February 2023 saw another Learning Tech industry analyst produce their Grid of the best learning systems and it makes me want to bang my head against the wall!
Unfortunately, these lists/grids are absolutely at the heart of the problem with the industry and we need to step away from them. This is both as the buyer of systems and the system vendors themselves.
So, what if the problem I hear you ask?
The lists focus everyone on the wrong things. They focus on inputs not outputs and cause the buying process to become more not less confusing. Rather then focus on features we should look at benefits or outcomes. Learning teams should focus on the value they are providing to their business and people, not the bells and whistles features which provide this. Most industries have moved to values based selling not features based selling, yet lists and approaches like this pull the learning tech industry back to a features based approach.
Think about the how we purchase a car, the vast majority of people buy on outcomes and value not on the features which in combination might create this. We look for comfort, safety, environmental impact, performance etc. Each manufacturer will have a myriad of features which will build up to the value created in each of these areas.
In the same way reviewing, renewing or purchasing your learning tech should be based on what you want to achieve, not on system features.
So, your desired and expressed outcome could be to:
enhance collaboration and innovation within your teams
enhance sales and the performance of your teams
support your team members to develop the skills they need for future roles
ensure that new joiners to the business become proficient more quickly
ensure that you enhance the ability of your teams to develop their leadership impact
or even ensure that your company if operating in the most safe and ethical way.
These requirements will be unique to each organisation and the way they wish to solve them will also differ. Thinking about how your learning technology can help be part of the solution for you will deliver far better results than comparing features and benefits.
So, what other issues do these lists create?
For Buyers – In many parts of our lives we have comparison engines online which can compare insurance or other such products. The appeal of having the same for something as confusing as learning tech is obvious. However, if you reflect on these comparison sites they are at their best when they are outcome focussed rather than listing loads of technical features.
Where buyers rely on these lists, they often end up being forced into a featured based approach to purchasing. These lists often end up in RFP requests during a procurement process with little reasoning as to why they are on the list.
They also don’t help unearth the best suppliers for you as the don’t help you focus in on your outcomes and they don’t allow you to get past much of the misleading jargon in the industry.
Unfortunately (and we can provide numerous examples) the information provided is just plain wrong or confusing. This frustrates the suppliers as much as it will do the buyers.
For Vendors – Vendors end up feeling obliged to join the list as others do and they feel they are missing out on market opportunities if they don’t. Despite this Vendor’s are frustrated that they have to pay money to appear on these lists which regularly misinterpret and misrepresent their products. It is a vicious circle which becomes hard to break.
So why do these lists exist?
They exist because the learning tech market is confusing and changes rapidly. It is also full of jargon and terms which change as vendors try to differentiate their products. The market is also confusing as the needs of customers are very individualised and therefore there is not a one size fits all solution. As internal purchasers do not buy learning tech every day or year, coming new to the market for the first time or after a break can feel very confusing and overwhelming.
So, what are the other options
You can work with vendors directly – can be time consuming and often will be hard to differentiate between what they offer and you may miss the gaps in what they do as they of course will show you their best side
You can hire in an interim consultant to run your project – can be a good option but often interims have a view or experience of one particular system so you may not get the right options for you
Ask your peers and competitors what they use – as there is not a one size fits all solution out there often the solution used by others won’t be the best for you. Also the market moves so quickly it may be that better options have become available since that system was selected.
Engage an independent business or set of consultants such as The Learning Effect who work in this space everyday and will work to partner with you to ensure you get the very best outcome for your business and people.
Written by James Poletyllo, Founding Director of the Learning Effect
The Learning Effect exists to help businesses enhance their performance through their approach to learning. Our wealth of in-house experience combined with our knowledge of the learning tech market and results driven approach make us your go to partner if you are looking to review and change your approach to your learning strategy, the structure and skills of your learning team or your learning technology get in touch.