Q&A from Vendors – Learning Systems Edition

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It is kind of weird. So many sites that list Q&A’s – mine included, look at it from the reader’s standpoint – what I refer to as consumers, even though they may have an audience consisting of PEs (Private Equity), outside their industry (C-Level and similar), vendors in the specific industry (e-learning) and sub-segments OR just a variety of folks who are not on the consumer side of the house, instead on the vendor or investment side.

And yet, I receive a lot of inquiries from vendors, including PE and investment firms. They all have questions. They all seek answers. I will hold back from the investment and PE side; let’s take a peek at the vendor side.

Who doesn’t want to know what they want to know? Due to the number of questions/inquiries I received over the past several months, I selected only a handful.

Additionally, to protect the innocent (I always wanted to say that), I will never divulge who asked me, and if a vendor had me sign an NDA or said this is off-the-record or I represent them (only from a strategy standpoint, never as lead gen or similar angle), those questions were not considered. Just in case they are wondering – what if?

Vendors then ask these questions – through e-mail, via direct messaging on LinkedIn, or in general conversations. Grab some popcorn. Get a beverage. And enjoy. Or ponder.

Questions have been edited only for clarity (when applicable).

Q: Who has the best LMS in the Enterprise market?

A: When I hear this question (and I hear it a lot), I have to look at it from what a vendor defines as Enterprise because it is all over the map regarding users, and some base it on revenue. Then you have vendors who consider the company numbers Enterprise, even if the rollout is significantly smaller. As such, it isn’t as easy as one would think. Noting that vendors (as a whole) are starting to place “Enterprise” as 5,000 or more learners; and that Large Enterprise is 10,000 or more, with others going 25,000 or more – I felt the 5,000 to 9,999 was the route to consider for Enterprise. Some vendors say “Enterprise” and place the user base as 1,000 to 10,000, 2,500 to 10,000, or even 1,000 to 5,000, with Large going at 5,000 (really 5,0001) and up. It’s utterly confusing. Especially when a consumer (it could be you) says Enterprise, which may not align with what the vendor thinks is truly Enterprise, but they agree because why wouldn’t they?

Thus my decision goes with two data points – a. 2,500 to 9,999 end users OR the company has 2,500 or more employees and decides to roll out in smaller segments OR specific departments.

As part of my process, I weigh the factors, including UI/UX, functionality, forward-thinking, pricing, support, training, and business culture (which is rarely considered but very visible when you talk to the salesperson or hear what is happening behind the scenes). Some weights are higher than others, of course.

Every vendor that goes after the employee side (which are the beings in Enterprise). And those who do all think they are the best. Again, who will say, “We are awful. Don’t pick us. Uh, do you want a toaster for your troubles?”.

Here is my short list of those vendors (in my top 100) that are at the top of the scale for me. As always, please do your due diligence – including using FindAnLMS.com – yes a shameless plug of my comparison and analysis platform. Oh, and there will be vendors who are not here but are still in, say my Top 20 – because this is based on the five months – things change, obviously. Lastly, no particular order – and if I believe you need an add-on (if they sell one), I will tell you. Again, no specific order- I have to mention this twice because there will be vendors who say, “We are on the top of his list”. I could have saved time doing alphabetically, but I want you to think more about it – I call it deep thinking – and proof that I did not use Gen-AI for this analysis. Oh, some have more info than others, but it doesn’t mean one is better than the other. If they are on this short list, they are on it.

  • Cornerstone LMS – I’d consider EdCast with it (additional fee) – only because it can be integrated nicely with the LMS. However, it is not a need, to be frank – Or Merlin! Ha, I made a funny. Their content piece – marketplace comes with the system, but you still have to purchase the 3rd party content (as the head of L&D or whatever department oversees this. Then you give it to your end-users for free). Skills are the best in the industry (Cornerstone Learn).
  • Docebo Learn – With the add-ons Discover, Coach and Share, and Learning Analytics. By the end of the year, Shape may snap in here because of an enhancement with a recent Gen-AI vendor. Right now, that isn’t available – I mean, Shape is, but it is a flawed and yucky product. DCS will get a refresh due to another acquisition Docebo made – and trust me, DCS needs that revamp and refresh. Learning Analytics is an add-on, but the metrics tell you your learning story. Out of the box – i.e., with the system doesn’t. When you combine it all, it is pricey, so at the minimum, due to cost, Learn, and DCS (which they do not mention on their site as an add-on – but you need it). Their content piece – marketplace comes with the system, but you still have to purchase the 3rd party content (as the head of L&D or whatever department oversees this. Then you give it to your end-users for free. Skills is so-so.

I should note that both of the above vendors will outsource implementation to 3rd party partners – HOWEVER, depending on the use case, they may be able to do it internally. So, if you want it internally, tell them – turnkey with a couple of connections – it can easily be internal. Finally, Docebo has Docebo Connect, where you can connect all the APIs – you want with the system; Cornerstone has something similar. They are nice – but both are add-ons.

  • LearnAmp – A very different look compared to so many other systems. Metrics continue to improve, and the workflow angle I like the robust system. Skill capabilities are solid.
  • Juno Journey – Totally different UI/UX, skills are quite strong, metrics are good, and a legit LXP component comes with the system. I really dig the system.
  • NovoEd – Cohort-based learning system. If you are intrigued by cohort as in a legit cohort-based learning system, the lead the pack.
  • Fuse – Metrics dominate this solution and tell your story. UI/UX is massively different—the curation capability off the net and internal rules. Skills okay.
  • Bealink – Enjoyed seeing this system. It’s a future up-and-comer. Legit LXP.
  • Degreed – Legit LXP – actually they are the first vendors to move to the next tier – LXP Plus. Metrics out of the box are not great – needs a refresh too. That said skills are quite good, and if you can afford it, get Degreed Intelligence. Metrics are really good – tell your learning story, AND guidebooks are still the coolest component I’ve seen in the learning system space. DI also has a few clever twists that is far different than what you usually see – okay, ever see.

Q: Who has the best LXP in the industry?

A: This is pretty simple in that there are only a handful of Legit LXPs in the industry – to know what I mean by Legit – READ THIS.

Degreed hands-down. But if you want “where this might go” – I’d keep my eyeballs on Bealink. Lastly, if you want to know who has the best Legit LXP as part of their learning system – (and you don’t pay extra for it) – Juno Journey.

Q: Who has the best customer training system in the industry?

A: Again, lots of variables here, but of recent – Thought Industries, Eurekos, Raven360, Docebo, and D2L. I’d throw in Absorb too. From a price standpoint – Eurekos is the most affordable – and I love they bill monthly – so you pay for only those who use the system for that month. The majority of vendors in the industry require payment upfront. TI and Raven360 are more expensive. D2L really has a lot, and folks will be shocked. You will want the e-commerce component – which is a cool storefront, and their add-on advanced metrics called Performance Plus (one of the worst names for what it actually is and isn’t) are huge. Lastly, they – D2L and Thought Industries now have AI Coach, which is the best use of Generative-AI and Coaching in the industry (it’s an add-on), and you want it.

Q: Is there anything we should be adding or doing to your system to land new clients?

Another popular question I hear from vendors all the time. It depends on what they have or lack thereof, but here are the most obvious ones to me.

  • Refresh your UI/UX. If you haven’t refreshed your learner side in the past year, do it. If you are brand new, no need. You may have some nice items, but is the look across the board? The Admin side is the most common side folks ignore. Who is on the system all the time? Admins. And nowadays more and more people want advanced metrics – better data visualization – tied to learner engagement of the content among other items – thus more segmentation. Fix it. Without going as an add-on.
  • Stop listening to your current clients beyond the10% rule. If your system’s capabilities, etc. as in your roadmap is higher than 10% from your clients, you are going to run into problems. I’ve seen vendors do “focus groups” from the angle of selecting the clients who use it the most, or are the largest – and ignore those who aren’t using it, or are smaller in size. Very large enterprises are going to seek different things than some entity with 500 or 1,000 employees. If you are customer training – most people sell – to generate revenue – where is the data for that – what is popular, what isn’t – and why? The data should tell me – and yet, very few vendors in the customer training side have it. Why? Well, their current clients never asked for it. Trust me, if your biggest clients asked for emojis on every page, you would ignore that. Lastly, you are supposed to be the expert – not them. If you can’t be are are not, then you should be fired and your company should find someone who is an expert. As I always say you are in the business to land new clients.
  • Bill monthly – This means you truly send out an invoice per month for usage. Never listen to the “active per user model,” whereas it goes back to zero the following month nonsense. If you are paying upfront, then how does the vendor actually know the usage for each month? The industry overwhelmingly bills in advance, even with customer training – which is one of the worst ideas ever – except for the guy who created New Coke – yeah that was the worst idea ever. And the Edsel.
  • Make your system unique – give it a different perspective that still delivers learning and training in a very effective and efficient way. I saw KREDO the other day and they had a pathway which looked like a road like thing with a car. It is a learning journey aspect. Loved it. Thirst.io had this unique icons that were colorized in such a way, it stood out when selecting content – I thought that’s smart. They also have strong skills too – and again, very clever on how it is shown on the back-end. Lastly, the authoring tool is available on the learner side – so each learner is now a legit content creator – that is AWESOME. Biz Skills, pre-maps all their content to the skills ahead of time. You know how many vendors do this today? Besides them? I haven’t heard of anyone else. Learners are tired of the same ol same. They do not want to see a system that reminds them of a Museum or a dentist office – okay, that is me, saying that. Learning and Training is supposed to be fun! Where is the fun? Where is the hip, the clever, the forward thinking aspect? Oh, I forgot – you are listening to your current clients.
  • Stop charging for onboarding. I hate this, beyond despise. Why should I have to pay extra to setup the system, regardless if it takes a day or multiple days? A system is a big time budget item for anyone. You – the vendor would have an issue, if you bought a car and they said, here is the keys – oh you want us to show you how to do this and that, like start it? Sorry, that is extra. I always say – look at Apple and their stores. Other companies in the past have tried to mimic it – and it has failed. You buy an Apple product and go into the store. They show you have to use it, answer questions, make you feel important, and that they understand the challenges. They do this – because it increases the probability you will buy again from them. Smart.
  • All in one, and not all for add-ons. I understand if it is say a Performance or Talent piece for the learning side. But charging extra for you r authoring tool? Better metrics, then what came with your system – here is an idea, replace what you have in the system, with the better metrics – problem solved. It is getting worse, those add-ons. And it kills additional sales opportunities, because it prices you out from say a competitor that includes all for no additional fee.
  • Add a mobile app with on/off synch. If you can go white-label with it – and that is external seen and not just when people go into the app, do it. Especially with customer training/B2B. Charge extra – because that is common to do so – for the vendors who do it. Again, a prospect may never inquire – because they have no idea – but that doesn’t stop you from mentioning it as an option. Yet, those vendors who do offer it, rarely mention it. Missed upsell opportunity and a benefit for the buyer too. Who wants to see your name for the app?
  • Create effective marketing and marcomm approaches. I see a lot of very good systems for both markets and lots of verticals. Yet, nobody has heard about them. It has nothing to do where you are located. However, they hall have one thing in common – bad marketing. Nowadays you don’t have to buy Google AdWords or higher end SEO to get there.
  • If you are going to add Generative AI make sure you know about the pluses and minuses before just plunging in. I wish vendors would look at other LLMs out there, rather than just going with OpenAI. And ChatGPT is already passe, so why stick it in your system? Besides it being free, I mean.
  • Lastly, follow-up with the client after they bought your system, and implemented it. Go snail mail for once.

Q: Who has the most overrated learning system in the industry?

A: This is one of the most common questions I get asked. After I present them – I’m pretty confident I will get the “a – he doesn’t know what he is talking about” and b – They will never respond to me again.”

If you have one of these systems, that is fine- I am looking at it from various variables. I won’t be going into details here – okay maybe a couple. Maybe not. I decided to include multiple because there isn’t just one. And no, I would never buy any of these. But I’m not you!

  • SAP SucessFactors – My mom always said if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t and move on. Ok, I think she would have said it if she saw them – kidding. For whatever reason, SAP always pushed this heavy over Litmos when they owned both. Litmos was better then it, but SF is a Cash cow for SAP on the learning and performance side. SAP BTW, recently added or will be adding Lucy.ai across various systems – I assume SF will be one of them.
  • Workday Learning – If you have Workday, you do not need to buy WL here. Ignore the push around better integration and so forth. WL always focused on the whole push and pull angle of data between their mods and WL, then turned around and added an “extended Enterprise” piece because they saw clients going external. for customer training. Now, how are the mods playing at that point?
  • Microsoft Viva Learning – Overrated is an understatement. I see nothing cool here or impressive here. Been there, done that.

Bottom Line

A handful of questions. I’m sure there will be a few that raise eyebrows or give you, the reader some pause. And as a vendor, if you disagree with my takeaways that is fine.

Feel free to leave comments in the comment box, or on Linkedin.

Which BTW, LinkedLearning is overrated too. The content?


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