Latest on LMS Insight – Before you buy

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In just the past two months, a lot of things have been going on in the LMS industry. Some good, some of concern, but nevertheless important to know.

20499432_sPerformance Management

There has been a big uptick in the performance management angle.  As mentioned in a previous post, the feature set for the most part includes the usual – skill gap analysis and 360 feedback. Some vendors have included performance reviews.

What is different though is the inclusion of such items as succession planning, leadership development, career mapping (in some cases) and other PM feature sets including enhancements.

The downside to this whole thing, is that some of these vendors are so focused on adding PM, they are forgetting a few items that I don’t know would seem relevant:

  • Enhancing their administration side to make it easier, more flexible and capabilities; let’s not forget that they people who are in the system more often than learners are administrators
  • Learner driven features, for example, Instagram is popular with social and more importantly via video, so why am I not seeing something similar in social?  Where is the mobile video uploads into a LMS?  Oh, right, nowhere.
  • Making their system easier to use for all learners, including ADA 508 compliance (which many do not have), possibly PENS which is a great benefit to admins (on a side note), Safe Harbor certified for Europe (again, many are not), boosting mobile capabilities
  • Auto connectors with various HRIS, ERP, CRMs etc. – some vendors are going that way (see later), many are still stuck in customized and expensive interfaces

Performance Management to me, could be a blessing or a curse.  First off, there are a lot of folks who do not want it – not now, not ever.  Secondly, it is not a spin/replacement for talent management, although the terms in the past have been used interchangeably.

Thus, my take is that pushing out scary “talent management” which is geared towards HR and OD,  the more relaxed term of “Performance Management” seems suited for anyone (although I highly doubt it for the masses).

Here is where PM currently stands in the industry for vendors who either are offering it already or it is on the works and on their roadmap. As noted it is on the uptick.

  • Already included in platform at no additional charge – again, the usual feature sets as noted above are there
  • Offering it as a separate module (and add-in) if you will.

I personally have mixed feelings on this.  One for folks who want it, they will pay extra for it. On the other hand for the masses who don’t want it, they won’t.

In the end I still am in favor of including it and then let me decide. Who knows, maybe I want to include skill gap analysis with enhancements and then turn the other stuff off.

Competency Management

Another feature set that is on the rise. The vast majority of systems in the market have some form of it (as usual there are quite a few who don’t).

The key here is not that it exists, but that what is starting to show up are more capabilities within competency management than ever before.  My current template, identifies the most common, but my new template to launch in mid-March will list the latest feature sets hitting the market.

Competency is hot and honestly it seems a perfect fit tie-in if you will with gamification to boost what is possible.  Competency also rings well with mobile, especially those folks who are doing OJT (On the job training). Add digital signature to it and whalla super feature hit.

As for those folks who want competency tied to some of the competency models out there, don’t fret, it is slowly coming along – at least with a few vendors.  Already one has it in play – Shift IQ (on my top 50 list).

Free Courses when you buy

As for 2015, free content is on the rise. There are more vendors today than in December, who are now tossing in a few courses or in some cases many, eLogic for example(120+) at no additional charge.  Docebo were the first ones to do it, and to me it makes perfect sense.

Auto Interface

If you have never heard of the term don’t worry.  Some vendors are pitching it as “auto connectors or connectors”.  Here is how it works.  You have a HRIS or ERP platform, let’s say Workday or SAP. 

In the old days (okay, even in 2014), you would need this customized interface done by folks which would cost a lot of $$$ and time and in many cases frustration.

Connectors change that.  Simply speaking, the system connects automatically with your various platforms.  You add your access to it and whalla you go.

I should note that customization interfaces can still take place, depending on your level of customization with your HRIS, ERP and so on.  However, for many many folks, the auto-connector will be the only thing you need to start the push/pull of data between the platforms.

Salesforce to the extreme

The old ways was SSO.  In 2014, a few vendors offered the ability to take courses, assessments and so forth within Salesforce.

Now, that is changing and I think in a very good way.

The term vendors will use is “Salesforce Canvas” or “Canvas”.  This BTW is not nor has any tie to Instructure Canvas.  Rather it is used from a technical standpoint.

Salesforce is the big one in the house from a CRM standpoint, which is why you are seeing such a big focus on it.  The capabilities above are just the starting points, since the new push is to do more than ever before.

There are also vendors who have a built-in CRM too, but the learning feature sets within Salesforce have increased.

Terms to Know

Out of the Box – This mean that what you see is what you get with the system.  They will skin/brand it for you and do a few other items, but it does not mean heavy customization. 

When you view a demo ask the vendor to show you some other clients front ends that were out of the box.  When they show it, make sure to ask if this look was an extra fee.

M-Learning – I’ve mentioned this before, but in the basic sense all it means is that you can view the system on your mobile device.  If you want on/off synch ask them.  Do not assume anything. 

If you need a native app for Windows, don’t be surprised if they say no.  It is not common in the industry. Nor is Blackberry.  If you have a Mac no need to worry, I haven’t seen any issues with Safari and accessing SaaS LMSs.

Browser Agnostic – Every vendor will tell you they are.  But if you are using like Avant or something not common, be forewarned it may not work.  What will work, IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

Always ask the vendor if they support your browser version.  Some vendors no longer support IE7 for example.  Fnd out the Flash version – if you are seeking that.  There have been plenty of fails from folks who find out later that ABC is not supported – and they never asked.

E-Commerce – If you do not have a payment gateway and need one, ask the vendor if they can help with that.  Many people just assume that e-commerce comes with a payment gateway, more often than not, it does not.  If you use PayPal, ask the vendor if they support that.  Same thing with AMEX, Discover and whatever.

 B2B/B2C –  If this is what you are going to be doing, find out if the vendor offers a pricing model specifically for that.  You will be surprised at the number of vendors who do not. 

Worse, you will find vendors who really do not offer it, say they do and then when you see the numbers, after you awaken from passing out, will immediately realize this isn’t so.

Bottom Line

That’s the latest. But as an added bonus here’s this – more LMS vendors are focusing on the mid-size and up (internal employees), than small business which is a shame.  On the flip side, B2B is picking up which is a positive step.

I do wish that vendors realize that just because the employee size is small, their budget might be big.  You can never assume that customers who have 1,000 employees for example, have a small budget.

Which is why I always say this to any vendor, every customer is important, every business deal is too.  Never forget that your job is to get new customers.

Not lost opportunities.

E-Learning 24/7

 Please note:  There is no blog next week as I will be in Saudi Arabia speaking at the 4th International e-learning and distance learning conference.  The week afterwards will be my post on this very exciting and special event.

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