Microsoft Threatens To Change the LXP Market: EdCast and Others Respond
A lot has been going on in the learning tech space. While the LXP market continues to be on fire (it’s over $200 M today and easily doubling on an annual basis), the space is growing up. And vendors like Microsoft, EdCast, Instilled and others are starting to change the market.
First, let me briefly discuss Microsoft. I just spent a week with the company and the Office 365 team is getting very focused on the corporate learning market. This $240 billion space is wide open for Microsoft and they are beginning to understand how their tools (plus the connections to LinkedIn Learning) can play. Here are a few insights:
Microsoft Cortex, which is a beta product I’ve now seen in detail, has the potential to become a big success in corporate learning and knowledge management. I like to call it a “Topic Intelligence” system.
Cortex essentially indexes all the documents and interactions happening in the company (using Office 365 Graph) and shows you trending topics, people most affiliated as experts, and documents most relevant to a topic. It uses many of the AI algorithms in Azure and indexes every word, phrase, and possible reference. Cortex is the dream of the knowledge management market (which has never really materialized) and Microsoft sees it as a tool for organizational learning. In a sense, the Microsoft Graph and all Office documents become a massive library of content.
Separate from this, LinkedIn has announced that they are building a Learning Experience Platform, which is likely to look like an “open edition” of Microsoft Learning. The LinkedIn team and Microsoft office teams are starting to work together.
Adding to this, Microsoft Teams, which already has more than 20 million daily users, is now enabled for learning.
In our case, we built a snazzy integration with the Josh Bersin Academy (you can “ask” the JBA anything you want from Teams) and Microsoft now has plugins to EdCast and other learning platforms. I think Teams (which is likely to easily overtake Slack) has the potential to be the “Learning in the Flow of Work” solution for many employees, and Microsoft is working on partnerships to make this happen. (Workplace by Facebook is going in the same direction.)
These directions beg the question: “do I really need a separate Learning Experience Platform (LXP) as a destination for my employees?” Right now, the answer is yes – but the face of the LXP market is changing, so you have to look at the LXP market carefully.
The Next Wave of LXPs Has Arrived
This leads me to my second point. The second-generation “skills cloud” and knowledge integration features of the LXP are here, potentially increasing the value of the LXP products.
Let me cite EdCast as an example. This company, which continues to grow at over 100% per year, is the LXP provider that focused most heavily on AI and infrastructure integration, and it’s now paying off. The company just announced its Open Skills Cloud and I know clients who initially considered Degreed or other first-generation products now looking at these features. Consider the architecture below.
EdCast’s architecture opens up the LXP as more than a learning portal. The system automatically creates a skills ontology (and can injest other skills models), finds related skills, and then uses this information to tag and recommend content. (Microsoft Cortex will not do this initially – it’s primarily focused on topics). Other LXP features coming include automatic video indexing, video translation (which Microsoft does), and even indexing and auto-finding of video content (which Valamis does).
These features make a big difference to large companies. One client in particular (I can’t mention the company) has more than 400,000 employees and they are rolling out a global implementation of EdCast which will become the learning and knowledge portal for many thousands of knowledge workers. Most LXP vendors did not design for this.
Let me also mention the growth of Skills Ontology Builders. Similar to the vision of Workday (which is not yet available), EdCast creates a skills map that identifies related skills, assigns them to content, and then exposes them to users as they search for content. As I mentioned in an earlier article, such Skills Ontology Builders are in huge demand today. (One of the most advanced I’ve actually seen is from Eightfold.ai, a company that focuses on Google-like search and indexing for a wide range of recruiting needs.)
In the case of EdCast, this moves the LXP from an “open platform to find and discover content” to a knowledge delivery infrastructure. Here is EdCast’s view of the world, and this is where these products are going. (EdCast now has an embedded LMS also.)
Each LXP vendor is adapting in different ways, Degreed, for example, is now moving into talent mobility and the gig work marketplace through their acquisition of Adepto. (Other vendors here include Fuel50, Gloat, Workday, Phenom People, Eightfold.ai, and Hitch).
More To Come: The LXP Market Is Growing Up
Let me add a final thought. Learning Experience Platforms are becoming even more important.
These systems were originally viewed as an “intelligent learning portal,” essentially a discovery platform to organize and launch content.
They are now becoming intelligent content platforms that connect learning and content to work. Cortex, which will likely be an important source of Microsoft-housed content, will play an important role.
Think about your personal experience with Netflix, Xfinity, or whatever streaming service you use to watch movies. It used to be exciting to scroll through the “carousel” of movies to find what you want. Now, as we’re all so busy and used to these things, we expect these systems to recommend precisely what we need – we don’t have time to “browse and search” at all.
This is where the LXP market is going.
Learning in the Flow of Work is not just a good idea – it’s the direction of our consumer and professional lives. Long live the LXP – it was a good idea when it started, and it’s starting to become an even better idea in the years ahead.