LMSs, TMs and HCMs

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And now a brief announcement:

Shocking news! SumTotal is calling their product a Human Capital Management system. Sure, they offer a separate LMS called SumTotal Maestro, but their TM has surprisingly (not really) been morphed into a HCM, will others follow? Oh wait, others were starting the trend. Never mind, now back to our regular scheduled blog.

The Taleo Spin

If you visit the Taleo home page, you will learn the following two items

And even better (now remember, the above tag line)

I must have been sleeping, but when did “learning” slide under Talent Management? When did “learning, which is training” become a defacto component of Talent Management?

Better yet, when did “learning/training” become a component of Human Capital Management? Because, Taleo’s system is a Human Capital Management System, when you purchase all the components (excluding learning, unless it is construed that way by Taleo).

Taleo can spin it any way, they want – after all it is their company, but to state that “learning and thus training” is a component of Talent Management is just ludricious.

Right now, there are training executives across the world screaming at such a statement. No offense to my colleagues who are OD (organizational development) folks, but the thought of having training under OD is nothing short of armageddon by training standards. The same applies when training falls under Human Resources.

True, HR at some companies provide “training”, but I have found it is always better to have the two entities as separate departments.

In my experience and I’ve heard it from other training execs as well, it just never works out well, especially when “training” is explicitly for the B2C and B2B space.

A Call to Arms

Taleo, which as many of you know, was purchased by Oracle. SAP acquired SuccessFactors who had acquired Plateau in the past.

Oracle in short fashion soon made an announcement that employee recruitment, training and management tools would merge with Fusion, which is a Human Capital management software.

Are we seeing a trend here? “Training” sliding under HCM? If you believe for one moment, that “training or as known in the e-learning community: “learning” is not going to continue to fall under HCM systems for vendors who have talent management systems that offer “compensation, benefits, recruiting” and alike, you may be interested in some swamp land in Florida.

SumTotal’s announcement does not include learning as part of their HCM, which for now is great news – but at some point will that change?

Thankfully ST Maestro is a separate business line, and it would be ideal to keep it that way, but to better compete in the market, especially when your competitors are already incorporating “training/learning” into their HCMs, wouldn’t it be a logical next step?

What about Kenexa? They are a HCM. They purchased Outstart, a LMS.

Right now, they are separate LOBs (lines of business) but will they eventually fall under the spell of integrating the two? I’m not sure, but if you look at some of their competitors, it would make strong business sense.

I’m not saying that Kenexa will ever follow their competitors in this fashion, but deep down it makes me wonder.

What about other companies out there in the HCM space, will they be seeking to acquire LMS vendors with such a goal in mind? If I was them, I know I would.

But, what is of greater concern to me right now are the number of talent management systems in the market, who include “performance”, “compensation”, “recruiting” and other components that easily could flip into a HCM at a latter point.

It can easily change the world of e-learning upside down. More so, it begs the question, “Will HCMs become a sub genere of e-learning?”.

In my mind, the eventual answer will be “yes”, just as talent management systems have become a sub-genre of e-learning.

Right now we are standing at the precipice and we have the ability to take a stand.

My thoughts, “You’ve got another thing coming”.


Talent Management and Learning Management

In just the past year, more smaller and mid size LMS vendors are jumping into the talent management space, by offering various components. These components typically include “performance reviews”, “succession planning”, “360 feedback” and “leadership and development”. Some offer just one component, others offer all.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing? For me, it makes strong business sense, but equally it makes poor business sense.

Despite what you may have read or heard, there are thousands of companies worldwide who do not want any talent management components in their systems. True, they are not visible, unless you purchase them (they are turned off in your system), but just the thought makes these companies cringe.

And, I’m not talking about SMBs, I’m also talking about large and extra large – i.e. 100,000 or more end users.

I recall one sales manager at one of the Big Dogs telling me that people no longer want a learning system, they want that additional channel – i.e. talent management functions. I’m calling them out with one simple word – BOGUS.

It is just another pitch to drive customers using a fear factor, that frankly is getting tiresome.

Fear factors have always been part of learning management space. Fear that if you switch to another system, you will lose all your data – not true.

Fear that if we get purchased by another company, you don’t have to worry – at least one customer of that switch to Taleo, thinks differently.

Fear that having an opt out clause is not necessary – not true. After all, did they notify you before consolidating or getting acquired?

I highly doubt it.

Hocus Pocus

What I constantly see in the industry is the pitch on one hand of a committment to a learning management system, and yet internally the vendor sees their system as a talent management system.

Two examples:

  • In 2010, a person at Saba was talking about their system to me. As he was discussing it, I said to him, it seems that you guys really see the system as a talent management system. He said, you are right. In fact, 63% of their clients were using the system as a talent management system, yet on their web site, they were pushing it as a LMS.
  • SuccessFactors is now trying to push more into the small business space with their learning management system. Kudos to them. But what is SF known for? Talent management.

To me, this is how vendors skirt the issue.

If you doubt it, use the “wayback machine” on the net and go back to the past year and view some of these web sites. See what their messaging was compared to what it is now. See the changes and ask yourself one question: “Can they be believed?”.

It’s just hocus pocus.

Bottom Line

Learning management systems are not dying. They will never die – so do not hit the panic button.

Talent management components are here to stay, good, bad or indifferent. Many systems will not go that route – whether it is adding one component here or offering various for an additional cost (and again, they are typically in your system, just turned off).

Human Capital management systems have always existed, but they are becoming a sub-genre, the moment “learning” is part of the package.

It is a whole new world for the e-learning space.

A mad, mad, mad, mad world.

Please note: I personally find great benefit in HCMs and the capabilities they provide. This post is how “learning”, which is term I use in e-learning, but in essence is training, is slowly finding its way into HCMs.

Just as ERPs have a place in today’s business world, so does HCMs and TMs. It’s the learning i.e. LMS, that is of a greater concern to me.

E-Learning 24/7


  1. Please note: I personally find great benefit in HCMs and the capabilities they provide. This post is how “learning”, which is term I use in e-learning, but in essence is training, is slowly finding its way into HCMs.

    Just as ERPs have a place in today’s business world, so does HCMs and TMs. It’s the learning i.e. LMS, that is of a greater concern to me.

    1. Additional note: In my haste, I had erroneously put that Taleo was acquired by SAP and Oracle acquired SF. In actuality, it is the other way around i.e. Oracle bought Taleo, SAP bought SF. The post has been updated to reflect this change.

      1. Hi Craig,

        My name is Oxana, I’m an MBA student at the Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT. I’m looking for an expert in LMS to provide an insight on some of the plugins available for LMS technology. I’m interested in web content sharing apps in particular, the ones that could possibly be integrated with LMS via bridge. Something similar to blackboard collaborate integration with Pearson LearningStudio. I’m researching this topic for one of my technology commercialization projects. I’m interested to know whether the consultants/enterprise trainers find the online web sharing collaborating environment useful in their e-learning courses. Thank you very much for your help!

  2. Thanks Craig — this certainly helps my own confusion investigating the market recently, and trying to identify a training solution that my company can use to deliver blended (formal/informal) training to customers. Everyone seems to be scampering the other way! I assumed there was more money in the HR/talent management market, and the acquisitions reflect this. I’d really like to read more about who’s covering and committed to the B2B market. Of course my company has its own HR requirements, so a solution that can be delivered both internally and commercially would be ideal.

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