chapter in how Iron Mountain team members interact with clients, yet still fit within their existing brand standards. If the sales team was expected to shift their focus, the training needed to reflect that shift as well. Our team of graphic designers put together several exciting themes for Iron Mountain to choose from, so that there would be a consistent feel throughout the course. Characters were leveraged to help narrate and facilitate the content. One such character, a British professor, became the main character and Dean of the IE Academy. Learners understood that when he talked, it was always an important subject. We made several revisions, perfecting each character's personality, and making sure that they remained professional.

BUILDING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

In order to make the program accessible and effective for all users, SDI created and hosted the IE Academy on its new proprietary talent development ecosystem, Expectancy Learning. Expectancy allowed Iron Mountain to customize a gamified environment for the IE Academy experience to each individual learner. When the learner would enter the environment, they would be exposed to a theme that matched the courses. This prepared the learner to be in the right mindset before even beginning a course. The environment was designed from conception for an on-the-go workforce accessing content via their phones, tablets and laptops or desktops.

Participants were also encouraged to connect globally through discussion boards, swapping ideas and observations pertaining to the IE Academy experience and how they could use it to better interact with their customers. This ensured that users and the salesforce of Iron Mountain would stay engaged with their learning process, developing a better long- term organizational environment.

We enabled Iron Mountain to facilitate a global conversation surrounding the rapidly evolving information management industry, and how they can positively react to those changes to better serve their customers and their business. Furthermore, the environment  in which the courses were housed provided rich analytics on the activities and conversations taking place; this allowed us to quickly glean valuable insights on learner activity and apply quantitative value to the pilot's success.

In addition to collecting test scores and completion rates, we were able to see how the learners engaged with the environment, measure how their attitudes shifted from before the pilot to after, and connect the material they learned to the discussions taking place within the environment. This gave us insight into how the learners were thinking, enabling us to refine the courses based on real data. Most importantly, it allowed us to intentionally measure the impact and success of the pilot.

RESULTS

In the end, we were able to pilot the program to 180 members of the salesforce ranging from entry-level positions to executives in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. We constantly connected and recalibrated the program to make sure we were meeting their expectations and needs.

Our focus was on more than simply fulfilling the work; we gained an understanding as to what was needed to engage users and what impact it would have on the larger organization. Our innovative and holistic approach provided Iron Mountain with rich analytics, well-structured and understandable content, a collaborative environment, and an impactful user experience that ensures that their conversations will indeed fundamentally develop.

The final evidence of success has led to building out nearly 30 courses for the IE Academy which will now be shared with both Iron Mountain's global sales force and customer base to drive deeper understanding of the evolution of the information management industry.