Does the Learning Management System (LMS) have a future?
In a way, this is a non-question. As a commercial proposition, the LMS has never been more successful. Bersin by Deloitte predicts a 10% growth in LMS spending in 2013, with the global market reaching $1.9 billion this year. And Wall Street thinks it’s a hot market, too, with heated M&A activity over the past 12 months for often eye-watering sums: Oracle-Taleo ($1.9bn), SAP-SuccessFactors ($3.4bn), IBM-Kenexa ($1.3bn).
That’s right. Three acquisitions of single LMS providers totalling roughly three-and-a-half times the market’s total forecast global value. Clearly the money men reckon the future of the LMS is not merely secure, it’s golden bright.
In another, perhaps more fundamental way, however, the question is still unanswered.
The question is this: can the LMS survive in a world where workplace learning is about more than taking prescribed courses, a world where much learning comes via our interactions with others?
I have reflected on this since being a guest recently at the Saba Software annual user conference, People 2013. This event is also known as the Saba Global Summit but that headline name – People 2013 – is the key to this question of the future of the LMS. People are indeed what learning is all about. It’s only in the past few years that technology has been able to begin to catch up with this truth, thanks to the power of social networking over the internet.
Saba – one of the first players in the enterprise-wide LMS space, with 31m users, and still an independent, listed company – understands that systems can do a lot more than just push out compliance training. People 2013 was its opportunity to unveil a radical re-iteration of its platform: Saba PeopleCloud.
Clive Shepherd has already blogged about Saba PeopleCloud, examining whether it can meet the needs of modern enterprise learning that he laid out in The New Learning Architect. Does it support learning across his four contexts of the formal, non-formal, on-demand and experiential?
Clive’s assessment is positive, and from what I’ve seen of the LMS, I would agree that the move is absolutely right. With Saba PeopleCloud, Saba has produced a SaaS platform that can support the learning experience rather dictating it. It has – among other things – a genuine social focus and mobile delivery capability.
But I use that phrase “can support the learning experience rather dictating it” deliberately. The devil in any system is in its implementation. By this I don’t mean I think the technology suspect. I think Saba PeopleCloud can probably meet its claims in practice. The real question is how it will be put to use.
Like any LMS, Saba PeopleCloud can be used solely to deliver courses. There is nothing wrong with this, but if it is the only thing we do in L&D, then we are not doing ourselves or our organisations justice And – importantly – if we choose to use our learning systems in this way, it is not the fault of the systems. It is a choice we have made. And frankly, if we make this choice, then neither the LMS nor L&D has much of a future.
I explore this point further in a future post, when I consider what the three letters LMS mean to the L&D profession.
[Disclosure: Saba paid my expenses for attending the conference, but no fee. The company did not view this blog before posting, and did not ask to. Saba is a sponsor of the Learning and Skills Group, which I chair.]