Reports from the Road: Some Perspective on Learning from Skillsoft/SumTotal (#Perspectives15)

skillsoft perspectives 2015If seems like all my blogs lately have been about my road trips, it’s because they have been. For 6 to 8 weeks every spring, there is a rush of user events and analyst forums, which fortunately for me are drawing to a close for the moment. It’s a privilege to be invited into so many organizations – both solution providers and end-users – learn from their experiences, and share our research. Rounding out my travels this season was a stop in Orlando for Perspectives ‘15, the first combined user event for Skillsoft and its recently acquired solutions from SumTotal. SumTotal isn’t the only recent acquisition – my colleague Laci Loew recently blogged about their acquisition of Vodeclic. The event not only covered the increasingly broad range of capabilities Skillsoft now brings to the table, but raised some interesting thoughts for me around the nature of learning and change.

One major theme that cut across many of the presentations was the notion of hyper personalization, or mass customization of learning and learning content. All of us know in our heart of hearts that we are special unique creatures that have needs only a unique combination of knowledge and experiences can address. This is what I like to call the “special shiny snowflake syndrome”. But this presents a problem for corporate learning, who is tasked with making sure that everybody in a particular role has the requisite core knowledge and capabilities.

Enter advanced analytics and machine learning, which Skillsoft is making good use of through its partnerships with IBM and its newly acquired capabilities. By using technology to map how people consume learning, algorithms that recognize concepts and can point people to appropriate learning content, and responsive design that seems to anticipate your every move, Skillsoft is very focused on creating personalized learning journeys that are individually controlled and experience, but map back to core business priorities.

This journey of hyper personalization is akin to the journey in marketing, which I have written about before. But continues to strike me that as a consumer culture – internationally as well as in the US – we have come to expect the same experience from our enterprise software that we have from our favorite retailer. The good news is, now organizations have the tools available that can help them create this kind of adaptive experiences. But the important thing will also be to measure their business impact – just as marketing holds itself accountable to do.

Because the end of the day, the most important thing is changing behaviors and aligning them with the drivers of business results. And as guest speaker Mike Walsh reminded us, the most effective way to change behavior is to reduce the complexity of the user experience. As you make it easier and more relevant to learn, more people will. These are important lessons for organizations to remember as they develop learning plans, select learning partners, and curate learning content into the future.

-Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst, Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group @mollielombardi

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