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I admit I’m giddy. Not just for this post, but for my beloved Los Angeles Rams winning the Super Bowl. It’s easy if you are a die-hard fan to just savor the moment. Attending the Super Bowl showed me a lot of interesting tidbits.

The game was awesome, of course, but I’m talking about a few other factoids.

  • Pricing to attend this Super Bowl was the highest ever. It was bonkers to be quite honest. If you wanted to sit at the very top of the stadium, pricing was running initially around 7.5K per seat. It dropped down to around 3K by game time. It was if the NFL was unaware we are facing all these issues with the economy (tied to supply chain BTW, but I won’t go into that).
  • The famed Super Bowl souvenir cup was non existent. Okay, it was the size of a kiddie cup, and cost $7. Plus it was hard to even see that it came from the SB.
  • This was mobile ticket app only, so no hard ticket. Everyone I spoke with thought that you would get one. Nope. Oh, you could for $99 on HSN.

The point here is that people paid a lot and received nearly okay, nothing in return – for them to really get a benefit from the game, beyond attending the game.

In a way, that is what is occurring in the learning system space today. No, they are not offering Super Bowl tickets, nor promotional items for free to thank you for your purchase, but what they are doing in some angles, is saying “We appreciate you, but…”.

Let’s Dive In

Pricing

I would love to tell you that nobody is paying outrageous fees for the privilege of buying a learning system. The reality, of course, is they, err you are. The industry as a whole continues to increase seat fees. Ignore the whole “active user only ” aspect because the number that you should be focusing on is the total price number, which in many cases says, “up to”. With the exception of a vendor like Eurekos, who actually bills you per month based on usage, the majority of vendors require payment upfront. Ask yourself this, if they require payment or significant payment upfront, how can they know how many active users I really have?

I digress.

The seat numbers are going up. Last year, overall, they were the highest ever. In the early months of 2022, many vendors are surpassing that. I see the infamous yearly increase approach, as though the cost of living or supply chain plays a role here. Setup fees (for those who charge) are moving upward. Yet what you get is the same thing as you did before. Back to cost per seat. I feel bad for any business that has less than 500 end users. I say this because of the avg. cost per seat is sitting around $48 to $60 range. That is taking the cost per seat/per month and multiplying by 12.

Bands are changing too. A band for most vendors was 1,000 to 5,000 end users for example, now? 1,000 to 10,000. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you are running cost per seat, per user, it can be. I’ve seen vendors find other ways to boost the numbers. Want white-label? You pay. What an API? Even if it is in their marketplace.

Nobody should have to pay to have their system rebranded with their name on it, and not have the vendor’s name anywhere on it. Yet, more and more vendors are jumping on this, with the usual verbiage of “well most clients do not ask us to remove”, which I guess means if you don’t ask, you do not get. Oh, you want it? Pay us.

Coaching and Mentoring

This is starting to boost in the industry, but as with most things – regarding capabilities, it is all over the map. There are vendors who are offering end-users the ability to view “experts” and select the one(s) they want to be their coach/mentor. Others assign people. Some provide specific information around said expert, including their skill(s) forte, experience, and job role. That’s nice, but where are the ratings for these folks (from other learners who have selected them)? Wouldn’t it be great to also know what courses/content these folks are taking or have taken? I see trends and pluses here – yet, surprise, so far it is very rare. Honestly, who cares whether Sally is from San Diego? (Yes, I’ve seen location) I want to know what level of expertise Sally is with marketing analytics.

And that level of detail is right now is nearly non-existent.

Many vendors who offer coaching/mentoring are still in the text-based mode, which is pretty much reactive. There are vendors who are adding a webcam capability or recording yourself, which are big pluses, but again, so few are tapping into role-playing scenarios – which are available for the administrator to select from (actually, none when it comes to built-in scenarios, but yes there are those who offer scenario-based learning).

Analytics

Courses and content are commodities and trust me, you need them in your system. What drives your learning and training though, are metrics. Especially the right metrics – data. The whole “views” metric is about as beneficial, as the local amusement park promising that you won’t puke on the Octopus ride. It sounds good, but what does it really tell me? Learning-wise, nothing. Preventive puking-wise, still nothing. I mean, I just ate five Vegan hot dogs.

I want to show you a vendor’s metrics that provide really strong information and data. I will get to what trend in a second, that is happening in the space.

There are data points that are relevant to me as the head of L&D, Training, etc.

The engaged users are worthwhile. If I could drill down even further, by clicking on it, again, segmentation is huge. Popular subjects. Skill IQ (their term), but see the assessment (I prefer validation) tied to the specific skill they are trying to learn – in this case, Python. Avg skill growth – says to me, okay, who, what skills in particular, trend lines, and so on. (The screen is from Pluralsight).

Metrics tell a story about the impact of your learning and training. Even for those who do not have a background in either, something like “popular” subjects, offers me something that tells me a story.

Here is another data screen (From Fuse)

Look at the data. It tells me a story. I see trend lines. I see percentages. I can read what the data means – thus even if I do not have a background in Training or L&D, I can get the gist of it. And for those who have a background in L&D or Training, again, the overall story is presented. Want to segment further? Fully doable.

What’s the early trend?

Vendors I have spoken with, are pushing into more metrics – especially around folks who have a BI tool and want to tap into the learning with it. They want to combine the business data with the learning data.

Vendors are also starting to add, albeit slowly, what they refer to as “advanced analytics”, targeting more of an add-on fee. I saw this on many a roadmap, and today there are more vendors who offer it than not.

On the flip side, LRS built into the system is still in snail mode. The vendors who offer it, as a whole, do not turn it on unless you ask for it. Again, this makes about as much sense as the NFL offering souvenir cups that are tiny for nonbeer purchases, but larger for beer (but no markings saying it is from the SB). Unless you ask, you have no idea. (I did ask and was told because it is for beer. Nice messaging)

An LRS captures everything. And can push out a lot of great data – if you choose to leverage it for your learning and training – i.e. can extract the keys – which are visible. The systems that have an LRS, as a whole, do not charge extra for it. If your system doesn’t offer it, you can go third party and have it fully integrated. My personal favorite is Watershed, but there are others.

For all those vendors adding advanced, and an equal number is streamlining to simple and frankly underwhelming data. It’s odd because as a whole, most systems are capturing far more data.

This will continue – either going full steam with advanced or going basic, that shows and tells – which is great if you are in Kindergarten.

Workforce Development

I prefer this term, but the legacy terms are performance/talent management.

I have no issue with some items under Workforce development – tied to courses/content, specifically learning and training aspects. The vendors punching this hard are adding job roles, and even opportunities /availabilities tied around content too. The job roles tied to skills tied to content are fair and acceptable, and some vendors note this under skill capabilities.

What early trend is showing through, are vendors who are trying to turn their learning into a combination sliding more towards employee development with more of an HR edge, than a learning focus. Learning plays a role, but it is not the key here. The folks they are targeting? HR people. L&D is secondary, Training? Forget it.

This is a very dangerous and slippery slope.

Once you go down this road, getting back to learning as the core, is nearly impossible. How do you message L&D for example, when the system brings in career development, opportunities, and borders without crossing into internal recruiting?

I can tell you that once you go this approach, nobody who oversees training, will eye you as a system. I wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t recommend it.

If HR is your core focus for your learning system, you are moving towards that slope. And there are vendors going that way.

Skills

Skills capabilities continue to dominate this early cycle. Skill ratings are appearing in more systems than before. What will be the biggest trend in 2022? Skills Plus Content – intertwined more so than before.

Fade Away?

It was a big trend in 2019, the increase in vendors offering a built-in authoring tool. Early data is pointing to this flatlining, as vendors now gear quite a bit towards the other King Kong Entry – A.I. tied around content, and no surprise skills.

Top 10 Learning Systems – A brief Commercial – Puppies not visible.

If you haven’t purchased the 2022 Top 10 Learning Systems Report, now is the time. It goes much deeper than the blog post. 100% of the proceeds go to three animal shelters. Purchase the Report, today.

One additional note, Pluralsight is now on FindAnLMS – which means that every system in the top 10 can be found on the one platform where you can compare each system using various filters.

The Fine Print

I noticed this trend starting in late 2021, but it was too early to know if it would continue or phase out. Depending on your perspective, it is continuing. The trend? Vendors (as a whole) focus on clients with a minimum of 1,000 end-users.

This trend opens up the door for so many vendors who are ideal for the under 1,000 employees size, even the 500 or less size.

Now there are vendors who will gladly accept 500 end-users, and still eye their ideal at 1,000. The question is whether their messaging aligns with either group or just the larger size.

The reasoning on why a lot of vendors focus on higher numbers is the premise that a larger user base means higher budgets. Yet, I know of F500 companies whose training budgets were very low, and companies with less than 1,000 that were in the six-figure range.

Bottom Line

Yes. It is early.

February to be exact.

But if you remove all the pageantry, the hype and recognize that vendors are already pushing specific capabilities, and pricing in one way,

you are left with one thing,

And it is not a hard copy

Super Bowl Ticket.

E-Learning 24/7

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