Learning Content Management: A Real Solution for 2008

For many years the corporate learning market has struggled with the issue of content management.  Training programs create many forms of content:  powerpoint slides, checklists, job aids, video, audio, as well as the massive amount of content provided by e-learning, including HTML pages, Flash objects, assessments, audio, video, interactivities, blog entries, and more.

As more and more organizations adopt e-learning (both purchased and built internally), the problem of managing this content becomes bigger.  In fact, it becomes a nightmare.  Consider the problem of a telecommunications company (e.g. Verizon Wireless, a client of ours) which changes a rate plan or offers new phones.  The company must update all the online training, certification programs, job aids, checklists, price lists, performance support systems, and customer support databases.  Quite a daunting task, especially when one considers that telecommunications companies are changing plans and products almost every month.

To make matters even worse, consider the learning delivery part of the problem.  How do you make sure that a service representative, sales person, or technical engineer can find “just what they need” when they are trying to sell, service, or repair a problem?  In today’s highly networked organizations, the problem is no longer one of “training” – it is one of providing what we call “learning on-demand.”  Solutions to “learning on-demand” must draw upon a content management strategy.

Around 2002 a software category was created to solve this problem:  the “learning content management system” or LCMS.  For the first few years the providers of these systems struggled:  buyers did not know what they were, they did not understand the nature of the problem, and they were confused between the LCMS (a content management, development, and delivery system) and the LMS (a learning administration and reporting system).  We have talked with dozens of companies struggling with the problem of content management, and for the most part they use simple versioning approaches, they build their own internal tools from off-the-shelf products, and they apply a lot of manual labor.

Today, in 2008, we find that this market has now gotten big enough that real solutions exist.  As in all software markets, the pioneering software providers must sell to early adopters, and until mainstream companies start to buy, these companies struggle to stay in business.  We now see clear evidence that learning content management has become a well-known problem (almost 45% of our respondents in our 2008 High Impact Learning Organization research (to be published in Q2) feel that content management is an important initiative for 2008, and 17% of organizations feel they have strong internal learning content management skills internally.  This is a huge growth over similar data we captured over the last few years.

There is actually a real maturity model to the implementation of these solutions.  Organizations go through five distinct phases of managing learning content:  from traditional approaches (content everywhere) to a rapid-development model, to a collaborative model, enterprise-wide strategy, and finally to learning on-demand.  Our research includes many examples of each.

Learning Content Maturity Model

Figure 1:  Evolution of an Organization’s Learning Content Strategy

Recently I met with the CEO of one of the top software providers in this area.  He told me that they are now seeing continuous demand for their solutions, with companies like Kodak, the IRS, Shell Oil, State Farm, and many more now embarking on enterprise-wide learning content solutions. 

Are you ready for this type of solution?  If you are a corporate learning manager and you support a relatively large organization (1000 or more employees), you should put this on your focus area for 2008.  It is one of the top 18 best practices in High Impact Learning Organizations and it will set you up for content reuse, much faster editing and maintenance of content, and the ability to provide on-demand learning to all your employees, customers, and partners.  While the process is still not “easy,” tools and solutions from companies like EEDO, Giunti Labs, Outstart, and Xyleme are now available.  I hope that in 2008 you take the time to consider this improtant part of your learning architecture.

If you would like to learn more about this important new area, come to IMPACT 2008:  The Business of Talent® on April 22-24 in St. Petersburg Florida, our first-ever annual research conference on enterprise learning and talent management.  At that conference you will hear some of the industry leaders talk about their on-demand learning solutions and you will also have a chance to meet the CEOs of many of these software companies.