Early Look – Top 50 Learning Systems 4 2018

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I was going to cover my Corporate Learning Systems forecast for 2018, but decided instead to discuss the Top 50 Learning Systems for 2018.  Now, you will not see the final rankings as a whole for the Learning Systems (i.e. the Top 50), but there are some individual learning systems in various categories and those will be identified.

This post includes our new format and approach to the upcoming Top 50 Learning Systems for 2018, and how data, findings, and end results were put together.  

The Tree – Learning Systems – the “term”

First off, after the last few years of just identifying the Top 50 LMSs for X, I decided to expand out and include (although they were in previous but not as specifically noted) others such as learning engagement platforms, sales enablement platforms, knowledge reinforcement tools (mobile) which are sub-systems or sub-platforms of either an LMS, LCMS, learning platform, or can be a standalone newbie or only a KRT system. 

When you look at the market today, the LMS and sub-genre has changed.  Nowadays at least to me, the applicable umbrella term should be and will be Learning Systems.  Then under that (think of a tree) are LMSs (the largest segment/market), learning platforms, learning engagement platforms, sales enablement platforms, knowledge reinforcement tools within or as a standalone system (has to be driven by mobile) usually though for a KRT the back-end is some type of CMS, micro-learning platform, video learning platforms and other type of learning systems that do not fit into at least one box. 

Game based learning systems for example, slide under learning platforms.  I could easily argue that a micro-learning platform can slide under a learning engagement platform and/or a learning platform in of itself.    Plus there are vendors who say they are this and then when something gets hot the next year or the change their “spin”, they are now in this category.  I’ve seen this uptick more so in 2017 than in the past. 

The New Approach and Format

Whoa Nellie (h/t to the late Keith Jackson)! The look, approach and output is well, something totally brand spanking new.  Something for you and something for someone else who is not you.

The breakdown of NEW


  1.  A listing of the Top 50 learning systems (by rank) in a mini-report which includes a high-level analysis by me, Craig Weiss.
  2. The Top 25 will be covered in this blog in a span of two weeks
  3. The 50-21, will be noted, but specifics will not be – after all, they will be in the mini report.
  4. A link to my Scoop.it page, whereas you will read more insight and analysis by me, short and tight, after all it is about brief and micro (ha!), and a link to the vendor’s web site (you can see the site in the page and then bounce for more info).
  5. Listings in my brand new platform Find an LMS, whereas you can search in multiple ways, filters which will include LMS  (inc. LCMS, learning platforms, other types of learning systems not defined), LEP (learning engagement platforms), SEP (sales enablement Platforms), Top 50, Top 20, Top 10.   And yes, even by an extensive set of functionality (features) too.   And that is just the tip of the iceberg.  
  6. Access to Find an LMS is free to all consumers and vendors who want to spy, err acquire insight, on their competitors (hey, I’m being realistic here.  You know you folks do it (i.e. competitors). 
  7. The mini report is FREE.  You will download it as a PDF.  The first version includes the rankings, and mini analysis, along with a link to the Scoop.it page.  The second version or update if you will, includes a link to Find an LMS too.     The mini report will include some info on who I am (in case you are wondering or someone else is wondering) and my services (for consumers and vendors).   Again, total transparency here.
  8.  I am 100% independent. There are no affiliate deals or kickback or pay for play. I can’t stress that enough.


The Methodology

Similar to the way it was conducted last year, with breakouts for consideration by each category (market/space) under “learning systems” and then further breakouts by targets i.e. small business (vendors in that space),  SMB, mid-size, Large (10,0000+ internal employees) and B2B/B2C.    I didn’t go with the category “Enterprise” simply because the term itself has changed in the industry.

Days of it being the “10,000+” are gone.  Nowadays you see vendors stating “Enterprise” from 301, up to X (which can be as low as 700),  1,000, 1,500 and so forth.   The new angle is going with a focus on functionality you receive under “Enterprise” versus say anything else that is not “Enterprise” – this is a trend by the way you will see more of in 2018.  Anyway, not all vendors prescribe to the functionality limitations versus robust in Enterprise, and just state “Enterprise” as the differential and not due to more versus less functionality (i.e. if you buy a SMB per se – the features are the same as Enterprise). 

Extended Enterprise as a category has been vanquished as well.  The new term or the one more common for someone to say is “multi-tenant”.  If someone says that OR they want B2B, which would require “multi-tenant”, well you get the picture.

Functionality plays an important role as it should.  Here are some others

  1. UI/UX – takes top priority.  Now not every system here is super flashy, because you may have strong UX, and average UI (at this point, but on your roadmap you plan to enhance that UI.  Based on track records of roadmap delivery is assessed in the findings). 
  2. Functionality (as a whole) as noted earlier.  An LEP needs to have X, Y, Z, versus an LMS which needs to have at least the minimum original 16 standards, which I have now pushed out to a minimum of 30 standards based on the market – where it is now, and where it is heading, albeit the latter is defined in analysis as “future growth”, so that functionality is not rated or weighted as high as current functionality.
  3. Communication – How long does it take the vendor to respond – i.e. support and sales person.  I used a seven point scale with weights for each point.  Higher the better.
  4. Financial Data and Analysis – plays a strong role in the results.  This information will never be made public, so please do not ask for it.  It was used for calculations in the overall rankings.  I mean a vendor who constantly is losing money, uh, is not someone that belongs in the Top 50.   I did NOT consider or weigh if the vendor received any funding.  As noted, VCs and Equity firms and pushing out a lot of money, and in some cases I have to wonder how much due diligence they did, prior to. 
  5. Support Track Record –  The fact that the number one reason people leave one system for the next AND gripe how they hate their system is tied to support and service.  Every vendor knows this and yet, as a whole support in this space stinks. A lot of average and below avg out there.  I used a series of items (a list of questions whereas I inquired to each vendor), regarding support.  Each of the items was pre-weighted prior to reaching out to them.  Again, higher the better.   An additional factor was inside knowledge or experience with each vendor.  Plus a weight of points towards track record.  Maybe the vendor stunk in early 2017, but by the end of the year, mass changes which resulted in well, real good results.  That shows a positive track record.   I should note that “training” was a point factor too.  Have a training department you get 20 points.  Do not – ZERO.   Training was weighted appropriately.
  6. Roadmap track record – I know there are always unknown variables at the time a vendor puts together their roadmap.  The importance as a whole though is overall, what is their track record from past year(s) to current year.
  7. Forward Thinking – Weighted points here.  We want forward thinking vendors.  Everyone says they are, but “surprise” many, many are not.   It is like saying we are a “NexGen system” and in reality it is nothing more than a shiny front with poor UX.
  8. Admin side – garnered a lot of weighted points.  The admins are ones in the system the most, so UI/UX should reflect that.   What usually happens is that vendors focus on the learner side first (understandably) and then ignore the admin side.  
  9. Learner side – did you have a dashboard of some format on the home screen when a learner bounced in.  Everyone says they do, but it is quite clear to any analyst who knows the space, to be able to tell the difference.    And saying “Netflix” like experience is worrisome.  When I use “Netflix” I get recommendations of movies I would never watch in years and “Netflix” made by “Netflix” movies and shows.  Plus finding the thousands of other films they have beyond the front screen is difficult to say the least.  Not a great user experience to me.  Last year, BTW, vendors – quite a few – pitched “Amazon like”, not “Amazon Prime like”, but Amazon like as a whole.   I mean Prime Video UI/UX is awful, especially on their mobile app (but I digress).

Areas I ignored

  • Vendor claimed retention rates, customer service success.   No one is going to give you numbers lower than 85%, and even that is rare.  Strangely, 95% or higher seems to be a constant score.  Now, knowing how many folks leave system X for system Y, I find that difficult to believe.  Unless you have like 10-25 customers.   I love the number one in support thing going around these days.  According to who?  Your employees? No, wait.. The three people you saw at Starbucks.  Got it.

Some early winners

As I always say, “Bobby pick me a winner” (from The Natural).  Ok, there isn’t a Bobby.  There is a Voodoo and a Cheyanne, but they are not experts in this space.  The dog space, absolutely. This space? No.

Learning Engagement Platforms for 2018 (The Top two)


  1.  Learn Amp
  2. Degreed

Sales Enablement Platforms – Top Two


  1. Mind Tickle!  – Their approach to web cam coaching is fantastic.  The score level by manager/coach and viewing process is top rated.  I wish more vendors across the learning system industry would follow suit or at least push it to the next level.
  2. QStream – I will note that their sales response time is average and communication response time can range from good to below average, so average there too.  Depends totally on the salesperson you get, which says “sales training is needed”, then again it could be a top to down attitude too.   Sad really, for a solid product, but Mind Tickle! is far better – albeit they have a smiliar issue with communication response time too.  Maybe it is the space itself?  I saw this with a few other vendors who play happily in this market.

With SEPs the focus is on sales training, but many of them have and push customer service/support training too.  My recommendation for QStream – use your product internally and constantly.  Anyway, still a top tier product in SEP. 

Bottom Line

Tada! There they are.  Sorry, this year’s bathing competition has been removed.  Asking questions on the planet and not knowing the answers is in. 

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