I love forecasts. Forecasts that always pick the weather wrong or forecasts for the future that either hit partially or never, but you dream, that maybe, just maybe that LaserDisc you bought for $10 might be finally hitting its stride, 30 years later.
In late 2009, I did my first forecast on this blog. Then others followed thereafter. I used the standard approach many folks I assume use, I grabbed my magic 8 ball shook it a bit, and read those future words, “I don’t understand”, “Yes”, “No” “Ask Again.” Afterward, I grabbed some paper made it into an 8 piece thing with my fingers and followed up with additional questions. I was surprised how awful it turned out. I decided right there and then, that perhaps there was a better way.
It involved looking at the industry, studying the trends, and picking out the nuances that pointed towards this or that, and then pushing it out. Since that blog, my forecasts have been over 90% accurate. For 2019, written in 2018, close to 95% accurate (as of today).
With that mind, here are my forecasts for 2020. In usual fashion (but for folks new to my site, etc. and I thank you for coming), I use icons to represent keywords
HOT – Medium –
The Rise of Workforce Management – The latest buzz word to enter the lexicon of the learning system industry, for systems targeting heavily towards employees. The system does not need to have any TM or PM feature sets, to use this term, and in essence, it is replacing the usual phrases such as employee engagement, workplace management, and workforce engagement too.
Workforce management is vague and ambiguous enough to do well in 2020, albeit for learning it would seem to me that workforce enlightenment would be better suited, unless you plan to incorporate additional HCM functions into your learning system, which of course, will place you completely into the segment of SuccessFactors, Cornerstone, SumTotal, Saba Cloud, Talentsoft among others. It should be noted that for many of these HCMs, learning is the driver and the one that sales the most, compared to all the other modules if someone was to buy just one module. There are exceptions of course, but nowadays, okay for many years, many folks who go the route of the above, purchase at least two modules.
What is of interest to note, is the fast growth of that second “other module” that people who are eyeing HCM that have TM/PM, Recruiting mods, is the “recruiting” mod, and the amount of investment R&D wise that I have seen on that side of the house, with numerous systems with multiple modules (they are in the system already, you buy, they turn it on), towards recruiting including applying for jobs within the company tied to your skill sets which wait for it, comes via learning.
I mention this because there are vendors who continue to push towards adding performance management functionality to their learning system, with many people assuming these vendors to be, LMS vendors when it just isn’t universally true. I’ve seen some PM components entering LXPs and learning platforms, neither of which, would ever say they are an LMS. The fact of the matter is that any learning system can provide you with skill gap analysis (and have since the late 90s), and any system can provide you with leadership development too (you just have to create the curriculum path, etc.) – in other words, all these items have existed, and no one then referred to it as performance management. It was and still is – training and learning.
Performance Management is not going to replace Learning
I am going to tell you something. shhh.. here it is – LMSs are here to stay. The market continues to grow at a very strong pace. Learning systems overall at not yet at a mature stage, despite the length of the market, simply because even with LMSs (as the largest segment), more systems are going in, then leaving. There are not yet any repetitive flat-lines to indicate that the market is at full maturity, compared to say, Performance management, Talent management, HCMs, and even HRISs – all of which I see at mature. Assessment tool market? Mature. Authoring Tools? Mature. And yet, I hear over and over again, the “LMS is dead” spin, or at full maturity angle, which leads to the end of the LMS, as though the use of term screams the end of the world.
It is thru this lens of “end of LMS” that the calls of performance management appear, over and over again, as if you are stuck in an infinite loop. I guarantee that you will see at least two sources say that the LMS is dead or dying, and that performance management is replacing it, has replaced it, will replace it, blah blah. I am telling you that is 100% NOT True. If you are a B2B/B2C learning system, you are not adding performance management feature sets. If you target the association market, there is no reason to have PM feature sets. If you see your system in duality for employees and customers, then having PM features makes absolutely no sense.
I am still a big believer that learning systems should focus on learning/training. If I want talent management, then I should buy a TM system, with the assumption that whom I am buying – talent mgt is their forte – their strength. I always find it amusing on the PM will rule and LMS is dead folks, who fail to notice that TM systems, who were once 100% all TM are now adding learning as a component or a module.
Anyway, don’t buy into the LMS is dead angle, which includes the traditional LMS spin. After all, how many of you who drive a car or own a house, say it is traditional since you know, they have been making both of those items for over 115 years.
Functionality you Can Expect to See Rapid Growth in 2020
Each of the following is showing significant “hot” trend lines
- Self Assessment for skills – End-user rates their skills, via either an assessment or a slider bar showing ratings. Manager/Admin has the ability to review self-assessment and agree or disagree, if disagree, can modify it. The self-assessment skill ratings are the big-ticket item for 2020. It will drive a lot of capabilities including
- Machine Learning content curation – In other words, the content that is selected err recommended to the learner is based upon the algorithm which is tied at some level to the skills of the learner themselves, whether it is self-assessed or as they take additional content. Machine learning will continue to be big in 2020, with Adaptive learning being added to the mix.
- Skills Development – Hello, is this King Kong? That is how big skill(s) development, growth, improvement will be. Pick this content to develop your skills. Read this text to enhance your skills. Pick areas of interest tied to your skills. Build your skills. Master your skills. If you are at ad nauseam for micro-learning, then fear not, skills development/building/etc. will soon replace it. And the kicker – every learning system can include it, even those targeting B2B/customer training.
- Content Curation – Continues at a strong pace. I’m not a fan of the whole system – i.e. every client’s end-users viewing/taking of content appearing in my learner’s recommendation list as though, that is the key factor, but some vendors are adding this as an option, and one has it as the way it has to be.
That said, content curation tied to playlists including those recommended (by the system), most popular, trending, interest will continue to play a big role. If your system isn’t doing content curation, then, well, you are going to flounder. Which leads us to…
- Content First Strategy – Big. Big. Big. Cornerstone and SumTotal already note they have a content-first strategy, and just in the past few weeks, even more, vendors are adding this to their repertoire. I support this, only if you have a content marketplace, whether it is online where clients can see (not the end-user) or via the phone or both. The way it works is very simple – Client looks at your content partners that you have already, they pick the content they want to buy for their end-users, content them goes into the system. Done.
On a sidebar, please remember that as a client, you do not have to purchase the same number of seats for the content you buy, as you have in your system. Many folks think they do, and then grumble when 65% of their audience isn’t ever going to see it in their catalog or path.
I know of vendors who tell me they are not in the content business. One such vendor, NovoEd comes to mind. If I, the client have no idea about where to get canned/off-the-shelf content (which is growing, after years of stagnation – even with folks who have had Learning systems in the past), then, what should I do? Plus, how do I get it from the content provider into your system? Do I want the hassle? Do I need the aggravation? This is why the growth of content marketplaces are happening.
If a vendor tells you they are not in the content business, I can only assume they must be in the web server business, because without content, that is all you have – a web server.
- Video Auto-Transcripts and Scan Features – The next tier of video management. You see a video (self-contained), and the system publishes automatically a transcript of the audio (this is not the same as CC). You (end-user) can read the text, highlight it, and then it goes right to where you either highlighted the words or sentences and/or if the system has a search component within the transcript option it goes thru that. This eliminates huge weaknesses that exist in today’s viewing of a video.
a. No one is watching the whole thing. People fast forward or push the navigation quickly to get to the end. Since very few folks have a TOC with their video, the option of going to a specific section in the video is too end-user driven, and trust me, fast-forwarding to find the spot, then go back to the spot, is cumbersome.
b. People who want to leave and come back to that spot or series of spots (let’s call them what they actually are – bookmarks) are unable to because see “A”. With the transcript, scan option, they now can.
I’ll add a third point here because I just read this amazing factoid earlier this week – Gen Z (the folks we now have to deal with in the workforce or soon enough), are increasing the speed to watch the video. Yep, data is coming in showing that many are no longer watching in actual speed time, rather they are in a way fast-forwarding up the speed. Some are doing this with podcasts too.
The people who do this, claim to acquire the information quicker. Now, since I failed at my speed-reading class, where is Evelyn Wood when you need her, I find this amusing, but anyway, that is what is taking place with Gen Z, in case you were wondering.
- HUB – I’ve written an in-depth post on the HUB and everything points towards it being HOT in 2020. This will be a major disruptor in the industry, in a very good way.
Forecast System Types
- LXPs will continue to grow at a rapid pace but expect more and more to crossover into the LMS terrain with very similar if not replicated functionality. Minor differences for sure, but it is starting to get hard to tell the difference (for the majority of buyers) – another reason, I believe that Digital Learning Platform is the better route to go in name term. I know of multiple systems that are using “learning experience” on their web site and SEO keywords, even though they are an LMS or another type of learning system that is not an LXP.
- Sales Enablement Platforms – Watch this space!!! The systems leverage learning with a very strong dose of sales features – CRM, for example, is one of them. A lot of money – investment-wise is coming into the SEP space, Showpad is a perfect example, but always remember, just because someone is getting capital doesn’t mean they are the best system out there – because you know what? Showpad isn’t. Better ones include Hub360 by Unboxed Technology and Brainshark.
- LMS – Still hot. If there was something to extract in the LMS space that folks might find of interest, is that many more vendors are finally seeing the bigger picture and are:
a. Zeroing in on specific verticals rather than shotgunning their message. To the point, that if you are not in that vertical, they will respectfully decline. I’m a big fan of no more than three verticals, otherwise, you are just wasting time and effort to get, what 2% of the share? Plus, it assures a tighter focus on R&D.
b. Curtailing the accept every RFP that comes to them. This is a huge problem in the industry. Another factor though is that many people continue to send RFPs that are 100 plus pages. I stopped using an RFP, in 2001 when I would buy systems. And I loved the systems I bought. Even today, the template I offer folks to use – is available in a shorter form thru FindAnLMS – (via the filters aspect). Trust me, you can find the perfect system without re-writing the research paper, your English professor assigned to you those many years ago.
- Netflix like experience isn’t going anywhere. This is the new norm. Live with it. Until something new and shiny shows up, maybe Disney+ Experience or HBO MAX experience? Visual now reigns more so than ever before. Even if you are not a fan – as a vendor, let’s remember, you are not the one buying it – someone else is.
- Coaching/Mentoring – stays in the hot cycle. I will readily admit that one of the coolest coaching/mentoring features I saw was with this one vendor, where their system uses a series of indices to scan the end-user speaking -in the video – webcam or upload record – and then identify the speaking level up to post-grad level to identify where the person, in fact, should be when speaking to others, i.e. if you are doing a sales pitch, you shouldn’t be using words that are geared towards graduate school. Similar to the readability index, the audio angle was quite intriguing, and it also did counts in terms of ahh, uhhs, etc. I liked it. I have found only a handful of systems that do that, let alone, enable the coach/mentor to record themselves and have the learner see that in comparison. Most still, have it one-way, i.e. end-user records themselves sends to coach/mentor, coach/mentor review and respond in text.
- 3rd party canned content – HOT. I believe the key difference-maker in the long-run will be niche content, in other words specifically targeted, rather than say, leadership which everyone offers. In my soon to be released gender study, I found only one 3rd party content provider who offered a leadership course specifically for women and the challenges they face. Frankly, there should be more. Equally, too many courses geared towards retail still have people wearing suits. Uh, where am I at a brokerage firm in the mall? And what is a mall?
This falls in line with the lack of 3rd party content geared towards Web apps that folks use. For the number of companies out there who use Slack at their company, for their employees, in comparison to the number of 3rd party content providers who offer Slack as content, is extremely low. Then again, if your company is using Slack, and you have a learning system, is there a Slack course on there? My guess says no.
- Content Bookmarklets – I see small growth here, but one that is enough to keep an eye on. In simple form, the vendor enables you to add a bookmarklet to your browser bar, via either an extension store like Chrome or drag and drop onto your bar (the more common approach). Then when you see a page of interest, or paragraph, whatever, you simply capture it, with your bookmarklet. Some vendors do a better job than others, but it is a way to go beyond just adding a web link, which anyone can do. No one has yet to integrate it with say Microsoft Note or Pocket, for example, nor have it so I can do clipping of sections of that page, and leave comments on a note like thing, that others can see, when they go to that page on the web, and read and leave too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least a couple of vendors offer some aspect of that, but no, it is not going to be a massive uptick. And for those folks wondering the pluses of it – let’s see – social interaction, social engagement, knowledge curation, content expansion. Yeah, good stuff.
- Mobile on/off synch apps – It’s there, but not enough to say fast track, which again, still is mind-boggling. Once you explain the pluses, people want it. What I find are many vendors who still do NOT HAVE a mobile app whatsoever, which makes no sense. I find vendors who only have an iOS app even though Android has more than 70% market share. You can’t say you are mobile-first, without having a mobile app with on/off synch. And shame on you, who ignores the fact that mobile apps are huge, especially when they themselves have a smartphone /tablet with apps on it.
- Social – Please, anyone, anyone add something new here. If there is any light here, chat rooms and discussion boards are slowly starting to disappear from systems. On behalf of every Gen-Xer who jumped onto the net in 93-94, we thank you. AOL users, ehh, CompuServe was better.
- Coaching Platforms – Mixed bag. Seriously, why buy one, when so many other learning systems, LMSs, Learning Platforms, and some LXPs are jumping headfirst into coaching as well, and in more than a few cases, doing a much better job than the coaching platform itself. Personally, save your money and find an LMS or LXP that does as good if not a better job.
- Personalization – So, so so so.. Yeah, it has always been available, some folks do a better job than others, it is just medium.
This is just a shortlist of forecasts, I have quite a few more – some that incorporate the authoring tool market – expect to see a slight increase in new authoring tool vendors, some that show custom development can expect a slight downturn, due to the multiple factors, forecasts on emerging markets – globally, who is going to be hot and a forecast on pricing (dependent on the global economy, which is slowing down).
I’ll continue to dive ahead and watch the trend lines. In keeping up with the times, I’ll ignore my magic-8 ball and move over to Alexa on Amazon.
Tell me my fine, Alexa, are the trends accurate?
“Today’s forecast is sunny.”