Putting The Learning Technology Pieces Together

Technology keeps advancing and the pace only seems to increase with each passing year. Much like parents trying to stay on top of the technology available to their kids, organizations often struggle to keep up with the technologies available to their workforce. Learning technology is no different, and many organizations have suffered by clinging to outdated and outmoded tools. 

Nearly half of organizations do not believe the technology they currently deploy is meeting the needs of their learners and the business.

Just a few years ago, the LMS would likely have been the only technology line item in an organization’s learning budget. Now, L&D teams have to figure out how to fit a much wider array of applications, tools, and platforms into a budget that is typically frozen or shrinking. 

Currently, the LMS accounts for an average of 54% of overall learning technology spend, and for three-quarters of organizations, technology accounts for less than 15% of the overall L&D budget

This complexity is not only challenging in terms of budget but also the fact that multiple tools often mean multiple vendors to manage and a growing number of integration needs. As the workforce of the future becomes more connected, so too must all the tools they are using be more connected. 

For 59% of organizations, these challenges are exacerbated by the fact that they leverage their learning technology ecosystem to support training for non-employees such as customers, resellers, franchisees, and other extended enterprise audiences. Extending technology’s reach outside of the organizations brings its own complexities in terms of meeting the needs of learners, data security and more. 

It is critical that L&D teams have the right mix of technologies to execute the learning strategy. As more organizations shift to a culture of continuous learning, they will need to have the right tools to make that a reality. While traditional classes and courses will continue to be mainstays of the corporate learning environment, organizations will never be able to meet the dynamically shifting needs of the business and its learners by relying on them alone. 

As learning technology continues to evolve, the lines between just what different solutions do have blurred immensely. Many LMS platforms feature the kind of functionality once exclusive to LXPs, and vice versa. As new technologies emerge, existing platforms adopt them, either through development or acquisition. Organizations must decide if they need stand-alone solutions for some things or embedded functionality for others. The simplicity of integrations and APIs has made it much easier to connect multiple solutions within the same ecosystem. 

All of these challenges, complexities, and consequences lead to one basic question: How do we decide which technologies we need?

Technology selection is not something to be undertaken lightly. It requires a decent amount of homework and due diligence to ensure that the organization does not find itself continuously needing to replace technologies that have failed to deliver results. 

This diligence starts internally. Before seeking out the latest and greatest that the learning technology space has to offer an organization must ascertain its needs. It could be that the current platform isn’t being leveraged to its fullest potential and that is what is leading to subpar outcomes. Very often organizations have pieced together multiple existing tools to replicate the functionality of a proprietary tool – often with poor results. 

There must be a full examination of what does and does not exist in the current technology ecosystem, which is then compared to what the business and learners need from learning to achieve the outcomes outlined in the learning strategy. By identifying gaps in the current technology, it becomes possible to build the business case for change. 

Of course, the learning budget must be taken into consideration. There is very often not much wiggle room in the budget, but properly building the business case can give L&D the ammunition it needs to make the case for an expanded budget. Focusing on outcomes and strategy rather than bells and whistles is the key. 

Focusing on outcomes will also aid in determining which technologies and which providers are the right ones. Developing use cases designed to achieve specific results gives L&D something concrete by which to assess technologies as to whether they will adequately meet their needs. Simply attending a series of generic demos may make the technologies look good but do nothing to determine what they will do specifically for your organization. 

In any selection, it is important to remember that you are not just buying technology but committing to a partner. The vendor must see the relationship the same way. Without a strong commitment to partnership, features and pricing will quickly lose their value. 

Do not be afraid to ask questions of potential vendors. Get a feel for their commitment to a partnership as well as their technology roadmap. Follow up on customer references to get an idea of what life is like with this vendor. Most importantly, the relationship should not end on the day of purchase but begin in earnest. A partnership is a two-way street. Be prepared to communicate clearly and often with your vendors. They cannot solve your problems if they don’t know what they are.

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David Wentworth



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