Truth be told, nowadays there are a lot of LMSs out there that are pitching themselves as an “extended enterprise”. Perhaps they sell in the retail space or channel partners, but when you really drill down, what you see isn’t truly what you want to get.

It reminds me of those horror movies you go and see. You hear about how scary they are and how you will be scream in fear. You sit down, nervously excited. Popcorn in hand, drink in another. The film starts – you tremble. Your heart pounds. 

Cut to the end. You stand up and realize that what they advertised was nothing of the sort. In fact the only scream you hear, is the one you shout out after realizing how much you paid for the tickets.

That is how I felt after looking at these extended enterprise systems. At one time, they truly were (just like that horror film you saw).  They see themselves as an EE and others might too, just like that horror flick.

Thankfully, there are extended enterprise systems that are truly hitting the mark. Next Gen, I call them. Nothing frightening about them, they deliver what they say they will and more.

Creepy House

We all had one. Somewhere in the neighborhood, a house that would make your hair stand up. Some people said it had character, others said it was haunted.  I argue you can say the same thing to the extended enterprise market.

The premise of these systems is really quite simple, but as you are about to see, what seems easy or “has character” in reality, is far from it.

EE systems should have

  • Multi-tenet or multi-portal, some call them multiple portals
  • E-commerce (should be included, and not an extra fee)
  • Main system (portal or parent) can push out material, courses, etc. to the sub portals or children
  • Main portal or parent, can see all the sub-portals/children – data, info, everything
  • Sub-portal/child – can have their own courses, materials, tests, etc. – or those from the parent or both
  • Sub-portal/child – can see only their system, not any other children or sub-portals, but they can setup their own rules – access, etc.
  • Sub-portal/child – can be given a lot of capabilities or limited – depending on what the parent/main portal setups for them
  • Sub-portal/child – should be a sub set of the main LMS, it is branded/skinned differently then the main system, so LMS vendors allow the header and footer to be changed in the sub-portal/child, but the parent’s main logo still appears

Now comes reality – you know it was really a haunted house, after all, there is someone watching you (add your own creepy laughter here)

Ghost Stories

There are LMSs out there, that pitch the EE, but the way they spin it, their EE is nothing more then the organizational hierarchy changed, so that the department is now region is now a channel partner. Yet, if you didn’t have a channel partner or sales partner, then it could easily become a division or whatever at your company.

Other LMSs state  that have the EE features, but in order to have the true extended enterprise, the child has to purchase a LMS and then there is an interface if you will, to connect each channel partner with one another. Thus, your channel partner buys the LMS – ie. the one you just bought, with the same features, blah blah and they are connected. 

Some systems call themselves EE because they sell to the retail industry or have clients who have channel partners.

However, many of these systems – once you really drill down on them, have nothing extraordinary about them – nothing that shouts truly an “EE” solution that offers an advantage over say a standard system.

One of the ways vendors pull this off is by listing e-commerce as a feature. Yet, paying for courses, self-registration, accepting vouchers, doesn’t qualify you as an extended enterprise, unless you have the common EE components listed above. 

Many systems nowadays who have e-commerce, have the self-registration, discount codes, accept credit cards, etc. as part of their solution, but they do not advertise themselves as an extended enterprise.

Nor should they.

Are you afraid? You shouldn’t be.

The next gen of extended enterprise systems are offering feature sets that set them apart, because their components are truly geared towards the channel/distributors space.  They scream “$$$” for the parent/main portal.

Features (not Creatures)

  • Marketing tools – whether it be email marketing built in, SEO, link tracking
  • Digital downloads area and can track it – to see who is downloading what, how often, useful when purchasing is involved
  • Can sell courses, products, items, whatever – not all EEs can do this – some will allow you only to sell courses
  • Multiple domains – everyone has their own domain
  • Incentive points or reward incentives
  • Extensive e-commerce reporting – more then just how many of this was bought or that
  • E-commerce, can include shopping cart, Authorize.net gateway or payment gateways
  • CRM integration – customer relationship management or salesforce.com or you can add it via APIs or widgets, etc.
  • Accounting features – P&L, invoice tracking, integrate with your own acctg software
  • Shipping/Logistics tracking – a couple of systems offer this – pretty cool actually – but definitely something totally new

Fear is not an Option

Now look at the EE system you own. Do they have at least three of the above listed features? If they do not have at least three, then they shouldn’t be considered an EE system in my book. Four features at least should be the standard, and these nextgen EE systems are doing just that – at a minimum.

If you are in retail or have channel partners/distributors/wholesalers, etc. and you are seeking an extensive EE system, which one would you want? Those that pitch but do not even have the full set of the first tier – minimum EE requirements?

Those that have the first tier, but do not have at least three of the nextgen? Or Tier 1 – standard EE features, plus Tier 2 features – at least four of them?

If it was me, I would want the latter, because these systems are going somewhere and not just there.

Who Are They?

I identified 27 such systems that fit into this category, of which ten stand out above the rest. That said, there is nothing bad about the others, but from a feature set, these are more than solid.

No particular order, but with some features identified.

Accessplanit - e-mail marketing tools, multiple portals, integrates with accounting packages, invoice generation, nice EE solution

Administrate – comes with CRM (Customer Relationship Mgt) for marketing, sales pipeline mgt, invoice generating, reporting includes P&L

Agileview – marketing modules, can track leads from search engines, cross selling capabilities, UI is funky though

Blatant Media – Absorb  – e-mail marketing, incentive points, salesforce.com integration (to be released reportedly by the end of the year), robust e-commerce reporting, multiple portals – always a personal fav (note: they were a past client) – excellent UI for users and admins

Blue Volt – Very cool incentive points program, e-commerce reporting, can place ads at the bottom of the page, multiple portals/sub portals, e-commerce, excellent UI for users and admins, very good LMS

Espirt - cost centers, contract setup: each “corp” has own contract setup, creates front end stores, comes with online certificate, comes with online store software

Instancy – m-commerce, banner ads/sponsorship, delivers m-learning portals, e-commerce with shopping cart, internet marketing, accepts APIs for a CRM (Customer Relationship Mgt) db

Interzoic Media - Accord LMS - multiple portals, multiple domains, extensive reporting, e-mail notifications, API, e-commerce, downloads and shipped goods, social networking, solid UI still needs some tweaking

Via Training – ChannelSmart – Specifically for sales training, multiple portals, reports include strategic and tactical, data warehousing, incentive points and Zip N Go – shopping cart

Ziiva – Prosperity Signature - multiple portals, shopping cart, very good UI, nice solution, targets training vendors selling, has marketing tools

To view the entire list, NextGen EE Systems

Bottom Line

As aforementioned there are a lot of extended enterprise systems in the market, and its growing every day. Yet, for the majority of them out there, they are lacking feature sets that as a channel partner/distributor/reseller would really want.

Nextgen EEs are already attracting customers, who don’t want a fright, but rather the “right” extended enterprise LMS.

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