Grids are gone, Welcome2 T-Quad

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I’m sure you have heard of this old ditty from the days of past, “Ol’McDonald had a grid, e-i-ee-io. And on this Grid he has some vendors, e-i-e-i-o.  He had vendors in this quad, he had vendors in that quad and didn’t have your vendor, e–i-e-i-o.”

As you can see Ol’McDonald was a traditionalist.  He stayed true to what many of us are used to when it came to grids and learning systems or grids with anything in the consumer markets.

Yes, Ol’McDonald who was probably 120 back in the early seventies, so he knew his grids.

A New Approach

Say so long to the grids of yesterday.  Leaders quad?  Up and comers?  Average?  Avoid like the plague err low on the pole quad? 

Well, they do work, heck I’ve used that approach in the past.  But, after consulting my horse – a long day on the Pony Express will do that, I said to Igor, we need to change this up.  No, we cannot stay on the farm with Mr. McDonald.  We need to recognize what folks really want to know – who to buy!


Three quadrants – I’ll call them building blocks or just block for short. Each block err quad (the formal term) will have different labels depending on the category itself.

LMS T-Quad 

Top of Quad – the main top tier quad – will be systems to Buy  (a listing of six) – with dots on the area, based on functionality, UI/UX, Analytical data, data visualization and reporting, 

The top quad will cover Functionality/UI and UX (learner side),  then the next top quad in this category will focus solely on the administration side including UI/UX and data visualization/analytical data and metrics.  The third will be Wild Card (sounds cool, huh?).

The mid-quad – part of the T,  are “Vendors to Watch”  ” (six vendors) – This is a list of vendors who you may want to buy, but recognize they are on the rise – potentials – just like your favorite actor who you feel is underrated because they haven’t had that breakout role, but they are talented!  

In all seriousness, these are systems that I have no problem recommending, but recognize they are in the potential phase. 

They could continue to rise and achieve elite or they could slump and be right there on the Lifetime movie channel or whatever channel you have that shows movies that are between the direct to video circuit or handed out on a street corner.  

At the base of the T – is the third quad.   This will be a group of six vendors who once were on the rise, but something has happened.  They aren’t in the “do not buy and/or avoid category”, rather they are in the “consider category, but be aware that they have some flaws.” 

Wild Card are all the tangibles – support, training, roadmap track-record, Tier 1 NexGen.  You could find vendors that are in the other quads at the top level, equally here and the same applies to the second category of Admin UI/UX/data one too.  

Compare Three

That is right.  From all that information noted above with the three T’s will come a mini-table listing the top three that score the highest in each quad (points will be identified, so there is no confusion.  Maybe Widget in category one is “recommend to buy” – that is worth 10 points.  Widget is in the lower T in second category worth three points.  Widget in “Wild Card” is lower T again, another three points. 

Widget scores 16 points.  I doubt Widget makes it to the final three. 

LXP T-Quad (Six per Quad)

I have to ask.  Who did you like better – Mother Nature, Mr. Freeze  ( I can’t recall his name and I am too lazy to look it up) or Heat miser?  No reason, just curious. 

Anyway,  the LXP T-Quad is going to be served up a bit different.  It is still a T, but will be three categories.

Category 1 –  Functionality  (excluding skills specific)/UI/UX (Learner and Admin), Data and reporting/content partnerships/marketplace

Category 2 –  Skill building and development – functionality and capabilities

Similar to the LMS:

Top of the T –  Recommend Buy

Mid T –  Vendors to Watch

Lower T – Flawed, but doable.

Top Three

Add em up and score.  The Final Three. 

So yes, you could be a “Buy” in category 1, and a dumpster fire in category 2.  Uh, I will not be publishing that list (i.e. dumpster fire). 

Sales Enablement Platform T-Quad (Six Per Quad)

These are systems that focus on sales training (also customer service – but they do not always pitch that).  They all have some level of a sales component to them, hence the entire platform, some even have a mini CRM, but not all.   What they do have – most that is – are channels or playlists of sales content.  So they are heavily focused on sales training.

The T-Quad here is different, because so many folks are unaware of them, it is a very small niche compared to other learning systems, and thus it isn’t fair to follow the T structure as the others.

It is one category – The entire system – with the focus being on the learning side of the platform, since they push strongly on sales training. 

Some SEPs include Raven360, QStream, Mind Tickle, the soon to be launched Hub360,  ShowPad (just raised 70M USD in series D funding and bought LearnCore last year for 50M USD) and Brainshark.  That is just a few names, there are a lot more, thus,  there will be a Sales Enablement Platform Buyer’s Guide coming out this fall with the entire list of the systems. 

The Grid appears at the same time, and thus, listed by “Recommend”,  “Consider”,  “Maybe go back to Consider”.  I’m kidding. 

Recommend,  Consider, Potential  – those are the three quads. 

There isn’t a score break out per se though.

NexGen Learning Systems T-Quad (Eight per Quad)

These are vendors who have excelled in the areas of mentoring, skill management, data visualization (ideally includes BI tools or integration), integration app capabilities (beyond the usual of Salesforce, HRIS platforms, etc.),  Playlist/Channel functionality,  content curation, video management, machine learning and mobile Version 2.0.  

– You could see LMSs, LXP, SEP, Learning Platforms, whatever a vendor wants to call themselves but it is a learning system solution, micro-learning platform, etc.

The breakouts are

a.  Elite –  You can’t go wrong with any of these vendors

b.  Gold  –  Still can’t go wrong, but are not the whole package, very strong, just not elite.

c.  On the Rise – Has some really strong areas, and some average areas,  hasn’t risen to the level of Gold.

Learning Systems Bell Curve

It is a bird.  No, wait a plane. Superman – you are alive – but after seeing your last movie, please go back and be dead.

Bell curves can be a bit wonky to some folks, and I totally understand. 

This bell curve though will have labels so you know where the vendor is at all times.  If they are in the middle – i.e. top of the bell curve (Elite),  heading down the curve (right of the top) – depending where they are on the curve, not as strong as they once were, but still solid/good, if they are at the lower bottom – there are better ones out there, do not waste your money.

On the left side of the bell curve – the “risers”, the “ones to watch”, and near the top on that little bit of bell right below the top – Very good.

Basically, left side, top are recommend depending on your needs; right side off of top, still good/solid, mid of the right side of the curve – uh, have you heard of the Titanic? Abandon ship!  Bottom of the curve?  Better option is being part of the Poseidon Adventure (Great movie, but a key reason, why I won’t go on a cruise ship).

I think you see where this is going

They will play a key role in the 2020 Top 50 Learning Systems – not all of the entire criteria mind you, but a very important role – so you can see early on here in mid to late 2019, where they are placed, based on the T-Quad.

And now a brief word on my Gender research study

For those who are not aware, I am working on a research study involving gender in the workplace and leadership development.  The study is focusing on the learning system space.  A study investigating this area (I am holding off making all the details public) has never been conducted before in e-learning, let alone learning systems.  

Since learning systems make up the biggest segment of e-learning, it was fitting to start here.

Over 100 learning systems around the world have been contacted and asked to participate.  From vendors in the 10 people range to ones over 14,000 employees.  

Many have been very supportive and have already responded with their information (I requested) or will be doing so in the next 1.5 weeks.  

While the list of those already “in” is extensive, here are some names you might recognize  (this is not the entire list of vendors who are participating) 

Linkedin, Workday,  SumTotal, Cornerstone On Demand, Skillsoft,  eLogic, Cross Knowledge, D2L, Unicorn LMS, Saba, Docebo, Digits Glo, Fuse Universal, Degreed, EdCast, Udemy, Growth Engineering, eCom Scotland, Skillgate, Learning Pool, Spoke (Unboxed Technology), Eurekos, Gyrus Aim, Instancy On Demand, UpsideLMS, Absorb, Coorpacademy, Learn Amp and Axonify. 

Here are vendors we contacted and heard only crickets (despite multiple requests) 

Coursera, OpenEDX, Blackboard, Adobe, Oracle, Mind Tickle, QStream and G01.  

One vendor informed us that they have declined to participate


Publish Time (August) and Interviews

The study will be published in late August. It will be 100% Free. 

It will include interviews from several folks including those from Linkedin, Cornerstone, SumTotal, Axonify – thank you Carol – amazing CEO, Growth Engineering and Cross Knowledge.  

And it will contain additional data based upon our research topics. 

There will be two posts on the subject material.  One will be on this blog, the other on my site. 

Lastly, there will be a video of my findings, that will be on the web site, under our new vendor videos section coming at the end of July.  Yes, I will have my own channel/playlist too. 

Bottom Line

From the study, I can’t thank the vendors who are participating enough.  We have had vendors reach out to us, saying they want to be part of the study and we sent them over the information.  To any vendor who wants in, but we do not have on our list – please contact me, and I will send you over what I need.

As for the Grids, I refer back to my old traditional friend, Ol’McDonald,

“There’s a new grid, over there is another new grid, hey check it out, these are

Grids, and not grits.”

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