Reader’s Mailbag – You Ask, I Answer

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For those of you old enough to remember, you used to wait for the mail to arrive and there would be a lot of letters. Apply for a job? Go thru the newspaper’s Wanted Ads, check out the gig, circle it, then send them a letter. Most of the time, unless you lived in a large city, you would get the national papers or bigger city papers to look for said job. The idea of using the Internet to find a job, well it just wasn’t available. Even we the net started (consumer wise), people continued to look for a job thru the newspaper.

The mail. Sending letters, actually writing them, or typing them (via this thing called a typewriter or if lucky a word processor) was the way to go. I remember my first dot matrix printer with the dual floppy disk CPU. Typing letters was quite fast.

We seem to have forgotten about those days. Just as we have forgotten about the Pony Express, the sending of messages via the telegraph or that it took more than a month to get a message across the pond.

It’s a good thing we have e-mail. The idea of sending a letter, typing or writing it out no less with an actual signature, would make your new hires in their early 20’s, scream in horror.

That’s until they get to 40, and the next way will be sending messages via the Alexa chip implant.

Unto the Q/A, where readers submitted questions via social media and direct, albeit no letters.

Q: You constantly mention “learning systems” rather than an LMS, LXP or Learning Platform. Why?

Q: We are looking at a talent management system, but are wondering if that qualifies under a learning system?

A: I put the two of these questions together since they cover the term I use called Learning Systems. With the number of systems that are appearing, I felt the term “learning systems” would be more applicable as an umbrella term. That is to say, that the “type” of system slides under the umbrella, which represents the various systems. As systems become more and more ubiquitous, the idea of say, an LMS being vastly different than an LXP is becoming debatable based on the system. On top of that, there are vendors out there who change the type of system, repetitively. One vendor called their system for the longest time a “micro-learning platform”. Now? They call it something else. Another vendor calls their system nearly every keyword for SEO purposes (you can see it on their web site). Too much confusion for folks who want to buy a system. I am constantly updating the types that exist, which would be covered under learning systems.

Here they are (as of May 2022)

  • LMS – Learning Management System – Don’t buy into the spin they were created or are still mainly used for compliance – both are not true. Nor that they are traditional or legacy, again not true. They are still the most dominant player in the industry, and many are cutting edge (and more than 10 yrs old).
  • LXP – Learning Experience Platform. I hate the “coined term” for it, because there are vendors out there who have no idea what constitutes an LXP, but call their system that or their system has that capability, because people are now asking for it. Plus there are a lot of consumers who are unsure what an LXP is, and thus try to compare them to a system that may be specifically a Learning Platform. This type is slowly becoming wrapped with the LMS or a LP.
  • Learning Platform – The second most common learning system type out there. There are vendors who refer to their system as a learning platform, or anti-LMS or not an LMS, but have the standard features of one. If someone spins they are a micro-learning platform, they slide under here. For the record, every system out there can do micro-learning, and have been able to, since 2000. If someone says they are a training management system but go beyond scheduling (the core and key feature), well, they have no clue what a training management system really is, but they go into this bucket. A true training management system is someone like Training Orchestra (in case you are wondering). Upskillng platforms or skill focused platforms, slide under here as well. Mobile Learning platforms are in here too and Adaptive learning platforms as well.
  • TXP – Talent Development plus LXP. Learning is the core component here, not talent development (which folks confuse with talent management – they are not the same thing). However, talent development – opportunities, career mapping, content tied to job roles (as a key piece) with a full skills library and job role for that matter would be. LXP – the standards that exist for it, and lots of resources (most fee-based) constitute this segment. EdCast is a TXP, and so is Degreed. Although EdCast will equally note they are an LXP. Degreed? Nope, they will mention they are an upskilling platform. It will be interesting to see how the acquisition of EdCast by Cornerstone plays out, in terms of where EdCast will fall into – i.e. stay TXP or something else.
  • Mentoring/Coaching platforms – Newest segment type.

Talent Management and/or Performance Management only side under a learning system if Learning is the core component and capability. If the system pushes more HR related capabilities such as succession planning, career development (not the same as career mapping), recruiting (starting to appear), then they are not a learning system. TMs are being seen more frequently in an HCM, either as a module or a component. If a system pitches themselves as workforce development, they are entering HCM territory. Think this way, where is the R&D $$$ and focus going? Into Learning? Learning System. Not into learning but into other functions geared towards HR? Not a learning system.

Q: Our company has 1,345 employees. We are finding learning system vendors who are not interested in us, because of our employee size. Is this a common practice?

A: Yes and No. Overwhelmingly the industry uses “bands – ranges” pricing and user bases, so your employee size isn’t a factor – that is to say, you will have a lot of vendors to select from. However, there are vendors who will openly tell you (which I appreciate) that they have a minimum user base size, and that you do not qualify. Then there are those who won’t tell you, but simply decline or ignore your RFP.

Personally, I don’t get it. The thinking behind this strategy is the presumption that a larger user base equates to a higher budget, but that just isn’t true. I once had a client with 6,500 end-users (active) and their budget was 30,000 dollars. Oh they were a Fortune 500 company. On the flip side, I worked at a company that had a bit over 1,200 employees and my budget was $815,000 dollars. I even know of companies who have a very large budget but will look to systems that are far under that budget.

I can get the premise if you say have under 500 end-users, and the vendor has a minimum of 1,000 – they usually will take you, but just slide you under the band – so you pay as though it is 1,000 using the line, “up to”.

The minimum requirement of 5,000 (the most common of the number base angle) is a bad business decision. You could end up losing a great client because of it, you could lose deals due to it, and you are betting that this will drive higher sales constantly far more so, than the lesser base. Vendors who go specifically this route, have not fared well long-term. They have all ended up being acquired due to their sales numbers – stagnation and poor new sales, and way too many missed opportunities – it always backfires.

Q: I read on LinkedIn that you have a new solution called content hub, what is it and where can I find it?

A: The Content Hub is a new site that will contain a wealth of materials, resources, templates and other items that I have created for folks. The newest Learning System template is on there as we speak, as well as my Top 10 Learning System Report for 2022 (free to view and download), which I posted to kick off the Content Hub. The Hub is free, the content that exists in there is free too. This is the link to The Content Hub.

I plan to add two new resources each week.

The Hub does require you to provide your e-mail address – company, business wise, (it does not accept Gmail, Yahoo and similar), only for security purposes (dual authentication is on the horizon). I will not spam you. Nor contact you.

I am also going to be adding a section which contains marketing materials from learning system vendors which you can view and download. This section is designed to inform and provide additional information to aid in the decision making process for these systems, rather than having to sign up to download their case study for example which means lead gen angle. This section does not mean these are the systems that I recommend or not recommend, think of it more so as a library – with free check out.

Q: This maybe a dumb question, but what does enterprise mean?

A: There are no dumb questions, and thank you for asking a question, I am sure a lot of folks are curious about because vendors push it everywhere thinking everyone knows what it means. Enterprise is a term coined for Legacy Systems (the irony don’t you think – legacy/traditional and a term that still plays there). At one time, during Legacy days it referred to any entity that had a minimum of 10,000 end-users.

Those days are gone. Now it means whatever the vendor wants it to mean, which it comes to the number of end-users (active). Personally, with SaaS it shouldn’t even be used, but that’s for another day. Anyway, the most common “band” that a vendor sees as Enterprise is a minimum of 2,500 to 5,000 active end-users, with 5,000 to 10,000 as the second most popular band.

However, there are vendors who say anything above 1,000 is Enterprise, and I am seeing a few systems return to the 10,000 min as Enterprise.

What I think happens quite a bit is that, someone says we have a lot of Enterprise clients, and you consider yourselves an Enterprise with 3,000 people. Thus the assumption will be that they have a lot of clients your size and higher. The truth of the matter may be completely opposite.

This is why I always ask a vendor what do they consider Enterprise – in terms of the minimum number of active users. I have found vendors who retort back what do you mean – which isn’t a good sign – because they themselves have no idea.

BTW another legacy term for the old days is “Extended Enterprise”. The current term they should be using is customer education or multi-tenant.

Q: Do you think a vendor will ever accept bitcoin as a way to buy their system?

A: I hope not, but never underestimate what a learning system vendor or any e-learning vendor will do when it comes to cryptocurrency. At the basics it makes for nice marketing and PR. For me though I think it is very risky. Plus, it’s difficult to say you care about the environment, and ignore that cryptocurrency has a large climate footprint due to the data mining and computers needed for it. It’s so bad that China has forbidden data mining in their country.

Bottom Line

I selected a few of the many questions I received over the past two months. Thank you to everyone.

And lastly to the person who wondered if I think that there will be another learning systems that will be acquired in 2022, the answer is a firm – yes.

E-Learning 24/7

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