Select Smarter: Set Your Organization Up for Success

Buyers look at a lot of factors when selecting new learning solutions. But smart buyers do a few things differently.

Choose a partner, not just software.

Pretty user interfaces, ease of integration with other systems, and other features are important factors, but a lot of next-generation products offer similar features and functions. So how do you really differentiate? Find a partner you can work with and trust — not just another vendor.

“The one thing that I would recommend to anybody and the one really solid guiding principle we had in this process was partnership. There are a number of vendors out there, but you’ve got to work or figure out which vendors are the ones who are still going to be there six months later or are going to be shoulder to shoulder with you through implementation, and by extension, a part of your team. We needed to feel like we had an extension of our team on hand who worked shoulder to shoulder with us to implementation and beyond.”

— Airbnb, Global Learning Lead, Barry Murphy

Before buying, ask:

  • What kind of service and support do they offer? Meet the people you’ll be relying on.
  • Are there any issues that will impact time to value and ROI?
  • What’s their vision of the future? Will your technology be future-proof?

“As we’re signing onto different technologies, whether it’s a learning platform or an LMS, I look at what the technology offers beyond just the technology. So what kind of teams am I buying when I buy this service or this product? Am I buying a marketing team? Am I buying a curation team? And that has made my decisions for me in a lot of cases where I know that I’m not just buying a technology or a product; I’m buying an entire team of people to help enable what we’re trying to do at General Mills. And so I see them as an extension of my team, too.”

— General Mills, Talent Development Leader, Susie McNamara

Top considerations for learner-centric technology choices are ease of integration (do they offer APIs that share data?), user interface, and user experience — and choosing a customer-centric partner to support your organization through implementation and beyond.

Focus on value, not just price.

Look beyond the sticker price. Consider the total cost of ownership and value as a function of not just the initial license fees or annual contract value, but also the speed and productivity of implementation, as well as the effort, time, and opportunity cost of having to do some (or a lot) of the heavy lifting yourself. Consider these factors, along with productivity gains from using the system, and other hard savings like maintaining underutilized, unnecessary, redundant, or obsolete content and systems.

Think integrating, not just integrated.

A learning ecosystem by definition is holistic. And that’s the point. Any solution needs to be able to integrate, so all systems complement one another, work together, and communicate. It’s the glue — the connective tissue that brings the experience together, and generates useful insights, not just more data.

Yet, despite consensus on integration being critical, understanding and use of APIs in L&D is relatively low. The integrated (one-system) approach often came with compromises, and the low Net Promoter Scores earned by most learning solutions bear that out. But things have changed — and one system isn’t always better or easier anymore.

How Organizations Select Learning Technology

Understanding and use of APIs in L&D is relatively low. In Exhibit 1, we see that out of 213 webinar* poll responses, almost 3 in 4 said ease of integrations was most important, and in Exhibit 2, out of 195 webinar* poll responses, only 15 percent think APIs will help their L&D team adapt to shifting demands.

*Source: Degreed/Bersin by Deloitte, 2017: The Near Future of Learning Technology webinar, poll question results.

Exhibit 1

Which of these factors are most important to your organization when selecting learning technologies? (Choose top three.)*
User interface/user experience 84%
Ease of integration with other systems 72%
Cost/price 57%
Time to value/return 38%
Service and support 33%
Product vision/road map 24%
Reputation or brand 9%
*Source: Degreed/Bersin by Deloitte, 2017: The Near Future of Learning Technology webinar, poll question results.

Exhibit 2

Which technology will have the biggest positive impact on your L&D team’s ability to respond to shifting worker demands over the next three years? (Choose top three.)
Learner experience/engagement platforms 49%
Collaboration/social networking platforms 34%
Video/micro-learning 33%
Artificial intelligence/machine learning 23%
Learning analytics/learning records stores 21%
APIs 15%
Learning management systems 12%
Virtual or augmented reality 8%
Chatbots 2%
*Source: Degreed/Bersin by Deloitte. The Near Future of Learning Technology webinar, poll question results. 2017.

Most forward-thinking CLOs are looking to stitch together the best capabilities, and they’re already taking advantage of experience platforms, APIs, and other novel tools to do it.

“Because we have APIs — APIs are really what integrates each of the systems — you can take solutions and replace them very quickly and effectively as times change. And so you’re not talking about a massive overhaul to your learning experience.”

— Caterpillar, Division Manager, Global Dealer Learning, Mike Miller

“It’s the age of APIs and it’s clear to see that we don’t need to go with a monolithic architecture of data that feeds different parts of a value chain in one big system. Those days are over. We can now strategically choose the value that we want to actually bring together and connect it via APIs.”

— Former CLO of Atlassian, Sam Haider

Good enough isn’t good enough anymore.

Think hard about the questions you’re asking as you evaluate the strength of different solutions. What’s deemed as good might not always be the best option.

Good: Integrated, closed systems (e.g., TMS, LMS)

Better: Integrating open ecosystems (e.g., experience platforms, APIs)

Good: Pretty, engaging user interfaces

Better: Simple, productive user experiences

Good: Personalized learning

Better: Targeting learning at skills gap

Good: Mobile, always-on learning

Better: Learning embedded in everyday routines

Good: Internal social learning

Better: Open, networked communities

Good: Backward-looking reports

Better: Forward-looking insights

Good: Low prices

Better: Speed to realizing value and business impact

Good: Technical service

Better: Comprehensive support for change management

Good: Sexy product road map

Better: A proven record of delivering vision, innovation, and value

Good: Good references and reputations

Better: Strong user engagement and Net Promoter Scores