SuccessFactors Acquires Jambok – Is this Corporate Learning 3.0?

This week SuccessFactors announced the acquisition of Jambok, a small platform company with an innovative and powerful solution for social learning and knowledge sharing.

Jambok was the brainchild of Karie Willyerd and a small technical team at Sun, where Karie was the Chief Learning Officer and pioneered knowledge and video-sharing with the Sun Learning Exchange (SLX). At Sun Karie and her team discovered that a vast amount of technical knowledge was being discovered in the field (sales people, resellers, integrators) and it was nearly impossible for the formal sales and technical training group to keep up. So rather than try to “formalize” and “capture” all this tacit knowledge and turn it into formal training, her team built a knowledge and video-sharing portal where resellers, partners, and sales teams could simply post what they had learned and share it with others. This approach, which many now call the “YouTube for Learning” model, exploded with success and enabled the team to build out a platform which later became Jambok.

Our research clearly shows (and anyone who has browsed YouTube understands) that these types of solutions drive huge amounts of value in any organization. Think about the vast amounts of knowledge captured by sales, service, engineering, and even human resources – which you would like to share and make “discoverable” by your employees, customers, or partners. And imagine if this content is rated, tagged, and commented upon by all its viewers! The opportunity to add value is everywhere.

Two notable examples of this type of solution are BT’s “Dare to Share” solution which enabled the BT field service organization to save millions of dollars in the first year by enabling telephone service reps to upload videos about their learnings directly from a company-provided FLIP camera. Peter Butler, the CLO of BT, came into his job from operations and immediately saw the opportunity to focus his energy on “informal learning” to save people time and reduce errors. In April we will have the developer of the Cheesecake Factory’s internal YouTube portal present their findings at IMPACT 2011, our research conference – demonstrating that this type of approach works in totally non-technical environments too. (Come to the conference and you will learn more about how to drive informal learning into your organization’s culture.)

Jambok’s product competes directly with solutions like Saba Live, the Plateau Talent Gateway, and even Sharepoint and YouTube itself (you can create your own YouTube channel if you dont mind sharing.) But since the platform was designed specifically for corporate learning and knowledge sharing, it goes beyond a “do it yourself” product and includes many additional features:

  • Ratings, tagging, comments, and filtering.  In addition to fairly standard tagging and commenting features, Jambok learns about your usage and tries to recommend other content which you might be interested in.  So if you are a sales person and you happen to be viewing a lot of content on a particular product, Jambok will recommend new and other content in those areas.  This has tremendous potential in a large organization.
  • Jambok uses the concept of “channels” (similar to YouTube) but goes much further.  Not only can you tag and arrange content into channels, the channels can have various levels of security – so your Jambok portal can have some content available to customers, some available to executives, some available to all employees, and some available on the open internet for job candidates.  (A very important application of video sharing is recruiting and onboarding!)  This type of security helps organizations feel comfortable that a random upload from an employee won’t accidentally create legal or business problems by getting into the wrong hands.
  • Jambok is “mobile enabled.”  The company built a mobile player and even lets organizations publish mobile content to iTunes for easy distribution to iPods, iPads, and iPhones.  This is a very important feature set today – our new mobile learning research shows that 17% of all training organizations now offer mobile versions of various formal training – and companies are finding that the adoption of learning on mobile devices is significantly higher than adoption and completion on a desktop computer.
  • Coupled with SuccessFactors platform and CubeTree, we can expect to see “recommended videos” and “relevant experts” appear within SuccessFactors’ core platform.  Think about the potential:  development plans can include “recommended videos;” organizations can reward experts for contributions of content through their performance plans;  recruiters can promote internally created videos to candidates and the career portal;  opportunities to leverage this technology within SuccessFactors platform abound.

While Jambok is not an LMS, it is a very powerful solution which SuccessFactors can now aggressively market to L&D and HR organizations.  Nearly every company we talk with is interested in this type of solution, and most understand that while they would like to get this functionality from their core LMS, they simply cannot wait for their LMS vendor to deliver such functionality.

This market will evolve quickly and there is competition.  Once SuccessFactors starts aggressively promoting this product to its clients, I would expect LMS vendors to accelerate their product strategies in this direction.  Today Saba and Plateau have a productized knowledge sharing solution, and CornerstoneOnDemand has a social networking product integrated into its platform.  And many companies will continue to use Sharepoint, Confluence, Jive, and other tools for this type of application.

But SuccessFactors and Jambok are well ahead today – and with their strong sales and marketing focus I expect this new offering to further light a fire under training and HR managers to “get social” with their content.  The adoption of these types of solutions is ahead of vendor products (more companies have built this themselves than have been supported by vendors), so now is the time for a new wave of innovation focused on making knowledge and video sharing an integrated part of the corporate infrastructure.

My hat is off to SuccessFactors for pushing the envelope here.  With the acquisition of CubeTree, YouCalc, InfoHRM, and now Jambok, the company has amassed a real arsenal of innovative new technologies which help companies better collaborate, analyze data, and work together. There is a lot of room for new innovations in the area of collaboration and content sharing, so I understand why SuccessFactors decided to call Jambok a  “Web 3.0” solution for corporate training.

For those of you new to this wonderful topic, please read our research on informal learning, our enterprise learning framework, and our groundbreaking research on learning culture.  And please join us at IMPACT 2011, where we will have an entire track of corporate L&D experts talking about how they are applying content sharing and informal learning to drive transformational results!