LMS ROI: The Elephant in the Room


Over the past several years we’ve had our heads down. We’ve been squarely focused on creating an LMS product that drives user adoption and engagement.

We’ve also dedicated our energy on forging strong, meaningful partnerships with companies who share our belief in the value of being great places to work. By prioritizing these two, Wisetail has grown and so we’ve also been working hard to be a great place to work ourselves.

Naturally, we watch the $3B LMS market (and the $30B eLearning content market) very closely. Working closely with our clients we see and experience shifts in the Learning & Development landscape, eLearning trends, and fads. We feel well in tune with eLearning industry research, the LMS competitor landscape and the overall online learning picture.

As part of our product development roadmap for 2016, we chose to use our nearly ten years worth of LMS usage data as the foundation to start creating a more meaningful data and analytics product for release in 2017. Different from standard LMS reporting functionality, we envisioned a way for this data to educate decision making and – ultimately – help our clients solve real-world business challenges like employee retention, time-to-productivity, revenue, learner engagement and employee happiness.

So 2016 began with more heads down work. We started having frank conversations with key clients, refining our thinking process, and working through mountains of LMS data – all part of the process in addressing the complex problem. Midway through the year the data started to present some clear trends around companies who drive overall company performance through their LMS investment and those who do not. These were early indicators no doubt, but it made us lift our heads.

Imagine the project team looking around the room collectively shaking our heads all thinking “is this really the state of LMS ROI?” Could the $3B LMS industry really have no universal methodology to prove the value of investing in an LMS? Are companies really making these huge investments on guesswork and gut feelings?

It was kind of an emperor’s new clothes moment for us as a company. Like we were the little kid looking around thinking, “but he’s not wearing any clothes?!?”

Through our work, we know most LMS ROI arguments come up short of truly addressing the complexities of the fundamental LMS ROI question. Many of them are oversimplified and don’t accurately represent the unique role a modern LMS plays in organizational success. Pouring over the data, a greater understanding of the part we play in this equation began to emerge. We understand in an environment where 62% of L&D pros feel executive pressure to justify their work, we (and any LMS partner no doubt) need to be a strategic player in measuring the impact of L&D departments in real, equitable ways.

As we enter 2017, we’re invested in answering this question; How do we become that strategic partner? During our annual APEX conference in October, we started to have this discussion face-to-face with our clients. When we told them in 2017, we were aiming to develop a universal methodology for benchmarking LMS performance and determining ROI we heard one word, “Finally!”

Stay tuned for more in 2017. In the meantime, here’s to powering great places to work and proving it.