Friday, November 24, 2006

SaaS for Enterprise Learning?

I have long though that there was a significant potential role for ASP or Software-as-a-Service learning solutions for large enterprise organisations, but I'm not sure whether the vendors really see this (beyond those that SaaS is their main offering anyway). Yes they get the fact that SaaS is a good approach to sub-Enterprise customers (mid-tier etc), and that it is a useful tactical tool for accelerating enterprise customers. But they don't seem to see it as the long term platform of choice for them, believing that privately hosted or behind the firewall are the likely options.

I'm not sure I agree. Tactical platforms have a habit of being more long term than originally envisaged - especially given the challenge with the strategic ducks lined up! I'm also unconvinced that the perceived cost of SaaS over the longer term is disadvantageous compared with fully-costed internal or externally hosted solutions. And you would seem to get much greater flexibility with SaaS, both in terms of commitment, and in terms of flexibility of service, compared with the detailed terms and conditions that a hosting service or internal IT department wants to impose.

I'm interested to know what you think ...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Corporate e-learning trends - headlines for Europe

I know it seems a bit early to start the "what's the trends for 2007" stories, but someone just asked me for such a view based on our corporate research. Thought you might also be interested in the answer. As always, happy for feedback.

For 2007, we expect the key developments for corporates to be around a) reconstructing and expanding the e-learning supply chain, b) reengineering and integrating learning management processes, and c) a diversifcation of e-learning content including experimentation with alternative delivery approaches.

A big part of a) is adoption of rapid e-learning inside corporates, and we expect most organisations to acquire tools and grow activities (if they haven't done so already). But we expect corporates to also start to realise the limitations of the rapid model, not least, the challenges for managing quality, educational value, and technical assurance. Whilst we are advocates of rapid e-learning, we also believe it is significantly over-hyped currently, and more sophisticated approaches are required. In addition, we also expect to see more changes in the ways corporates use external custom e-learning developers with increasing pressures for lower-cost, more rapid external solutions as well, and for self-maintenance.

b) Many corporates are reevaluating their LMS strategy going forward, and now increasingly interested in integrated talent and performance management. Although consistent with the grand ERP/HRMS story, and often the overall direction for extending use of their ERP platform, the HR sub-functions are sceptical of the fit of these products to their specific functional needs. We expect to see tactical successes for the LMS vendors in the performance and talent space, although longer term we still expect to see pressure from IT for a single integrated HR/ERP solution.

c) Although Wikis and podcasting maybe very trendy currently, most corporates are not really using them. We expect to see more experimentation in 2007, and some very interesting project successes, but we do not expect this to become truly mainstream in corporate usage. We also expect to see a shift away from traditional large e-learning course-based content towards smaller, more granular just-in-time e-content and performance support. We also expect to see referenceware growing in popularity relative to traditional e-learning courses, and greater adoption of virtual meeting/classroom technologies, which have now matured and are more widely available.

Across all of the above we expect to see more externalising of the infrastructure to deliver it, i.e. further growth in ASP or Software as a Service delivered infrastructure and solutions.

Key corporate drivers: immediate solutions, lower cost, more flexibility, more connected/aligned, bypassing internal constraints

Friday, November 03, 2006

SkillSoft's acquisition of NETg

I'm really surprised not to have seen more ripples from SkillSoft's acquisition of NETg from Thomson Corporation. Having acquired Smartforce previously, and now acquiring NETg, SkillSoft seems to be finally closing the cycle on the once lucrative e-learning content business. With its origins from a group of ex-NETgers, and living under a cloud of lawsuits in the early days, SkillSoft has gone from strength to strength, now consuming both of its major adverseries.

What are the implications of this move for corporate customers? Good question. Many corporates have a commitment to either the SkillSoft or the NETg e-content libraries, and I don't see that changing that rapidly because the supplier has changed. The fact that there's now only one big content gorilla might affect competition, but to be honest, I think that was already changing anyway as corporates reconfigure their requirements and commitments. (see this note on generic e-learning we published last year for a view on this).

What really interests me is whether this event will accelerate the shift away from large generic content libraries rather than the other way around. Although maybe slightly contradictory (just as one vendor emerges with a huge content library), I wonder whether the battleground has finally shifted to niche content battles rather than library wars, and whether, in the end, the content (at least the traditional click and turn e-courses of the past)is actually becoming a more marginal part of the customer value proposition anyway. Let's see!