Fiona Leteney
Senior Analyst
Fosway Group

By guest author and senior industry analyst, Fiona Leteney of Fosway Group, May 2021 

LMS, NGLE, LXP, TRMS…so many terms, so many learning systems, so little time. How were buyers in learning and development ever supposed to make any sense of such a crowded and competitive market within the corporate learning ecosystem? Well, in February 2020 on the Learning Systems 9-Grid™, Fosway took the bold decision to reclassify Learning Systems to Suites and Specialists to help organisations and buyers do just that.

For 2021, we built on these definitions with some interesting results – allowing specialists (like Training Orchestra’s Training Resource Management System) to achieve high potential and become Strategic Leaders for the very first time. Why does this matter? Read on…

The great LXP heist

In 2017, when the term LXP surfaced, Fosway rejected it despite the hype as we never believed it was a meaningful buying category.

Following the explosion in vendors using the LXP label, the market has been really disrupted and is a crowded and complex place to navigate. Fosway analysts predicted a convergence of learning systems and that has come true in a big way. Many LXPs have backfilled their systems with traditional LMS functionality around areas like compliance. And many LMSs – caught on the hop by disruptive new entrants – have added in more ‘experience-led’ features.

Reclassifying reflects the current learning systems market

on demand panel discussion: building a learning tech ecosystem in a hybrid world
Watch the On-Demand Panel Discussion:
Building a Learning Tech Ecosystem in a Hybrid World!

Following extensive ongoing research, in February 2020 Fosway changed our classification of the market. Our analysis showed that the historic labels no longer made sense. As more new suppliers entered the market with disruptive ideas, traditional market terms such as LMS, NGLE and LXP either didn’t define the types of solutions or help tell them apart. So, we took the bold decision to reclassify them into Learning System Suites and Specialists.

  • Learning System Suites are platforms supporting and integrating a broad range of traditional and next gen learning approaches, a ‘one stop shop’ for modern learning.
  • Learning System Specialists focus on specific areas of capability with a disruptive, high impact agenda. Specialists will rarely be the only learning system in an organisation.

Ultimately, the point of this is to debunk the marketing hype and help buyers understand what vendors are really offering e.g. Training Orchestra is now defined as a Specialist (in Training Resource Management) not an LMS, NGLE or LXP!

The corporate learning ecosystem concept of combining suites and specialists is the way forward

The Fosway team is always asked ‘which system should I buy?’ or ‘which is the best’ – which are of course the wrong questions…you should be starting with the end in mind and ask ‘what am I trying to achieve’ first. And with the best will in the world, no single learning system is going to solve all your problems.

The corporate learning ecosystem is not a new concept. Learning technology has realistically always been about an ecosystem approach. Think back 15-20 years, as well as the traditional Learning Management Systems, there were authoring tools, learning content management systems (LCMS), third party content providers and virtual classrooms. All part of L&D’s toolbox – some were integrated, others not so much!

Single system advocates need to wake up, smell the coffee and bite the bullet, (to mix a couple of metaphors) we are in one big ecosystem which includes IT, HR, and talent, as well as learning systems; all of which ideally need to integrate to some extent. Vendors that do not have an integration strategy will become increasingly isolated (pun intended) and potentially marginalised.

There are only a few pure specialists who, like Training Orchestra, have recognised the need to join the corporate learning ecosystem, integrate with other learning systems and manage this well. In the future it will be essential that all vendors ‘play nicely’ sharing the data to ensure a frictionless, personalised experience for the learner.

How did learning Specialists become leaders in 2021?

Before the 2021 9-Grid™ for Learning Systems, the vertical ‘Potential’ axis was influenced strongly (but not exclusively) by the breath, depth and sophistication of a vendors’ learning systems functionality. Suites and Specialists were benchmarked by the same long list of features and given a Low, Mid or High rating. Due to the nature of specialists not having the breath of functionality, none would ever reach High Potential. Until this year!

Now, Specialist ‘Potential’ is analysed through a slightly different lens. The focus switching primarily to the second benchmarking criteria which is, their clients i.e., who the vendor is supplying and how. To be above the 9-GridTM top line, the vendor’s sweet spot must be delivering to and capable of supporting enterprise-wide solutions (not just a department or team), into large, global, complex (hierarchy), sophisticated organisations.  

How does this help you?

2021 Fosway 9-grid learning systemspecialists training orchestraPost-COVID-19, L&D needs to harness online learning more than ever, so making the right choices about which systems to invest in and use within your corporate learning ecosystem can be mission critical. As you look through the list in the full report of the different learning specialisms that vendors now focus on, you can more clearly see which systems can augment what you already have in place. Many learning suites simply do not have the depth of capability in certain areas, so being able to expand your ecosystem with a specialist focused on what’s important in your organisation is hopefully helpful to all L&D buyers out there.

Training Orchestra is recognised as a specialist in training resource management for classroom and virtual classroom training operations – a key area for many organisations even in a virtual world as online resources are juggled across packed schedules and increasing demand. It is the only specialist rated as a Strategic Leader in this year’s analysis of the learning systems market – not just because of its functionality, but also the types of enterprise organisations it serves and the customer advocacy it is gaining across Europe.

Our goal at Fosway is always to provide pragmatic advice that can help you make better buying decisions faster. And whilst we are only halfway through 2021, redefining the learning systems market in this way is already helping L&D cut through the hype, find the solutions they really need – and reconsider how to make them fit together in a corporate learning ecosystem fit for a post-pandemic world.

Find out more about the Fosway 9-Grid™ for Learning Systems and read the full report here and you can contact Fiona via @fionaleteney or @fosway on Twitter and LinkedIn.