Thursday, March 15, 2007

Learning Content Management Research

We've just announced the results of our recent research into Learning Content Management which you might find interesting.

We believe the research strong indicates that large organisations need coherent strategies for producing and managing learning content that are geared to the needs and structure of their business ... and that, currently, they generally don't have them.

A copy of the exec paper can be downloaded from here.

I'm interested in your comments ...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kick out the Jams?

There is a very interesting discussion about whether the BBC is stifling innovation on TechCrunch, and follows some typically bold comments from TechCrunch commentator Michael Arrington on "dissolving the BBC". Separately, but relevant to the discussion, the BBC has also decided to suspend BBC Jam, its online education service.

I think this is a very interesting and valid discussion. The trouble is it tends to descend into the pro/anti BBC factions, which potentially obscures the central point of the discussion - is the remit of the BBC in the digital age sufficiently clear or robust? Where should and shouldn't the BBC be allowed to invest in producing services, and how does that impact the independent market in those areas?

In the case of Jam, the BBC has a well established pedigree and role in the children's educational content market in the UK. But does that mean it should be providing it as a service at the UK tax payers' expense, I'm less convinced. I know the BBC claims to have a process (referred to by someone on the video) for vetting whether it should be engaging in different market spaces, but who is this accountable to? Seemingly not to independent regulation, or to the tax payer? Largely it seems to be accountable to itself, and that is what causes concern. In this sense, Jam is definitely the thin end of a rapidly growing wedge.

My personal view is that this is a complex not a simple issue. Services like Jam can add a lot of value in the market, often to parts of the market that have limited choice in reality. That can be a boon, but it also comes at a heavy price - collectively to those funding the BBC, but also in stifling innovation, often in markets where that innovation is desperately needed. I'm sure it impacts venture capital investment in competitive organisations, but it also helps to validate a market space that may spawn better solutions.

Let's keep the debate about the issue of remit and market impact, not about whether paid advertising is nice to watch ... I'm sure we all have a similar answer to that!


Putting the Service in LMS

What proportion of corporate LMS projects fail because of issues with the way they are implemented or run, rather than inadequacies in the underlying LMS application?

This is a key question we have been exploring for some time in our LMS research and it seems to me to really challenge some of the vendor market messaging, and the corporate mindset on LMS procurement. Our historic research tends to point to the view that many LMS projects fail (or at least fail to meet their original expectations) because of poor ... insert your choice of ... implementation, customisation, integration, support, operations, administration, etc. In other words, poor service.

Many of the "lessons learnt" from our roundtables relate more to the services around the LMS, than the LMS itself. These can include: poor architecture design and performance, problematic HR integration, excess customisation and failure to upgrade, no change management inside L&D, lack of long term direction, poor expectation management. These are all largely indicative of "service" failure rather than application failure.

Sure, application choice has an impact on how these services are performed, and how difficult it is to achieve the outcome. I'm not saying it isn't important, just that it is not the only thing that is important. Maybe choosing the best implementation partner is more important than choosing the best application? And surely even choosing the LMS is itself a service proposition (clarifying strategy, building the business case, understanding requirements, shortlisting potential products, planning, negotiating the contract etc.).

We have doing quite a lot of thinking about the service proposition of LMS, but I would be interested in your thoughts on the matter.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vendor Health Check

We're seeing a lot of renewed vendor activity at the moment which seems to reflect quite overt optimism and aspiration for the market. (Something slightly lacking for a few years after the dot com bubble).

Some of the patterns we're seeing include:

  • Increasing focus by the US-based learning technology vendors on the European market with an increase in local investment in resources and marketing.
    (There are also some similar signs from other international vendors e.g. from Asia-Pacific, and from continental European vendors in the UK market).
  • New market entrants, especially in the sub-enterprise space, often with niche tools leveraging Web 2.0 technology
  • Significant growth in managed learning services, ranging from SaaS/ASP technology platforms through to more comprehensive outsourcing
The e-learning content market is particularly interesting with consolidation amongst the generic and custom content vendors at the high-end, but increasing fragmentation at the bottom-end. I don't believe we yet seen any significant fall out from SkillSoft's acquisition of NETg yet, but the number of niche content vendors we are seeing activity from is increasing significantly.

Some vendor dynamics I'm watching closely are:-

In the technology market: LMS Consolidation/competition at the talent management level, increasing SaaS/ASP delivery in corporates, learning content management technologies and multi-modal content, marginalisation of specialist learning collaboration tools by Web 2.0 technologies, Open-Source platforms, etc.

In the content market: Specialisation and high net value content, content diversification away from e-courses, "rapid" vendors, reengineering supply chains and fragmented buying, changing economics of content production, content validity strategies, etc.

I'd be interested in your views of the above and the general state of the supply-side market ...


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Corporate Roundtables

I'm currently planning out our corporate roundtable agenda for the year, and am interested in the topics people are thinking would be most interesting. (See the general description of how the roundtables work). Some specific topics which I'm playing with include:
  • The reality of "talent management"
  • Rapid e-learning - fact and fiction
  • Open source learning technology
  • Learning Outsourcing
  • SaaS - Why implement inside the firewall?
Please provide comments on the above and suggest other hot topics as appropriate.

We probably plan to run 3 or 4 roundtables this year - personal invite only. Any UK/European corporates who are interesting in attending should email me.

thanks, DAVID


I've been playing around with MyBlogLog in the background as a potential tool to add a bit more identity to who's been accessing the blog. Let me know what you think.