#HRTECH Learning Vendors Preview – Who to see and who to avoid

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Welcome, welcome all!

To those from HR who are new to this blog, I give a high five. To those who have been constant readers, I give a high five with a low five to boot.

And to those who are constant readers from all over the world and training, L&D and other professions, I give two high fives, four low fives and a bucket of joy.

Why am I so happy?  It is HR Tech.  Well, not yet, but it is coming up and with that are all those wonderful vendors and that magical expo. Where each and every one of us who attends the show, can walk, view, photo or video, each booth.  Seeing if the folks in the booths are interested in us, or themselves.

But one of the biggest problems I see at such shows are the number of vendors who in hindsight I wished I avoided.  I recall at ATD this past year, a vendor who was trying to sell people ahead of time their LMS.  They stated it was coming out soon.  It still hasn’t arrived yet.  Some would call that vapor. I call it, 10 minutes I lost.

This year though it is going to be different.


Good to Excellent


This is a system that has a lot of potential, but still lacking a few key items in the areas of classroom management, compliance, gamification (no leaderboard), event management and so on.  Frankly, a lot of features that are standard are “in development”.

The UI is very solid.  If you are willing to wait it out, until many of features I would find useful (and in many cases standard among the LMS space), then this is a system to explore.  I place the system in my good to excellent category, simply because of its potential.  And, because many of the other vendors who are here at HR Tech, really are just average to poor (but not everyone).

Oh, the folks at CD2 respond quickly – so a plus on that (for those who have never sought out systems, communication response time is important).

Biz Library

A perennial top 50 system (2013, 2014, 2015), this is an LMS to examine more in depth.  A new UI, a new approach and a new attitude (okay, maybe not that, it just seemed to fit).  I admit though that I do have a concern, and it isn’t about the system, rather Biz’s approach.  They sell the system two ways.

The first way, you buy the courses and the LMS is included (so content priority, system is tossed in).  

There are few and I mean only a few who follow this pattern (example: Skillsoft), where the course library is the primary and the system secondary.  Usually when this occurs you get a crummy LMS, since the courses reign supreme.

But with Biz this isn’t the case. The LMS is solid.  The second way, is you can purchase the LMS without buying their (Biz Library) courses.   If you just want the LMS, then the best fit IMO is SMB (Small to mid-size business).  If you go the primary route, courses #1, LMS included, then any market will work.


They actually have two learning management systems, but for whatever reason, they are pitching their SharePoint version.  Perhaps they will also pitch LMS365 too, which is their other platform.

In the world of SharePoint LMSs (defined as those who are built on SharePoint, rather than API or interface to SharePoint), ELF’s system works. 

The system was in my top 50 in 2015 and 2014.  I mean if you are a hardcore SharePoint person who wants an LMS built on SharePoint, then ELF is a serious contender (there is really only one other who is close, but they are not at HR Tech, so sorry, no name mentioning).

That said, if you are seeking an LMS who can API/interface to SharePoint, then the vast majority of systems on the market can do that.

I digress.

LMS365 is relatively brand new and ties directly into Microsoft Office 365.  It still utilizes SharePoint, so for those who are core SharePoint users, don’t worry – be happy (on a side note, the guy who wrote that song, hated it).

Anyway, social exists in the platform, along with a built in authoring tool and the system is SCORM course standard. 

Between the two systems, I am leaning more towards LMS365, just because I honestly believe it has a future in the SharePoint space much more so than their other product (nothing against it, but…).   I mean ELF SharePoint LMS isn’t going anywhere,  but again, this is just my opinion, LMS365 is a new take with the integration of Office 365.




This is a tough one, because honestly there are a lot of average learning systems at HR Tech.  I know some people, especially the vendors will disagree, but hey, that’s life and buy the way, I was reading this book the other day, which included a section on how to win the game of “LIFE”.  The fact that someone wrote about that is concerning.  The fact I read it…

Meridian KSI

At one time this would have been in my good rating for an LMS, but starting in mid 2014 and thru the early 2015, it went downhill.  Then a new CEO rolled into town and started to taking out the bad guys. Wait, wrong movie.  Anyway, a new CEO did come in and the shake up began – in a good way.

The system is going though some changes, and a new release is scheduled in the winter, which I surmise is Q4 or Q1 2016.  If the release delivers than Meridian could easily slide back into the good ranking.

Oh, strategic learning, extended enterprise and compliance are all included in their LMS.  I’m not sure why they “appear” as separate products on their site.

Cornerstone OnDemand

Yes I know it is extremely popular. But just because it is popular with people doesn’t mean it is the best, and trust me it isn’t.  The UI angle is somewhat misleading, because while they have done some UI changes – and it looks way better – in other areas the UI enhancements have yet to be seen.

Feature wise the system has it all, but there are some items that it does not have – and rarely do people inquire about those items, until it is too late. 

For example, you can upload a course only one at a time.  Now, if you have like 35 courses or just bought a huge course library, uploading one at a time – well, better get a Snickers bar, because you are going to be there awhile.

Oh, you can bulk upload – but that has to be done through Cornerstone – they will do it for you – for a fee.  How nice!  Not.

The administration side can be overwhelming – sometimes too much information isn’t a good thing.

CoD uses the module angle, whereas you can buy one module (learning for example) and if you want performance management – that is a separate module.  I’m not a fan of modules, but that isn’t what bothers me the most about their offering.

No, it is when people looking for systems assume that every LMS follows the module approach.  The truth of the matter is that less than 10 vendors (that I am aware of) out of 680+, go module.

One last item to mention.  IMO Cornerstone is more of a HCM (Human Capital Management) platform.


While I place Saba in the average spot, I do think Learning@Work is heading in the right direction (cloud based platform). 

The UI has been vastly improved – it still has some work to do, and the feature set is strong.  I love the deep learning component where courses are recommended based on a set of variables – which for Saba is courses/content taken or completed, skills and profiles. 

Personally, I’m not a fan of the “profiles” piece – I see other variables as better options.

While I haven’t seen the “vetting” on the admin side (they told me they had it), if it does exist, then the user listing their skills, whereas the skills are not as high as they claim, could be changed.

If I was to compare the Big Dog Four – SuccessFactors, Saba, Cornerstone OnDemand and SumTotal by Skillsoft, Saba would win hands down.   I should note that Saba is another HCM possible player, and that the majority of their customers also buy two modules (learning and performance).

Anyway, getting back to the LMS.

Can the system be improved? Oh yes – and it needs to be, but as noted above – heading the right direction is way better than the wrong direction.  Speaking of which..

SumTotal by Skillsoft

I can’t figure them out.  The UI has been revamped – a plus.

The feature set is solid – a plus. However the system as a whole is just average.  One of those big problems for me is the UX (user experience), the other is while they have updated the UI, it takes more than making it modern, to make it good.

SumTotal ruined IMO the GeoLearning LMS known as Maestro and will Skillsoft buying SumTotal, I wondered to myself whether this would be great or awful.

I mean it wasn’t the other way around, which was a plus, but on the other hand, you have a course provider buying an LMS vendor.  The same course provider whose own LMS, Skillport is either a toss in (usually the case) or is sold to customers (I saw a contract where – Skillsoft charged the customer for it).

Anyway, SumTotal is another system heading towards the HCM space.

I used to always hear their name mentioned when people were looking at Cornerstone.  Now I don’t.


Another system whereas learning is secondary not primary.  Yes they offer it and sell it, but if you look at the entire platform it is pointed towards talent management – thus the primary. 

From folks I know who have the system or had it, the feedback has been mixed – from above average to average to even poor. 

The system does not have the entire feature set one would expect, but again, the main focus in a TM solution, not an LMS (there is a difference btw between learning as secondary (but still could be sold as a single entity) and learning as primary (majority of LMSs)).

I’m still on the fence with the system, hence the average rating.  The UI is sharp in some areas, but like in other areas – ugh.  Plus why are you AICC course standard?  SCORM yes – AICC? Another dated standard – great about 15 years ago.

Oh, just an FYI – get ready SilkRoad – I’m coming – to your booth!  With a live Periscope Feed for readers.  No pressure here.. No pressure.

NetDimensions Limited

The solution for their learning is called talent suite.  This was another system that at one time I liked. 

And it is another system that is I no longer feel the same way.  Feature wise they are solid and UI wise vastly improved, but when you are wondering if they are forward thinking my answer would be no.

At one time sure – they were the first ones to see mobile as a possibility and had a mobile LMS on USB.  The problem though is when tablets rolled out without USB connections, NetD sat back and did nothing, until it was too late – as in they went from first to mid pack.

Social arrived late for them as well. 

This is truly an average system and I do have real concerns on whether they are focused on the future with forward thinking feature sets such as learner-centric and deep learning Or are they happy staying mid road and waiting for others to take the lead.

Response time is average to poor.  When I have dealt with them, I found it to be poor – and I mean awful.


HCM product all the way, but learning is offered.  Features are average – could be better and the UI needs an overhaul, especially the administration side – date city (as in dated, not like an actual date).  There are some pluses, but not enough to make me go “yowsa, wowsa”.

Response time is average.  However, when dealing with them, I found it to be poor.





To be environmentally friendly, I’m going to zip thru these systems, thus saving air at your cubicle, office, home or coffee shop.

Oracle Taleo

I seems as though this system hasn’t changed in years.

The system at one time was solid – during learn.com days, then Taleo bought it, said it would be infusing a lot of money into it – and later on, said they infused more money into it, than the days of learn.com.  

Anyway, the product is dated. It needs a massive overhaul in a lot of areas.  Okay, with the entire system.

If you are an Oracle customer, you can interface or API with many LMS vendors in the market.  I say this because I surmise there are Oracle customers who decided to go with the learning system because it was also Oracle.  

Oh, with any ERP or HRIS solution, you can interface with the majority of LMS vendors – just an fyi in general.


At one time I liked the system, but those days are gone.  The icons they use in their UI are dated. I’m not kidding, I think I saw icons that were hot in 2000.   The UI has been tweaked or enhanced as we say, but it still needs more.

If you are one of the SF legacy customers who received a letter (not a call mind you, but a letter) regarding the end of support coming down the pike, I’m sure that went over well.  Hey, thanks for the memories – let’s keep in touch – by snail mail (postal). 

SF is so HCM nowadays and in many ways to me, they are pushing more towards HRIS. 


The system used to be CertPoint for those wondering.  Feature wise it is quite strong. UI wise it isn’t.   Infor does not hide that their solution is a HCM and I respect that (not hiding the fact).

Bottom Line

There you go.  I left out Workday Learning because it is still being built and until I see an actual beta, anything else is just wireframes and a touch of vapor (total tech lingo here).

As someone who knows a lot of HR folks, I am acutely aware of the challenges before you. 

This isn’t going to be easy.

But at the same time it doesn’t have to be hard.

And it won’t be anymore.

E-Learning 24/7






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