It is that time of the year, okay, not really, but it is time or more specifically near the time for the release of my Top 50 LMS mid-rankings report.  The report available for acquisition arrives on June 30th.  You will have the option to acquire the report at a pre-sale fee of $499 or wait until it comes out and pay the super duper fee of $599.

I know folks always want to know what they get for that sweet price point and all the factors involved on who is in and who is out.

Let’s first jump into what you get, besides my candid humor and independent take.

  • Top 50 rankings of LMSs – located around the world – listed #1 to #50
  • Breakdowns of each system including latest new features and quick take
  • Listing of top three systems in the following verticals – Banking/Finance, Manufacturing, Association, Education K-12, Higher Education, B2B
  • Listing of top five systems that I see as NextGen systems
  • Insight and Info that you will want to know before you buy any system – Each system in the rankings includes this section – at a minimum it will save you time and help narrow down the field
  • BONUS:  Mini video quick hits for each LMS Vendor 

Q&A – The Report in General

Q: What makes this report so different than any other report on the market?

This report contains the latest information available to the public. I have never been a fan of reports that come out once a year and as a result the data you have is now outdated.  Hence a mid year report.

Q: If I bought the Jan. report, do I have to pay for this one as well?

No.  As a benefit to buying the Jan. report, you will receive this as a free update, thus ensuring you have the latest insight available.  Changes have been made from the previous report, including vendors who are now out and new ones that are now “in”. 

The report also contains several new sections including vertical rankings, latest features and new insight.

Criteria and Other

Q:  What is the criteria for vendors being listed in the report?

The criteria includes the following (each of which was weighted)

  • User interface and user experience –  This to me is extremely important – if people can’t figure it out and it does not provide a user friendly experience, then it doesn’t matter about the feature sets
  • Modern UI – front and back –  Ties a bit to the top criteria point, but this is 2014, not 1999
  • Standard Feature Sets – You either have it or you don’t; I was surprised on the number who missed it – if you missed one standard feature, you lost a point and so on
  • The 10% – Cool features that do not fit in any of the below sections, for example, a couple of vendors have a built-in CRM, that’s cool, another two supported Office 365 – very nice
  • M-Learning Features –  On/Off synch, Native app, self-contained app, responsive mobile design, capabilities in the app
  • Gamification – You have it or it is on your roadmap for 2014; what are the capabilities/components contained within your “gamification” feature
  • Social Learning –  Are they the usual boring stuff or is it something new and cool;  sadly, a lot where in the lameo section – discussion board, really?  I had one on my web site in 1994.
  • Apps/Widgets –  Can the client (i.e. their administrator) add apps/widgets to their LMS?  What about integration capabilities such as MailChimp and so on – the more the better.  Surprisingly, okay not really, a lot of vendors haven’t figured out the whole cool integrations possibilities with additional services such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, Gmail and so on..
  • App store – You have one..you get points — a few vendors do.. more need to
  • Salesforce.com integation – I included it as a consideration point; you should have it and if not, on the roadmap – its a hot feature in the space today
  • HRIS integrations et al.. –  Everyone says they can do it, but unless you test and verify, how do you really know.  So for me, this wasn’t a real consideration unless they had something that was unique and verifiable – example: Workday integration
  • Administration capabilities – Analytics to me are important as well as admin experience – I am a huge fan of “drag and drop” in certain areas; also what did the admin side offer – one of the biggest problems I see with many systems is too much information. Considering that on, most admins do not use all the capabilities on that side of the plate, having an overwhelmingly amount can backfire.
  • Emerging Technology – Does the vendor lead or follow?  Do they seem to get it and understand at least where the market is going or are they just along for the ride?  I see a lot of passengers in the market – vendor speaking.
  • Vertical Alignment – Does your system hit the verticals or verticals you are targeting; I see many who use the blast to everyone approach, never a good idea
  • Support, Service – I’d love to say everyone has awesome support and service, but then I would have to tell you that the Easter Bunny chilled at my house over the weekend  – uh, he didn’t

Q: How many systems were considered?

My personal directory contains 610 LMS/LCMS/Learning platform vendors.   What always amazes me are the number of vendors who have ZERO clue how many are in the market.  They focus only on who they see now as a competitor, forgetting that the market is

a. Still in the infant stage – not yet mature

b.  Volatile –  in that people change systems more than say some other e-learning products (ex: authoring tools, web conferencing products)

As a result some vendors have the “narrow view” perspective.  They see the market in a narrow scope, rather than looking at the broader picture, which causes almost a “hubris” mentality.

 They see themselves as awesome and everyone else as less than that, forgetting that not everyone stays stagnant and that it is human nature to see your product, offering, etc. as your “baby” and therefore the best and most beautiful baby out there.

We all see our “babies” as well, our babies.  So, when someone says “you know there are a lot of babies out there who are just as cute and just as wonderful, ” it is understandable to ignore it, because it is your “baby”.  The problem though is that someone else isn’t ignoring it and it can come back and zing you.

Think about it this way – what do these vendors (AOL, Netscape, Polaroid, Digital and Borders/Barnes & Noble) have in common?  All at one time leaders in their respected markets, now no longer.  Heck some are gone forever and the rest are fighting for survival.  I’m sure no one at AOL ever saw it coming in a manner of speaking and oh, they had thousands upon thousands of users (just in case you were thinking that they were failing at that – they weren’t).

Q.  My vendor won this or that award and is not in your rankings. What gives?

I get this one a lot from folks and heck even vendors that are not in the rankings.  I recall one vendor who made the rankings tell me they should be higher because they won an award from a well known firm.  My response was that everyone uses a different set of criteria, so my criteria is unlikely to be exactly the same as someone else.  So, if you won an award from ABC, good for you – but that means nothing to me.

Every vendor is and always will be treated fairly.  For those who are wondering (and a few have asked):

  • There is no fee for someone to be considered, I don’t have an application fee, nor do I accept applications or any such other stuff, it is based on my own personal exploration of the systems in my list and that criteria
  • Case studies mean nothing to me, in reality they are marketing pieces under the guise of research (in some cases), I have no problem with a vendor having them or pitching them, but it never meant anything to me when I was on the other side looking at a system
  • Yes I have vendor clients (as many of the other organizations do), but not all of them are on the rankings. My clients hire me for lots of stuff, but not for lead gen and they are aware I do not do lead gen.  This is not a quid pro quo or pay for play – you want that – go somewhere else.
  • Number of clients and users – this honestly means nothing to me.  All it tells me is that you are masters of marketing, it does not necessarily mean you have an awesome product.

Many people tend to see clients/users as a cause and effect relationship – i.e. the vendor has a lot of clients/users and this says they have an excellent system.  Here is a hint – it doesn’t.  

I’ve seen systems that have lots of users and I think to myself – how, the system stinks.  On the other side, I have seen systems that are amazing but have very few or minimal clients – why is that?  Typically it is because people do not know they are out there or exist.   There are a lot of factors intertwined with that, but happens a lot.

I am not a pick the little guy over the big guy person, although some critics think I am.  I base it on an independent observation and careful analysis – the fact is there are a lot of really cool systems out there, that no one knows exists.  Now, they will.

Q: Can you at least provide who is in the report?

Absolutely, but I cannot provide their rankings or any of that other stuff.   The vendors listed below are in no order, no ranking, no nothing – it is just from my wonderful brain (and it is wonderful, just like your kid or dog, in my case)

  • MyBigCampus
  • Blackboard
  • Instructure
  • eLogic Learning
  • Expertus
  • Docebo
  • Frog
  • Shift IQ
  • NetDimensions
  • Cornerstone OnDemand
  • SumTotal
  • Litmos
  • WBT Systems
  • WebCourseworks
  • Kallidus
  • Unicorn Training
  • Growth Engineering
  • MediaCore
  • Panopto
  • Learning Cart
  • Meridian Global
  • Michaels & Associates
  • Moodle (open source)
  • Axonify  (please note that Kaltura VLP was listed here accidently – they are listed on my rankings at #51.  Due to a mis-read they were posted in here by mistake)
  • Totara
  • Accord
  • Aduro
  • IMC
  • Administrate
  • Accessplanit
  • Desire 2 Learn
  • Emtrain
  • Coloni-Glo
  • Edvance 360
  • ELEARNINGFORCE
  • SuccessFactors
  • ShareKnowledge
  • Saba
  • Mindflash
  • AnewSpring
  • BlueVolt
  • CM Group
  • Biz Library
  • LearnUpon
  • Interactyx
  • Absorb – Blatant Media
  • Deltak
  • ICS Learning Group
  • Ethos CE
  • iSpring Solutions

I can state that there are new vendors who are in the top ten that were not there in Jan. 2014 and new vendors in the rankings as well, with others dropping out.  Lastly, just because vendor X was #19, doesn’t mean they are still #19.

Bottom Line

So there you have it.  The top secret information that has been slightly opened for you to gaze into it.

The real gazing begins in two weeks. 

For those who would like to pre-order, please contact me.  You will receive the report when it is published for $499.  For those who want to buy when it comes out, it will be available for purchase on June 30th on my biz site.  Please do not look now and then send me an e-mail saying you can’t find it, because well it isn’t June 30th.  As an added bonus, when you pre-order you will receive a FREE 30 minute phone call with me. 

Next week’s blog covers my keynote presentation from Italy entitled Education 3.0 –  You’ll get the presentation, and the blog article will cover what I believe is missing from higher ed today that is impacting and more importantly, hurting their students from learning.  I believe its impact or lack thereof will only get worse – find out why next week.

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