Top 50 LMS Report for 2016 – What you need to know (criteria, approach, and yeah some vendors)

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It’s nearly here.  In a little over two months, my 2016 Top 50 LMS Report will be available for purchase.   This post isn’t so much a “buy, buy”, rather it is to give insight into the process, considerations, and factors.

Not everyone gets in. And yeah there are vendors who will taut that they are in X list or Y rankings and thus should be included.

Then there are those who use the “traditional” and “non-traditional” tag as a reason for being listed.  Sorry, that’s marketing.  You want marketing, I know some sites that will list you.  But you won’t make my list because of that.

This isn’t a beauty contest, nor a pay for play (I NEVER accept that, nor play that game, nor do I accept any referral fees or whatever some vendors offer for recommending them).

My goal has always been to offer a report based on independent, fair analysis.  Everyone is considered.  Even open source systems.   Regardless of where you are located in the world – I’ll find you and if you are good enough, place you in the Top 50.

Before we dive in – The Big Dogs Question (yeah, I get it a lot)

I identify the Big Dogs as SumTotal by Skillsoft (yes, that is the actual name),  Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba, SucessFactors and Oracle Taleo (although, I ask myself who is using this and if you still are why?).

These are vendors who have been around a long time, build share of the market and generally speaking had early name recognition which has helped them in build business.  Are they better than every other vendor in the market? No.

Do they offer feature sets that no one else has? No.   Are they better suited than anyone else for Enterprise or Extended Enterprise? No.

But, they do use modules (so you can buy learning for example, and then down the road or at the same time performance and so forth). 

Each one of them is a HCM (Human Capital Management) solution, albeit I see SuccessFactors as one vendor pushing themselves into the HRIS space.

To me, each one of them does a lot of different things, but learning is a secondary, not primary. 

I say this, and you can see it yourself, buy seeing all the modules available.  More towards HR (at the moment) than say learning, but that doesn’t mean they do not care about learning, nor see it as a revenue generator – they do.

Talk to many of them privately and they will say that most folks buy two modules out of the gate.

Not every vendor mind you will state this, but a few have and still do.   Then there are other vendors not on this list, they utilize modules. Total number of vendors that do (out of 690 that I now track),  less than 15.

But I digress.

For the 2016 Report: The following vendors are in the Top 50 (for details, insight, data and cool extras, have to purchase the report).  However, I will say this:

I like what Saba is doing.  Their offering I think is going the right way and the level of forward thinking at least for right now is sweet.  Is it a top ten? No.  They need to do a series of things and enhancements to get there, and I see them lacking – backwards if you will on a couple of items – which makes no sense.

SumTotal by Skillsoft – the 2016 re-haul is a huge plus.  The system still – equally as Saba – needs some work.  I think Skillsoft has the power to turn it around – ST that is, when it comes to learning.

Cornerstone OnDemand –  The whole separate Salesforce solution makes little sense to me, considering the number of vendors who have API or used Salesforce Canvas in their systems and thus it is a part of it.

CoD is successful in the market, because of name recognition and a conservative flavor for some consumers who are worried or concerned about vendors who lack name recognition – a major mistake in my opinion.

That said, CoD has the feature sets.

The UI is a major minus.  They have some nice screens, then dated look.  Reminds me of someone who has the money, but decides to redo the kitchen with a new and fancy look, yet leaves the living room with a look from 1999.


  • SumTotal by Skillsoft
  • Saba Learning
  • Cornerstone OnDemand

Not in

  • Oracle Taleo – Seriously, either overhaul this thing or dump it and torch it.   I feel bad for the folks who were, then thought Taleo would improve it, then Oracle.   And BTW, nearly every LMS can interface with Oracle products.
  • SuccessFactors –  Just for those folks to remember, SF is owned by SAP and had acquired Plateau.  They haven’t been Plateau for a few years, so stop calling them Plateau – a pet peeve of mine.  That is like calling Blackboard, WebCT, since they bought them more than 15 years ago.  Sheesh.

SF is underwhelming in my book. I just think there a way too many better platforms out there.

A Small Sampling of who’s in the Top 50 LMS for 2016 (in no particular order) Not every vendor who is in the report is listed below

  • SkillsServe by Unicorn Training
  • eLogic Learning
  • Growth Engineering
  • ExpertusOne – BTW, now has an app in the Salesforce exchange
  • LearnUpon
  • Docebo
  • Instructure Canvas
  • Matrix LMS
  • Blackboard
  • Frog
  • BizLibrary
  • Emtrain
  • IMC-AG
  • CM-Group
  • ShareKnowledge
  • Meridian
  • Adrenna
  • WBT Systems
  • Spoke
  • Kallidus
  • Digital Chalk
  • DB Primary
  • Litmos
  • Brightwave – Tessello
  • Administrate
  • Moodle
  • CoursePeer
  • D2L – for Higher Education
  • ServiceRocket – Learndot
  • Plus many more –

Who is Out (but was in last year) (actually, there were quite a few who dropped out)

  • NetDimensions – Not sure what is going on there, but what it is – isn’t working
  • MyBig Campus – Gone, but well, forgotten
  • Panopto – Ahh, what could have been.  But wasn’t.
  • Instancy
  • Percolate
  • iSpring Online
  • Wormhole
  • And a few others

Couple of clean up items for those keeping track

  • Aduro is now Go1
  • D2L has an Enterprise version, I wouldn’t use it, I get why they are jumping into Corporate, hint it has to do with money (potential)
  • NEO LMS is similar to Matrix, they say they are separate companies and yes, that is true, but the product is more than similar, I smell doppelganger here – reminds me how many people you run into that are duplicates of someone you know (or is it just me, that see’s it?)
  • Degreed is not in the rankings, because they are not an LMS.  Social sure? That algorithm angle which they need to fix, yep its there, but to me it is an “overlay” if you will – a face in front of taking courses, nuggets of info, etc.

You want to take a course on Skillsoft, click in Degreed and get pushed out to Skillsoft’s servers.

The course is in your LMS? No worries, push out into your LMS.   I like the system and there is a need for another type of aggregator out there, and aggregators can be more than just courses, so I see them as an e-learning tool.

And no, I do not see this as the future or a must need.  Unless you like this type of platform, then yeah, it’s the best of them out there (but they are not an LMS)

More fun stuff

There is a new number one for 2016.  Guess what?  I won’t tell you, not until the report is available for purchase then there is a blog post.

Reason for change?  Simply speaking, the new number one has pushed forward on several things that just place it higher.

The previous, Growth Engineering is still a phenomenal product, much more than just gamification.  Super robust platform – has it all. 

But, as noted, the new number one, has added a this and a that, and in the end of the day, it just ranked slightly higher than Growth.  But it was extremely close. How close? Three points higher.  That’s close.

What’s in the Report

Separate Rankings for Top Three Systems

  • Social
  • Mobile
  • Gamification
  • Innovation – think deep learning, curation and more (new category) – oh and it is different than NextGen
  • B2B/B2C  aka Extended Enterprise
  • LMS Ecosystems
  • Enterprise
  • SMB
  • Mid-Size
  • Small Business
  • Government
  • Higher Education
  • Association
  • K-12
  • Compliance and Regulatory (new category)
  • Technology market
  • Manufacturing market
  • Retail market
  • Healthcare market
  • Financial Services market
  • NextGen
  • Analytics and Reporting (new category) – Big Data is coming, these are the top three that can make it happen
  • xAPI and LRS – Both components are a work in progress, but some vendors have figured it out – and if you want that as a core feature, here’s three to see (new category)


  • Latest insight and forecasts (in 2015, forecast success was over 94% accurate)
  • LMS demos (on – updated from the vendors themselves, see it, before you buy it – includes contact details and more
  • Special discounts from vendors, if you decide to buy their system. Exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Exclusive access to special video section on the blog
  • Data – Graphical – You want analytics, you are going to get – some real hard data to crunch – err, read, i just love saying “crunch”, almost as much as “munch”
  • Discount to my “Find an LMS” and “Product Assessment LMS” services.
  • Oh, and info and data on multiple categories – helping you make an informed decision.  Curious to know how each vendor calcuates their pricing? Find out in the report. Want to know their road map for 2016? It’s in the report. Setup fees and what is included? Hello, it is the report.  Support info including number of support agents? Report.  Mobile, Social, Gamification, Innovation feature details? Report time!  Compliance and Regulatory – Report – no more trying to guess, read it. Intell about each vendor?  Mmmmm. Report!  Plus much much more.

This year’s report still provides you with the details, data and info that crushes any other report out there.


Because of so much variance in the market in terms of vendors who are more along the lines of learning platforms that often lack robust analytics and reporting, along with compliance and a few other feature sets, their breakdown assessment was different than LMSs that fall into the more robust category, feature wise, many times analytic wise, and overall.

The learning platforms are LMSs and while some see themselves as this “non-traditional” break the mold, I just see them as an evolutionary stage based on demand from a segment of the consumer market.  But there is still more than enough of a demand for other types of LMSs (majority of the market).

I went an additional set of steps for each vertical on top of the final numbers.

Thus if Vendor A was #7 and had 1300 points, that was their ranking.

If they targeted the association vertical (the report lists each of the vendor’s target markets), a new set of criteria was included.

It didn’t impact the overall rankings per se, but if there were 10 vendors focusing on association, then to decide who is top three, more pieces have to be set for calculations.

Thus, an additional point total ranking.

If multiple vendors ended up equal based on the additional point totals, then the tie breaker would be the combination of overall point total and additional specific for that vertical point total.

Points, Weights and Assessment

Understanding the variances as noted above, the following was included in the criteria.  Weighting at a higher percentile and thus points, is identified with (high) next to the criteria.

  • Features of the LMS – especially the learning environment for the learners, strengths and weaknesses (high).  Be aware that just because the vendor has lots of features it doesn’t mean they are awesome – if you can’t get to B from A or X is confusing, then feature sets mean nothing
  • User Interface –  Modern – it has to be modern – oh this is for learner side and admin side
  • Administration side – Features, look and feel, capabilities (high)  – No more “here are the features and capabilities” have fun figuring it out OR look I found a time machine and your admin side went to 1975. The people who are in the system the most, are not your learners, it is your administrator(s).
  • Analytics and Reporting – There is a market seeking stronger analytical data and extraction has to be within your LMS
  • Innovation (high) – forward thinking – always remember you buying a LMS, not just now but three years down the road –  so being forward thinking is what you want.
  • Support and Service (high) – Number one reason, people leave their LMS.  Isn’t it time to fix it?  Better yet, have it count for something other than misery (when you depart under unhappy circumstances)
  • Adaptability – I love it when people say they support change, then when it is time to change, forget about it.  In this market you have to adapt. Slugs back to the corner.
  • Learner dashboards (high) –  This is the future and frankly should be your present (vendor that is). If you have a learner dashboard – ie. learner enters the LMS and zing their home page is a learner dashboard –  oh, what you can do.. is sooo much better. 
  • Mobile –  Another you need it now, but you also need this and that – Yes it is a feature, but it is separated from the features of the LMS;  this is reality
  • Feedback – Let’s hear it from the consumers – based on attending trade shows, hearing from readers, folks on social media – it’s amazing how many people will tell you their stories if you just ask them – and I thank each and every one of you
  • Technology infrastructure –  Is your system only available on a shared server or can it also be on a private server? How do you handle large sized clients, who are you using to host? Amazon S3 or a server in your garage?  What is your downtime? How often do you do updates? What about maintenance? Have you done a stress test and if yes, what was the release time and how many users did you test and oh yeah, when did you last do it (if you did it all)? 

What I did not include was pricing, nor is it in the report. 

Yes I understand people want to know, but here’s the thing, there is no one set price. 

To say to a vendor with a scenario of, “I want to know the cost for 1000 users” –  isn’t just a simple retort. 

If I am a vendor who does not accept customers who have less than 2,500 for example, my response is unavailable or N/A.  If I am open source – I’m free. 

If I am a low cost LMS, I may not support 1,000 or my pricing is based on additional other factors. 

Then there is a question on how the seat number is decided upon.   Do you take an estimate of 500? 1,000? 10,000?  What about a multi-tenant for B2B and B2C? 

Even when I have seen reports that list pricing, what you are seeing is street pricing and pricing based on the day the data was collected. 

I as the vendor may change my pricing before the report comes out, but after I sent in my data. 

Or I may give you a special deal because the end of my quarter is coming up, and I want to hit certain numbers. 

Maybe you are moving from one system to another and that first system is a competitor of mine, so I am going to give you a discount for moving. 

As you can see there are lots, lots of variables.

Bottom Line

There you have it.  What is included in the 2016 Top 50 Report, which will be available for purchase on January 21, 2016. 

For those who wish to get on a waiting list and score a $100 off discount for the price of the report ($599), there is a contact form.  By completing the form you are saying you want to purchase the report when it comes out and get a $100 discount in the process.  

Order one today.

Or tomorrow or next week..

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*When the report is available for purchase, you will receive a link with a discount code to the web site to purchase it. Enter in your discount code, pay for the report and then the report is sent to you.