2016 LMS Trends

 

2016 LMS Trends

LMS Trends, Shifts & Perspectives from Wisetail

We wanted to share what we see on the horizon as the big 2016 LMS trends.  This is not a sales piece or a research paper.  If you want data, there is a great deal of research (this Brandon Hall report is excellent) available on recent LMS trends and shifts.  As an Learning Management Software company, we believe we have a different perspective to add to the LMS trends conversation.  Our viewpoint of the broader marketplace is unique because of the frequent communication we have with our clients and the daily, real-time feedback loop we get through our sales process with companies in search of a new LMS.  More specifically, these trends have been informed by three main data points:

  •   LMS needs we uncover via our discovery process with prospective clients.
  •   Real world LMS use cases from prospective clients.
  •   Product insight and feedback from our existing client community.

1)  The Culture Shift is real – just not the “culture” everyone is talking about

Everyone is talking and writing about culture and its impact on the LMS market.  By “everyone” I mean LMS companies, consultants and industry insiders.  When they refer to culture, the talk is mostly focused around a larger cultural shift in how people learn and the cultural implications brought about by emerging learning technologies.  No doubt these are real and are indeed influencing the shifting LMS landscape – but we don’t see them making a huge direct impact in the following year.  From our perspective, their biggest impact is influencing the philosophical discussion at this moment in time how and what is “changing the way we learn.”

We do see culture having a huge direct impact on the LMS market this year, but we’re referring to company culture.  We’ve seen firsthand how (for many companies but not all) the ability to foster their community and convey company culture is now more than a “nice to have” but a firm requirement on their LMS checklist.  This hasn’t always been the case.  Determining the importance of company culture as part of overall LMS needs has always been an important part of our discovery process.  Only recently has it widely gained equal importance to traditional considerations such as reporting, ease-of-use, and price.  We think company culture will be making a bigger impact in 2016 because decision makers are connecting the dots between culture and overall performance through training and communication.

2)  Moving to a new LMS is hard

Over the past two years some interesting numbers on the percentage of companies actively looking to replace their current LMS have been published.  It’s been reported that anywhere from nearly 50% of companies in 2014 to nearly 40% of companies in 2015 were looking for a new LMS.  Our anecdotal conversations (however unscientific) definitely support this data.  A significant number of companies are looking to make a change.

What this research doesn’t include is how hard it is to buy a new LMS and/or make a change from an existing system.  An LMS change is as much about organizational change as it is about selecting a software partner.  Overall company direction, leadership and resources play key roles in the purchase of LMS software.  With the sheer number of LMS solutions available in the marketplace, we don’t see this getting easier anytime soon.  Below are three quick tips to make the selection process a little easier:

  • How an LMS company sells to you is important.  If their sales process involves a thorough discovery phase where they’re invested in learning about your specific needs (they’re good listeners) – that is a good sign.
  • Talk to real people from their client roster.  Get the real story, ask the tough questions from the people using the software daily.
  • Ask about the continuing education, training and user guides they provide to clients for insight into how invested they are after the sale.

3)  LMS Consultants are on the rise

This trend dovetails with how hard it is to move to a new LMS.  With the challenges inherent in buying an LMS on the rise, many have leapt at the opportunities adjacent to the challenges.  LMS bloggers, experts, consultants, and “thought leaders” are making a play in 2016 to help companies vet, buy and implement new LMS systems.  Many former L&D professionals are striking out on their own and creating LMS consulting companies.

The relatively new proliferation of the freemium model in the LMS space has impacted the rise of consultants as well – as the free LMS model is not heavy on service.  The software might be more affordable but champions and administrators are often on their own to implement and run successful systems.

4)  LMS buyers are more interested in service and support.

We’ve witnessed this this firsthand in our sales conversations.  In addition to the capabilities of the product, LMS buyers are asking for real examples of how you help them succeed by providing support and service.  Beyond IT and infrastructure support, they’re looking for best practices, content mapping strategies, and use cases.  The sophistication of how deep buyers are vetting the services they receive as a client is becoming exceptionally thorough.  They’re asking great questions beyond the standard Service Level Agreement (SLA) such as:

  • Is your service team based in the US or abroad?
  • If I call you with a question, does it go to a call center?
  • What does a typical implementation schedule look like, what is the timeline and who own which parts?
  • How many hours of training and support do you provide per month?  Will I be charged if I need additional help?
  • How much access do I have to a real person for continuing training?
  • How much self-service training do you offer?
  • How much can you help me continually innovate?

5)  The Content Pinch is very real

Whoever said “content is king” was telling the truth.  The desire for real, high quality, authentic learning content has never been as high as it is today and we expect this to continue throughout 2016.  We’re seeing L&D professionals responding to an audience that is rapidly evolving faster than they can keep up.  Today’s audiences are super savvy and while learning technology might be evolving faster to serve the changing landscape of “how people learn” – we believe the audience’s sophistication is actually being driven more by their experiences as consumers outside of work.  On-demand entertainment platforms like Netflix and HBO Now are serving the same audience.  Needless to say L&D departments have smaller budgets and need to do more than simply entertain – so yes, it’s not a fair fight.  But it is a reality.

We don’t see the content pinch going away in 2016.  In fact, we’re seeing more L&D departments creating in-house content creation positions to combat the pinch.  The result – for these companies – has been a huge spike in super creative, engaging, authentic content.  Much of this content is video based, which is very exciting.

What LMS trends are on your radar in 2016?  Send us a note, we’d love to hear what you have to say.

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Peter (PK) Kirwan

MKTG Director at Wisetail • Bozeman Native • Wordsmith