Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why has the LCMS market not been more successful?

The following is from a posting I made on a linkedIn discussion on why there aren't more LCMS vendors and why they haven't seemingly been that successful. Thought it would be interesting to include here as well ...

We have tracking the LCMS space for 8+ years including reviewing many of the leading solutions, and providing private advice to European corporates interested in this space.

I think there are four main challenges:

1. Corporates don't understand the business case for LCMS. In general, most organisations are largely ignorant of their learning content investment, resources and processes and therefore don't even have basic metrics to understand the problem or opportunity an LCMS or similar solution would address. This is different to LMS where the metrics and costs are usually more visible.

2. There isn't an obvious owner to lead the investment case. Learning content development also tends to be a distributed activity, reflecting the fragmented nature of training teams and the separation of design for different learning channels such as between ILT and e-learning and other digital types. No one person really understands the problem or can define a strategy and investment case to address it with a single integrated solution. It also means that defining requirements and agreeing processes is very difficult. Learning content development is very much an artisan industry - designers like to hand pick their tools and don't like having a centralised solution imposed on them which benefits the overall company but makes their lives more difficult and limits their creativity.

3. The LCMS vendors have been poor at explaining their value proposition and break down barriers to entry. LCMS tools are typically pretty expensive things, especially when compared with desktop authoring tools. The vendors have historically got caught up in lots of jargon and technical standards and IMHO have been poor at translating that into business needs and value.

4. Complexity and One Stop Shop - There are many processes involved in end to end LCM and they tend to get bundled together into a one stop shop solution, that is complex to implement and operate. But more importantly, it forces significant compromise in one or more parts of the process set. I'm sure that (despite many of the points above), that if you seamlessly integrate an LCMS with your existing authoring tool set and get all of the benefits of an LCMS without limiting your front end creativity, more companies would have adopted them. In reality, the compromises often result in reduced adoption and weaken the business case or desire to engage.

The comparison with LMS is interesting. Many projects start by including an LCMS element but it gets dropped during the procurement cycle because of lack of clear business priority/case or lack of understanding of requirements. LMS's do not solve LCMS problems, and whilst I agree with @Craig that they and Cloud authoring tools now include some lightweight collaboration and sharing features, in reality they do not address the LCMS issue - especially for multi-format content.

In summary, there are many reasons why LCMS hasn't been more populate - some of the self inflicted by the vendors and the solutions they offer, but some firmly in the hands of the customers themselves and their ability to build a compelling business case and strategy for adoption.

My final point though, is I believe significant - the problem that LCMS is/was trying to solve is absolutely real. Companies have huge hidden issues with managing, maintaining, auditing, tracking and delivering their learning content across their distributed organisations and across the growing number of learning channels they want to support. Mobile is multiplying this problem further.

Who will help companies meet this need is unclear. With the exception of Kenexa which bought Outstart and itself was bought by IBM, all the LCMS vendors are small, and generally not global in reach. There is a lot of innovation but I believe vendors will need to help solve all of the above points if this market is going to truly grow.

Some related resources:
Elearnity's 9-Grid for Authoring Tools including LCMS
An older Elearnity report on Learning Content Management