Today is a banner day for extended enterprise education, because today we’re unveiling the new face of learning systems excellence – The 2019 Talented Learning Awards!
As outlined last month, we’re simplifying the way we honor the best learning systems by focusing on two key extended enterprise categories:
CORPORATE EXTENDED ENTERPRISE: Business-oriented solutions targeting external audiences such as customers, channel partners, suppliers and contractors. Employees may also be included, but aren’t the sole focus of these applications.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: Learning and certification solutions used by trade and professional associations, mission-driven non-profits, commercial training providers, trade schools and subject matter experts. (See the 2019 continuing education systems awards here.)
Certainly, other learning software categories deserve awards, including employee talent management, compliance, academic ed tech, learning experience platforms, content management and authoring. We may explore these and other categories separately in the future.
However, the extended enterprise is our lifeblood. We founded Talented Learning five years ago to chart every corner of the extended enterprise learning landscape. And that’s where our knowledge and expertise are strongest. So naturally, we want to celebrate solutions in this space above all.
Why Is This Segment So Special?
Extended enterprise learning solutions must attract, engage and often sell to people who voluntarily choose to consume instructional content. In contrast with employees or students, these audiences can’t be forced to complete training “assignments.” Instead, their learning journeys are more self-directed.
This voluntary learning mindset is why successful extended enterprise solutions often include tools that blend marketing, business strategy, content development and promotion, social engagement, customer relationship management, ecommerce and more. Working together with core learning technologies, these solutions draw learners in, and keep them coming back for more.
How We Select Award Candidates
To qualify for a corporate extended enterprise learning award, systems must meet these criteria:
- The vendor’s website must clearly position the system as a corporate extended enterprise solution. (Purely academic or employee-only solutions are not considered.)
- Vendors must have participated in executive briefings and/or buying opportunities we’ve managed.
- Current and/or former customers and employees must endorse the winners.
2019 Awards List:
Best Corporate Extended Enterprise Learning Systems
More than 750 learning system solutions are on our radar, currently. Selecting winners is no easy journey. Being on this list is a big deal.
This year, we honor 27 outstanding solutions – 15 award winners and 12 finalists – listed alphabetically in each category, below. In the following section, we briefly describe our impressions of the winners and finalists, so you can learn about each solution and its strengths. Feel free to bookmark this page so you can refer to it when you’re looking for systems in the future.
Congratulations to all!
Community Brands Crowd Wisdom
Learndot by ServiceRocket
Together JAZZ by Skylab Italia
(NOTE: We invite all winners and finalists to display the Talented Learning Awards badge on your website and in promotions. This week our team will send original badge artwork to your primary contact via email or direct message, along with our best wishes!)
Award Contenders: What You Should Know
Here’s what we think are the key strengths and differentiators for each of the corporate extended enterprise learning systems we considered. Award winners are listed first, followed by finalists – all in alphabetical order.
There’s a lot to like about BlueVolt. The company is about 15 years old and its approach to learning management is different from any vendor I’ve seen. BlueVolt LMS is purpose-built to serve industrial business segments – organizations focused on things like HVAC, plumbing and electricity, as well as continuing education in those specialties.
BlueVolt offers a unique business-to-business ecosystem solution. It’s ideal for any organization that wants to connect partners, suppliers and resellers in relationships that elevate employee and channel knowledge and skills.
COMMUNITY BRANDS CROWD WISDOM
Crowd Wisdom is a great choice for organizations that primarily want to generate revenue from professional development, certification, test preparation and other extended enterprise content programs.
Building on a common software-as-a-service (SaaS) code infrastructure, Crowd Wisdom makes it possible to create semi-custom solutions that deliver an ultra-modern learning experience. It also provides ecommerce capabilities that integrate easily into broader technology ecosystems. The Crowd Wisdom platform is mobile responsive and scales affordably as organizations expand their global reach.
There’s a good reason why Cornerstone is the world’s leading talent LMS brand. The platform’s capabilities are comprehensive and can be configured and integrated to support most global internal and extended enterprise applications. Although organizations of any size can benefit from this platform, it typically adds the most value in large, heterogeneous environments with complex learning requirements.
As a competitive advantage, Cornerstone now largely relies on certified implementation partners, rather than staffing a global professional services organization. This means you can expect more personalized, hands-on support – typically from a local organization that specializes in guiding Cornerstone clients through the implementation process.
CrossKnowledge is unique in the marketplace because it offers a powerful blend of learning technology, experience design and content expertise. CrossKnowledge is part of the 200-plus-year-old publishing giant, Wiley. This means its solutions leverage Wiley’s broad range of information resources, including content from the world’s most renowned professors and subject matter experts.
In addition, CrossKnowledge provides tools based on its collective domain experience in training methodologies like onboarding and sales readiness, complete with practical workflows, templates and personas. All this is wrapped in highly engaging distance learning solutions that are designed with measurability and business impact at their core.
Docebo is widely known as one of the original cloud learning management systems. It is also one of the first extended enterprise platforms to integrate learning-specific artificial intelligence algorithms. It’s affordable and easy to set-up and use. It supports pure extended enterprise solutions like customer or channel programs, as well as employee training.
Docebo offers integrated third-party content networks like Lynda, as well as its own aggregated content. It also integrates many third-party apps, so you can extend the platform’s functionality simply by entering API codes that tie-in everything from customer service software and content authoring to customer relationship management and virtual classrooms. You can sign-up online for a free trial and immediately start creating your own learning ecosystem.
I like eLogic Learning. For years, it has earned a place at the top of my go-to list as an all-purpose extended enterprise learning management system. It’s a focused, owner-operated organization and has attracted a lot of big-name clients – especially in retail, hospitality and franchising. eLogic’s clients are happy and that is important.
This platform is a highly configurable workhorse that is a viable alternative to tier-one talent management LMSs with similar functionality, but much higher price points. It features powerful ecommerce capabilities, tight integration with Salesforce and support for complex continuing education, along with a rare unlimited-use tier in its license model.
LEARNDOT BY SERVICEROCKET
Learndot by ServiceRocket is a full-featured pure SaaS customer learning management system. It is designed specifically for organizations that create and deploy content to B2B and B2C customers, integrate learning with CRMs, and use measurable analysis to improve related business results on a continuous, iterative basis.
Learndot also provides substantial education and support to its clients, including strategic guidance, deployment expertise, content development and ongoing managed services to fill the resource gaps that many customer education organizations face. Learndot is an excellent solution to consider, especially for customer learning initiatives in the software and high-tech industry.
Based in Ireland, LearnUpon was originally a SaaS solution for associations, but it evolved into a customer learning platform that has been widely adopted by corporations around the world. LearnUpon is a highly functional, low-cost extended enterprise solution with low or no implementation fees, even though the company provides ample support to get you up and running quickly.
LearnUpon integrates well with other cloud SaaS applications, including ecommerce and CRM platforms. LearnUpon has built a large base of happy customers. It’s a solid option if your organization wants to offer a basic, yet high-quality learning environment for customer education at a reasonable price.
NetExam is one of the coolest extended enterprise learning systems available. This company focuses solely on channel learning, with a heavy-duty channel management LMS, social, mobile and gamification functionality, comprehensive integrations and professional services. When it comes to supporting global high-tech reseller networks, NetExam is one of the best and most experienced in the world.
This solution does more than just deliver learning content. It ties into partner management systems like Oracle and Salesforce so you can evaluate your channel partners and identify weaknesses. This insight makes it possible to decide which partners need further training, so you can develop strategies to improve their business performance. In other words, NetExam helps channel organizations manage partners more effectively and tie partner education more directly to business operations.
Northpass (formerly Schoolkeep) is a cloud-based LMS that includes a rich set of tools businesses need to create, deliver and manage online education – especially for extended enterprise audiences.
Northpass sees tremendous potential in solutions that tie learning to “future of work” trends. In fact, it is of the first “next-generation” LMS vendors focused on solving learning challenges for high-growth companies and gig-economy startups that continuously onboard and educate customers, service partners, contractors and employees. For example, innovative organizations like Lyft, Shopify and Turo rely on the Northpass platform to deliver extended enterprise education.
OnPoint Digital is a powerhouse LMS designed to address a wide range of corporate extended enterprise use cases including customers, channel partners, employees, or a combination of these audiences.
The OnPoint approach is different from many competitors because this vendor has created a library of core stackable code modules (for lack of a better technical description), that can be assembled in any combination to build semi-custom learning solutions for each client. This means you get a modern, mobile/social learning management system that is built to your exact specifications, but it’s also based on proven technology. Plus, OnPoint’s visual elegance and usability appeal to the “voluntary” mindset of extended enterprise audiences.
Early in 2018, Litmos became part of the SAP suite of products. SAP already offers SuccessFactors for traditional talent management and compliance training. But Litmos adds a different dimension, as a pure cloud platform that fills a market niche I call “agile business learning.” This solution makes it easy and affordable to manage and personalize content, so you can deploy learning initiatives quickly and iteratively, in a lean, agile way.
Litmos has found a sweet spot as the sole learning platform for small or mid-sized businesses. It’s also a strong solution for larger organizations that need to deploy and scale extended enterprise learning initiatives very rapidly. And with more than 4 million active users, and SAP as its new parent company, you can rest assured that this proven solution will continue evolving with market needs.
Skilljar has been high on my radar for more than 5 years. This is a pure extended enterprise learning solution focused on customer education – including channel partners and internal customer service staff who need to understand products and services from a customer’s perspective.
Skilljar has an appealing, frictionless interface and powerful integrations with CRM platforms like Salesforce.com, which help automate content personalization based on a customer’s previous purchases, organizational role and more. Integrations with customer support software are also included, so service teams can interact with training in real-time while guiding customers effectively and efficiently through product questions. Although Skilljar is highly customizable for complex needs, organizations with fairly simply requirements can use it out-of-the-box.
Thought Industries is a relatively new up-and-coming learning platform available in two variations. One is for organizations that sell learning content to businesses or individual consumers. And the other is for customer education in B2B and B2C environments. Both platforms are highly configurable and built to attract voluntary learners and drive ecommerce revenue. In fact, they’re almost fully customizable in the admin interface, so your learning environment can look and feel exactly like your organization’s other branded apps and web properties.
This platform also includes incredibly powerful authoring tools such as automated interfaces and editable intra-content language localizations. In addition, sophisticated B2B ecommerce capabilities – including branded portals, shared content licensing, coupon codes, promotions, subscriptions, delegated administration, tight CRM integration and robust reporting – make it easy for training companies to sell and manage content in volume.
Totara is unique in the marketplace because it’s a corporate learning management system built on the open source LMS platform, Moodle. Moodle is great because it’s affordable, it’s customizable and it’s built for the academic market. Totara used that foundation to reinvent the LMS from a corporate standpoint.
Totara isn’t 100% open source because you must purchase a basic level of access to receive ongoing code updates for a nominal fee. However, you can use all the pieces and deploy it on your own servers or in the cloud. If you need implementation help, you can work with one of Totara’s 200 professional services partners from around the world who are skilled at configuring and personalizing learning environments, creating content, hosting and supporting Totara solutions.
Because this software is open source, partners can also create reusable custom code extensions. This opens the door for creativity and innovation, not only in the core product, but also among partners and users throughout the global community. With Totara’s very low-cost entry point, organizations can choose to spend the lion’s share of their budget on services to develop an exceptional learning environment and high-quality content.
Based in Alberta, Canada, Absorb LMS is one of the original cloud learning systems. With nearly 1,000 clients and 5.6 million users in almost every industry, this multi-purpose SaaS solution is a good choice for organizations of all sizes that are just getting started with extended enterprise learning. It’s especially attractive if your in-house IT staff is limited, because Absorb makes it relatively easy to set-up and implement the LMS on your own, and then integrate it with other systems to add more functionality over time.
Given its affordable price point, this platform’s global ecommerce capabilities are impressive. You can deploy a shopping cart, offer pricing in multiple languages and charge in any currency. More than 80 payment gateways are also included, so you can set-up separate audience groups and sell content to them directly or through business partners. Even with all these capabilities, Absorb LMS is a relatively low-cost option, so it’s great if you need to kickstart learning revenues.
Accord LMS is a full-featured but very affordable turn-key solution. It’s built specifically for small and mid-sized businesses that appreciate white-glove services from a small, dedicated, tight-knit company. Accord provides 20,000 off-the-shelf content titles for 10 different industries, including healthcare, legal and hospitality. In addition, friendly, family-like service ensures that clients succeed with the platform.
This system delivers and tracks all types of learning content assets, provides role-based and profile-based training enrollment, and is remarkably easy to use. That means you can expect to launch your solution in a matter of days, rather than weeks or months.
This self-described lifelong learning solution has been gaining serious momentum, especially after acquiring enterprise learning experience platform provider, Pathgather, last year. Driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning, the Degreed platform maps the needs, interests and behaviors of each user, so it can present the right type of content to the right people at the right time, based on their professional development goals.
This solution isn’t a fit for every situation. For example, it’s not ideal as a full-fledged replacement for an extended enterprise LMS. However, if your organization encourages lifelong skills development as part of a broader learning initiative for employees, contractors, customers and/or channel partners, Degreed will work in tandem with your extended enterprise LMS to provide a continuous learning experience that is highly personalized, engaging and adaptive over time.
EdCast is a popular learning experience platform that supports internal and external corporate learning audiences with ongoing knowledge and skills development. Specifically, the EdCast application provides a stream of daily learning content that aggregates formal and informal learning activities for each user. With the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning, EdCast automatically curates and presents content based on personalization criteria like a learner’s job role, program or project affiliations, declared interests, social connections, media preferences, content behaviors and more.
EdCast works well as a complementary application to enhance LMS functionality where continuous learning is part of the strategy. EdCast also offers an in-app software onboarding tool that guides learners step-by-step as they familiarize themselves with digital applications. This is popular functionality among software companies that need to educate customers more effectively and efficiently.
LogicBay is a top-notch pure channel management solution. It includes learning management, but other channel-oriented capabilities also play a prominent role. For example, in addition to supporting ongoing product training and enablement, LogicBay helps clients recruit and onboard new partners and manage lead flow. In addition, this platform is designed to be integrated into an organization’s broader ecosystem – including things like incentive systems and robust analytics to evaluate the performance of channel partners and the overall program.
The LogicBay system is particularly strong in organizations with dealer networks. For example, Freightliner, Mercedes-Benz Financial, Solar Turbines, Caterpillar and Penske have all embraced this platform.
MATRIX LMS is a pure SaaS cloud-based learning management system with affordable pricing and free trials, so it’s easy to build and deploy your own learning solution. It’s primarily intended as the first or second LMS for organizations that need proven functionality and self-service configurability, but don’t want to create highly customized applications.
The strength of MATRIX LMS is its broad spectrum of configurable features you can choose to include (or not). It also includes a variety of pre-built integrations with HR software, payment gateways and other ecommerce systems. This makes it easy to set-up learning solutions for any combination of internal and/or external audiences.
UK-based Learning Technologies Group is an umbrella company that has been acquiring a best-of-breed suite of complementary learning-related systems, including PeopleFluent talent management, Watershed LRS, Gomo Learning authoring software, Leo Learning content services and NetDimensions LMS. Organizations can snap together any of these solutions and share data among all the different elements to create customized global learning solutions.
NetDimensions LMS is particularly strong in supporting compliance for high-risk and highly regulated industries like aviation, energy, medical and government. With exceptional domain and integration capabilities, this is one of the best holistic solutions for complex extended enterprise initiatives that serve customers, employees, partners and others.
Saba is a longtime player in the learning management space and is widely known for its talent management system. However, Saba also has a long history in extended enterprise learning, especially solutions for franchisees, retailers, channel partners and customers. In fact, as a client, I participated in a Saba presentation 20+ years ago that helped introduce me to extended enterprise education.
Despite phenomenal change in the learning industry and digital business technology, Saba has never lost its focus. It has the global capability to support nearly any complex pure extended enterprise or hybrid employee/external initiative. Additionally, Saba offers strong professional services teams that draw on countless years of expertise to guide customers from all types of industries through every stage of the software lifecycle.
This up-and-coming LMS is built primarily for the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries. In particular, Schoox is designed to support training management and delivery to employees and non-employees in franchise organizations. For example, companies like Subway rely on this platform to provide training across their value chain – including employees at corporate locations, as well as franchise sites – to ensure brand consistency across all business outlets.
Strong integration ties it all together and passes training progress and completion reports to franchise owners with no fuss. Implementation costs are typically very low or even free, depending on a program’s complexity. Overall, Schoox is an effective, modern application for consumer-oriented businesses that need a straightforward frontline employee training solution.
TalentLMS is a true multitenant cloud LMS, meaning all clients access the same LMS via a web browser, and each client has its own secure area and sub-areas. Like most LMSs born in the last few years, TalentLMS is fully mobile responsive. It’s a no-frills system with an instant free trial option to help fast-track your training implementation.
Pricing is based on the volume of learners that actually use your training on a monthly basis, which is a great way to get into the game without risking upfront capital. If you run a small or mid-sized business, this is a solid choice for your first or second LMS. There are no implementation fees, and if your usage scenarios aren’t complicated, it’s hard to beat this system’s license pricing and ease of use.
TOGETHER JAZZ BY SKYLAB ITALIA
This platform is aimed at providing complete end-to-end learning process management, based on a “glocal” (global/local) enterprise model. Through specialized portals, Together JAZZ enables social interactions and gamification that enhance the learning experience. Smart digital services enable flipped classrooms and multiformat digital content.
Together JAZZ also delivers a broad set of functionality and integration services to fulfill enterprise needs through the cloud. This is a strong option for employee or external learning solutions in continental Europe and beyond.
UpsideLMS is a full-featured cloud learning platform that is used effectively for employee learning and/or extended enterprise education. This company is based in India, but the solution is widely used in Europe and around the world because of its strong globalization, localization and GDPR functionality – including excellent configurable reporting.
Its user interface is appealing and online/offline mobile friendly. Also because Upside makes it easy and affordable to manage learning at an organization, domain or portal level, it’s an ideal low-cost option for external channel or customer education.
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In a complex market packed with 700+ possible solutions, how can you be sure your next learning platform will work for your organization? What kind of functionality is essential? Do you know what’s available? What budget parameters make sense? How can you avoid overpaying? Do you even know if an LMS is the best solution?
Where should you start?
Before making your next move, why not tap into the knowledge and experience of a successful independent learning technology consultant? Join John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning as he tackles today’s trickiest LMS buyer challenges:
- How to make sense of today’s expansive LMS landscape
- How to determine if you can afford a new LMS
- Why requirements definition is essential to sort through the learning tech “specialist” market
- How to narrow your options from 700+ vendors to a qualified shortlist
- When and how to use an RFP (or not)
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