In January, I outlined “18 LMS trends to watch in 2018.” That’s a lot of moving pieces, but it’s also a fair indicator of today’s complex and fluid learning technology landscape.
Recently a client asked which trends are gaining the most traction. It prompted me to step back and review those 18 items with a fresh eye. First I sliced the list in half. Then I updated the comments with my current perspectives as an independent analyst. Finally, I reordered the list to reflect the priorities of today’s extended enterprise market. Now I’m sharing it with you.
Although the list isn’t exhaustive, it is based on my experience with hundreds of LMS solutions I track and dozens of recent purchasing opportunities I’ve managed. Here’s my latest snapshot from the front lines of the learning technology space:
LMS Trends Update
1) Specialists Steal Even More Spotlight
UPDATE: Some people say the LMS is dead. Others say it’s become nothing more than a back-office administrative tool. I say the LMS is not just alive but thriving. That’s because yesterday’s generic, one-size-fits-all employee LMS has evolved into a diverse spectrum of specialized solutions. This new “specialist” technology landscape benefits LMS customers and vendors, alike. And it continues to advance at a dizzying pace.
Actually, this move toward specialization isn’t new – nor is it about learning technology, alone. In fact, for nearly a decade, LMS trends have been shaped by market demand for robust business solutions that extend beyond traditional talent management functions.
Here’s what is new. LMS vendors aren’t just talking about what’s possible – they’re delivering. Organizations are making purchasing decisions based on boldly redefined expectations, and LMS are vendors rising to those expectations. Their solutions work and they’re making a measurable difference in every kind of extended enterprise scenario you can imagine.
Specialists now rule the LMS world. This market characteristic is so fundamental that it influences all other LMS trends, in one way or another.
2) Market Expansion and Consolidation Roll On
UPDATE: The recent wave of investment activity is fascinating. It’s also predictable and simultaneously unpredictable. Over the past decade, as the LMS market ballooned from 12 to 700+ vendors, consolidation became inevitable. Now we see it playing out in multiple market segments. For example:
• CORPORATE LEARNING
Learning Technologies Group (LTG) recently acquired PeopleFluent, NetDimensions, LEO Learning, Rustici Software, Watershed LRS, Gomo Learning and others to offer a robust talent suite based on standalone solutions.
• ASSOCIATION LEARNING
Community Brands has acquired YourMembership, Abila, Crowd Wisdom, Peach New Media, Aptify, NimbleUser and others to create a comprehensive solution set for member-based organizations, non-profits and academia.
These acquired companies are all innovation leaders in their particular specialty. However, unlike past M&A strategies, LTG and Community Brands don’t want to obliterate acquired companies. Instead, they want to add complementary functionality that provides more breadth, depth and flexibility.
Bottom line: Although acquisitions can create temporary uncertainty and disruption for customers, true “value-added” strategies should stabilize and strengthen the market in the long run.
3) The Augmented LMS Gains Wider Appeal
UPDATE: Thanks to APIs that dramatically simplify technology integration, almost anyone can “snap together” compelling, customized learning ecosystems. Through enterprise-class RESTful APIs or microservices provided by Zapier and Mulesoft, it’s much easier and more affordable to integrate robust point solutions such as customer relationship management, marketing automation, customer support and content management, as well as tools for single sign-on, ecommerce, analytics and more.
The most promising LMS augmentation examples are learning experience platforms (LXPs) such as Degreed and EdCast. Although LXPs can coexist with talent management systems, talent management vendors are becoming wary of being eclipsed by LXP upstarts, so they’re starting to enhance their user experience with native functionality that is more mobile, social, collaborative and useful. Time will tell if this is enough to block LXP providers who seem to be adding more LMS-type functionality.
In the mid-small LMS market, learning experience capabilities are being built into LMS solutions from the ground up. This makes it tough for LXPs to win business if they don’t beat the SMB LMS specialists in the door. Keep watching this space.
4) Customer-Focused Learning Systems Are on Fire
UPDATE: In a world where customer success increasingly determines overall business success, customer education has become an imperative. That’s the primary reason why specialized customer training platforms are becoming wildly popular.
If you doubt that statement, just consider how quickly Salesforce.com has grown. In less than 20 years, this cloud-based customer experience suite has become the 4th largest software company in the world, trailing only massive long-time leaders Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.
As product and service companies of all sizes turn to customer success as a source of competitive advantage, the need for training solutions that support customer acquisition, onboarding, retention and profitability will continue to expand. That’s what vendors like Skilljar, Thought Industries, Northpass, Learndot and LearnUpon are counting on.
5) Effective eCommerce Pays, Bigtime
UPDATE: Online training content companies continue to grow faster than other learning technology businesses. Originally, these organizations attracted individuals who wanted an Amazon-like shopping environment where they could easily find relevant content, compare pricing, add it to a shopping cart, purchase, consume and track their progress.
Now, think bigger. Today’s business buyers are purchasing and managing digital training content in bulk on behalf of their organization’s learners. Multiple LMS vendors see this as a lucrative opportunity to boost content sales, so they’re leading the pack with sophisticated volume purchasing capabilities that fully support B2B workflows. Leading examples include eLogic Learning, WBT Systems, WebCourseworks, Community Brands and NetExam.
6) Integrated Content Authoring Joins the Modern LMS
UPDATE: Intra-LMS authoring continues to improve. This approach is often criticized for lack of content portability for those who change LMS vendors. However, this traditional risk is being minimized by automated functionality that makes content migration much faster and easier.
Many organizations continue to use standalone content authoring tools like Articulate, GomoLearning, iSpring and Lectora. But many organizations that sell specialized content, such as associations and continuing education providers, are moving to tightly integrated content/LMS applications.
7) Virtual and Augmented Reality Get Real
UPDATE: Virtual reality is now very real as a learning content option. However, it is still expensive to implement. That’s why I see organizations developing scenario-based immersive learning experiences, but keeping the technology simple.
For example, the American College of Cardiology uses mobile apps to deliver a “case of the week” description to doctors. They earn CME credit by answering questions and reviewing feedback. Similarly, at the Practising Law Institute Interactive Learning Center, attorneys review high-quality video vignettes with questions tied to multiple feedback paths. Instructors track learner progress and record video feedback based on learners’ actual comments.
8) GDPR Sweeps the World
UPDATE: When the new General Data Privacy Regulation took effect in May, it proved that procrastination is as predictable as the day is long. As I expected, a flurry of last-minute compliance activity sidetracked all sorts of extended enterprise training programs.
But here’s the good news. Because LMS buyers are now including GDPR compliance in their RFP requirements, learning systems vendors can no longer ignore it. Soon the pain of implementation will pass and we’ll all be better for it.
Lesson: The GDPR rollout is a prime example of what it takes to retain customers, in a world where SaaS models make LMS switching a constant possibility. When vendors proactively help customers manage business and technology change, loyalty follows.
9) Good Sales Help Wanted!
UPDATE: I should have started a recruiting business. Maybe I will right now! I constantly get calls from people asking me to recommend a great learning technology salesperson or solution architect. Here’s the catch: Great salespeople usually aren’t job hoppers. They build their opportunity pipeline with a multi-year focus, and enjoy the easy sales that come with longevity. Convincing them to switch takes a lot of money, unless their company is tanking for some reason.
Ironically however, cloud LMS vendors don’t want to pay a premium for salespeople. Instead, they often look for a diamond in the rough – and ultimately waste much more money than they would have invested in hiring a seasoned pro. Smart vendors have done the math and they know better.
Are you a solution architect or salesperson with a proven pedigree? Looking for a new challenge? My door is always open!
One thing I know for sure. There’s never a dull moment for those of us who care about where learning technology is headed and how it can help organizations accomplish their goals more effectively and efficiently.
Now it’s your turn to step back and think about how learning innovation is shaping your world. Which of these LMS trends matter most to you? Are you prepared for what’s next?
If you found this update useful, check more observations from me, as I answer the top 10 questions I’ve received this year about how learning technology trends are influencing learning systems selection, purchasing, implementation and business impact.
Thanks for reading!
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