Building the Business Case for Next-Generation Learning Technology

Learning technology solutions should provide a simple experience that encourages employees to use the system to improve themselves and their performance whenever and wherever they need it.

The learning technology landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, and organizations are struggling to keep up. Responsive/adaptive design, collaborative tools, and many other technologies have matured and become staples in the learning ecosystem.

The ability to deliver a completely new, relevant, contextual learning experience means organizations have had to rethink what learning technology means to them. Currently, only 48 percent of companies believe their learning technology selection process is either effective or very effective, according to Brandon Hall Group’s just-completed 2017 Learning Technology Study.

This means that more than half of companies rate their efforts as either neutral or ineffective. The goal of this article is to assist organizations in thinking through the technological decisions and business case for the right learning management system (LMS). We will focus on why companies need to rethink their learning technology decisions and what type of learning management system is required to meet the rapidly evolving needs of the learning audience.

Business Impact

The shift in the way companies deliver learning is not just about learner preferences. It is having a pronounced impact on the business itself. Based on Brandon Hall Group’s latest research, 91 percent of companies that have moved to a blend of formal, informal, and experiential learning say they have seen an improvement in the link between learning and business performance.

Organizations—especially high-performing organizations (high-performing organizations are shown through survey results to see overall improvement across these criteria: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, organizational revenue/performance, voluntary turnover, and organizational productivity)— also are trying to personalize the learning experience, basing it on employees’ professional and personal needs/interests, and making learning available in venues and timeframes that are best for the learner. Overall, 61 percent of high-performing organizations say they employ personalized learning, while only 35 percent of other organizations say the same. The impact is impressive:

  • 93 percent say personalized learning supports an employee in reaching professional goals more efficiently
  • 91 percent say personalized learning supports employee needs in continuously developing knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  • 88 percent say personalized learning has helped to improve their organization’s strategies, mission, or vision.

Business Need

Highlights from the Learning Technology Research:

  • Learning and development is becoming more challenging as the workforce continues to evolve into a multi-generational learning audience.
  • Organizations are finding that their current learning technology strategies do not meet the learning requirements of their employees.
  • Learning technology solutions must provide a stronger link between education and training and individual and organizational performance.

Learning and development has evolved from traditional classroom instructor-led training to experiential learning. Organizations are learning quickly that a learning strategy dominated by instructor-led training is not a long-term strategy. More than three-quarters of organizations say formal learning experiences such as instructor-led classroom training are either important or critical to their business, and informal learning experiences are seen as just as important.

However, more companies (86 percent) say experiential learning is this important (more than half say it is critical to their business). In a world of multi-modal learners, organizations are quickly finding out that their learning management system needs to be multifaceted. Many companies are relying too heavily on legacy systems that do not provide the latest technological advances to support multi-generational learners.

Learning and development within companies has reached a new level of sophistication and complexity. To address this challenge, organizations must adopt a new approach to learning and development and the leveraging of a learning management system.

In a world where three-quarters of companies are trimming their learning and development budget or leaving it the same, the demand for return on investment for learning is at an all-time high, and the budget for learning technology is under increased scrutiny. With the right learning management system in place, a company can dramatically improve its ability to engage and develop multi-generational learners and deliver high-impact learning and development to a wide audience.

Answering these questions will help companies articulate the business need back to business leaders.

  • What are your greatest learning and development challenges?
  • Is your existing learning management system improving business outcomes?
  • What is at stake if you do not make a change now? How will your business be impacted?

Technology Solutions

Highlights from the Brandon Hall Group Research:

  • Next-generation learning management systems offer much more than a traditional learning management system.
  • These systems offer advanced capabilities including mobile, social, assessments, advanced reporting, and analytics.
  • These systems can have a dramatic impact on the learner experience.

Next-generation learning management systems have evolved from rudimentary training platforms used to support compliance-based training to complete array of features that serve both the administrator and the learner. New learning management systems offer the ability to support the entire blended learning strategy to include formal, informal, and experiential learning. These systems promote a learning experience that attracts learners though learning portals, peer-to-peer learning, gaming and simulation, mentoring capabilities, straightforward integration with other systems, mobile capabilities, and the ability to support extended enterprise learning. More systems are offering ways to curate content and create relevant learning experiences, as well as employing tools (such as xAPI and Learning Record Stores) to capture, measure, and analyze all the new learning experiences beyond the class and the course.

 

 

 

 

 

Answering these questions can help companies clearly articulate how this solution will enable business outcomes.

  • How is a next-generation LMS different from our existing technology?
  • What are the key capabilities that will improve business outcomes?
  • How will these systems support our overall corporate objectives?

Questions to Consider

With an investment in a newer learning management system, organizations will need to consider the following questions related to resources.

Budget

  • What is our budget for learning management technology?
  • What are we currently investing in and what are we planning to invest in for the future?

Determining the organization’s learning budget is critical before moving forward with selection. When companies invest in on-premise solutions, IT departments typically are responsible for HR technology. When companies invest in software-as-a-solution (SaaS) or cloud solutions, the L&D function usually becomes responsible for the budget. When thinking about the budget, companies should consider what they have spent in the past, what they can spend today, and what is realistic for the future.

Pricing

  • What is the cost of a next-generation system and what is the pricing model available to us (pay per user, subscription model, licensing model, implementation fees, etc.)?
  •  What happens if the price escalates after the first year?

After determining the budget, understanding pricing options is a critical component for selecting a system. Since many factors influence pricing, it is nearly impossible to compare different pricing models for these systems. The most important thing companies need to consider is what they are spending for every aspect of product capabilities, implementation, and upcoming releases. Companies can combat this challenge by asking detailed questions about pricing. They also must plan for additional costs such as implementation services, training, or additional users.

Implementation

  • Do we need third-party support for implementation?
  • What is a realistic implementation timeframe?
  • Will L&D, HR, IT—or a combination—own implementation?
  • Do we need training post-implementation?
  • Do we need a global implementation strategy?

Implementation is challenging for many companies and frustrating when you have expectations about when and how you will be able to use your system. Companies must develop a plan for rolling-out their technology—possibly by region or by business unit. Companies also must be patient when implementation does not go smoothly and plan accordingly with additional resources if needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timeframe

  • When do we need to revisit our existing contracts with our technology providers?
  • When do we need to upgrade our Human Resource management system (HRMS) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technology?

Companies often look to replace technology when it is time to upgrade their existing ERP or HRMS technology. Companies look at what options are available and if a new system will be able to meet its individual workforce needs. Considering a timeline will depend on a company’s existing technology and its readiness to change.

Delivery Model

  • What is our preferred delivery model?
  • If we currently use on-premise solutions, what resources do we need internally to support a SaaS or cloud-based system?

Many organizations have a delivery model preference or requirements based on their overarching company strategy and policies. For example, industries with high security needs require an on-premise or hosted model. The great majority of next-generation learning technologies offer an on-demand SaaS model or a cloud-based solution. This is where learning technology is going.

Integration

  • How will we handle integration?
  • What existing solutions do we need to integrate with and how will this integrate with our existing systems?

This high degree of integration in learning can feel overwhelming for organizations feeling pressure to select and implement a system in a short period of time. To maximize the level of investment in these systems, organizations need to consider the long-term implications of an integrated strategy and begin any communications and change management to support this strategy before investing in a system.

Metrics

  • How do you measure the real impact for the organization?
  • What metrics do we need to measure the effectiveness of our learning management system?
  • How will this system enable competency and skills progression, as well as productivity and performance?

It is imperative that organizations go significantly beyond traditional learning metrics such as course completions and course satisfaction. Metrics are about understanding learning’s impact on performance. Technology metrics are about analyzing how well the solutions are working to enable learning that impacts performance.

Learner Experience

  • How will this solution improve the learning experience?
  • Is the technology simple and engaging?

Organizations of all sizes are looking for ways to engage with learners on a daily basis. In fact, nearly 60 percent of companies found that enhancements of learning technology had a significant impact on their employee engagement scores. Technology solutions should provide a simple experience that encourages employees to use the system to improve themselves and their performance whenever and wherever they need it.

David Wentworth is Principal Learning Analyst for Brandon Hall Group, an independent research and analyst firm in the human capital management space, with practices in Learning & Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and HR/Workforce Management. For more information on building a business case for new learning technologies, contact success@brandonhall.com.

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