Published On: December 18, 2018By
How can you improve LMS Awards? Independent learning tech analyst John Leh outlines a new approach

As 2018 ends, the technology awards season is kicking into full swing. So I’m not surprised when Talented Learning fans ask me when we’ll announce our annual LMS Awards. (Spoiler alert), I’m not revealing awards today but they are coming soon in an updated form!

Why is this a good time to rethink the way we recognize learning systems excellence? Well, if you’ve followed the market in recent years, you know the LMS landscape has changed dramatically. We want to reflect those changes and provide more value to both learning systems buyers and sellers.

But before I share details about what’s ahead, let’s take a quick look back:

Setting the Stage for Extended Enterprise LMS Recognition

Exactly 5 years ago, we opened the doors at Talented Learning. Our simple mission was the same then as it is now. We wanted to be the most trusted independent source for insight and advice about extended enterprise learning systems.

(“Extended enterprise” involves solutions for non-employee audiences such as customers, channel partners, association members and individuals seeking continuing education from commercial training companies.)

Before Talented Learning, LMS analysis and commentary focused primarily on talent management issues. However, after 20 years of front-line experience with extended enterprise learning systems and content, I knew this space was real, profitable, large and growing rapidly.

In fact, between 1999 and 2013, the overall LMS market exploded from only a few dozen systems to hundreds. Nobody was sure why this was happening, but we had a theory.

We suspected that most of the growth was coming from new solutions designed to address extended enterprise use cases that were largely overlooked by classic talent management providers. To test this theory, we began investigating LMS vendors, documenting their extended enterprise capabilities and client case studies in detail.

Now, five years later, we’ve assessed more than 200 vendors and shared our findings publicly through hundreds of blog posts, webinars, podcasts and research papers. We’ve also seen scores of solutions up-close while helping more than 50 clients evaluate and select a learning system.

LMS Awards: More Than a Popularity Contest or Participation Trophies

So what does all this have to do with this year’s LMS Awards? Again, it helps to look back before looking forward.

We waited nearly 2 years before publishing our first awards at the end of 2015. Although we might have received more attention by recognizing big-name brands, we weren’t interested in rewarding popularity alone – especially if it kept rising stars and unsung heroes from receiving their share of attention.

Instead, we did our homework. And our research revealed an impressive selection of solutions for niches like customer education, channel training, continuing education and online course sales as well as compliance training and talent development. They all deserved special recognition.

However, those categories no longer adequately reflect the evolving LMS market or the way buyers choose systems. Many vendors have expanded their capabilities, and could justifiably fit into multiple award categories. At the same time, large talent management players are adapting to extended enterprise opportunities after watching specialized competitors get a foothold in their accounts.

What does that mean for LMS awards? We could feature many of the same vendors on multiple “best” lists, or spread titles around like participation trophies, but that would make a complex market seem even more confusing.

Besides, smart buyers know that choosing the “best LMS” isn’t really about picking award winners. Instead, it’s about finding a solution that fits their use cases in terms of specific functional, technical, service, support, license and business requirements. While these requirements vary significantly from one organization to the next, vendor solutions vary significantly, too.

Introducing the 2019 Learning Systems Awards

As fiercely independent analysts, we want to continue celebrating learning systems excellence wherever we find it. In an expanding world, that means we should cast a broader net.

At the same time, what sets us apart as industry analysts is our ability to identify and articulate the special attributes of each solution we evaluate. So it makes sense to incorporate more of that value-add into our awards process.

With those goals in mind, here are some of the changes you can expect in 2019 and beyond:


Because the market scope now includes an increasingly diverse spectrum of learning-related platforms and applications, our awards materials will use the term “learning systems” rather than “LMS.”


Awards will focus on two distinct extended enterprise learning systems categories:

CORPORATE EXTENDED ENTERPRISE:  Solutions focused on customer education, sales channel training and internal/external workforce development.

CONTINUING EDUCATION:  Learning-related solutions designed for associations, mission-driven non-profits, commercial training providers, trade schools, academic outreach and subject matter experts.

Each vendor we recognize will be identified as a category “winner” or “runner-up.” All vendors will receive the same “Learning Systems Excellence” award badge. We will no longer designate 1st, 2nd, 3rd place winners or honorable mentions. Instead, I will describe in a few sentences the unique strengths that distinguish each solution.

We will publish two blog posts with all the details. Also, we will talk about these reimagined awards on an episode of The Talented Learning Show podcast early in 2019. (To receive email alerts when we publish new blog posts or podcasts, subscribe now.)

Week of Feb 5, 2019
NOTE: These awards are now live! See details:
2019 Talented Learning Awards: Corporate Extended Enterprise Systems

Week of Feb 12, 2019
NOTE: These awards are now live! See details:
2019 Talented Learning Awards: Continuing Education Systems


Hopefully, this new approach will give buyers more actionable information, at the same time it gives vendors meaningful feedback about the value we see in their products. If you’d like to learn more about our awards philosophy and how it has evolved, or if you’re interested in past winners, we invite you to review previous award posts:


We look forward to honoring even more learning solutions in the future. Onward!

Thanks for reading!



Technology vs. Innovation: Association Learning Strategies in Practice

AI. AR. VR. Digital breakthroughs like these are capturing headlines every day. Clearly, these innovations are promising. But many associations are focused on making the most of learning technologies that are already in place.

So how are these resourceful organizations actually transforming member learning experiences?

Join John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, and Michelle Brien, VP Marketing at WBT Systems, as they explore real-world examples and discuss innovation strategies that will help you create lasting value. You’ll discover:

  • The push/pull relationship between technology and change
  • How to develop an innovation roadmap that works for your organization
  • Tips for creating a business case your board will support
  • How to avoid missteps when expanding your learning technology stack
  • Guidelines for measuring results



Need Proven LMS Selection Guidance?

Looking for a learning platform that truly fits your organization’s needs?  We’re here to help!  Submit the form below to schedule a free preliminary consultation at your convenience.

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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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