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When SaaS gets Sassy (Part Two)

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Dan Medakovic, VP Learning Solutions

When SaaS Gets Sassy (Part Two): The Rise of “Mass Customization” in the LMS World.

or

Would You Like Fries With That? – Enterprise Software Goes Down Market

The introduction of Software as a Service (SaaS) was a benefit to all types of organizations, but especially to small and medium businesses (SMB) who could now afford enterprise type software such as Learning Management Systems. SaaS is still the most popular way for companies to acquire software. It is affordable, typically requires little-to-no support from an I.T. department and can usually be implemented in a short period of time.

What’s not to like?

Well, in our experience, there are still many organizations that do not want to compromise their “brand experience”. Especially where interacting with external users (retail employees, agents, distributors, field reps or customers) are concerned. Some of these companies have invested millions in building a brand and they are very serious about having their brand’s qualities reflected in everything that they do. For them, the ability to upload a logo and select a colour scheme for their LMS user interface will simply not do. They still want all the savings and time-to-market benefits of a SaaS LMS, but only if it can be purchased with the deep brand immersion elements of a custom portal or website.

The following illustration shows how far we’ve come and where, I believe, we are headed.

SMARTLAB to the Rescue!

Blatant Media has responded to this need by creating a highly customizable interface which leverages the power and cross-platform capabilities of HMTL5 and the benefits of using web parts which can be customized (size, placement, colour, text, etc.) that pull data from our award-winning off the shelf Absorb LMS platform. We call this product SMARTLAB and it is currently being deployed by several of our clients and is generating tremendous interest in the market. In addition to reflecting and extending your company’s “personality”, SMARTLAB is also in a category of its own. SMARTLAB provides a complete set of “learner engagement” features which allow you to easily create and target informal learning content such as News, FAQs, Polls and Contests right alongside your formal training offerings (videos, quizzes, SCORM courses). The best part? It looks nothing like an LMS! :- )

The use of our Absorb LMS on the back-end and web parts on the front-end means that a company can have all the benefits of a highly customized system, at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time.

Sound interesting? Why not attend our upcoming webinar to learn more or contact us for a personal demo.

When SaaS Gets Sassy (Part One)

October 31, 2011 2 comments

 

Dan Medakovic, VP Learning Solutions

Would You Like Fries With That LMS Order?

I recently hosted a webinar on “How to Choose an LMS for Your Business” in which I explored the current state of the LMS market. A key point was that I have observed a resurgence of rising client expectations around customization of the LMS user interface. I think almost everyone would agree that SaaS products are great. They provide relatively low-cost, feature-rich products that quite often require zero involvement of your I.T. department to launch and support. They are frequently updated and usually configurable to the degree that you can turn features on and off, set variables and parameters to support your business rules and usually offer the ability for you to “brand” the user interface. Throughout the configuration and branding processes, however, a client will typically make several concessions and compromises because no matter what, SaaS products are still very much by their nature “one size fits all”. Still, the cost-benefit of SaaS typically makes any compromises worthwhile.
The 80s: When ‘Custom’ Was Still King (and so was New Wave Music)

Let’s take a step back for a moment. It’s 1982 and your organization needs an LMS. What do you do? Probably build one from scratch. You would likely spend a minimum of several hundreds of thousands of dollars and end up with a system that met only some of your original requirements, was extremely expensive to maintain and support and was difficult to upgrade. Hopefully the system was well documented should any of the key developers leave the organization and take all of their product knowledge with them.
Several years later, your business will have changed and you likely needed to either replace or rebuild the system at great expense. Yes, you had your LMS but there was much to be desired about this model.
The 90s: A Host of Choices (or a Choice of Hosts)

Fast forward to the early 1990s. More commercial LMS products were now on the market. Competition had driven prices down to slightly less than what you would pay to build a system internally, but you now had the added benefit of being able to have the application deployed more quickly and hosted and supported remotely by your software vendors (who were now calling themselves Application Service Providers or ASPs). I.T. now only needed to be involved to review the vendor’s security and hosting practices and to help with any 3rd party system integrations (such as with your HRIS system).

All in all, this was a vast improvement over building and hosting the system yourself but these systems were still out of reach for small and medium businesses and for the vendors, things had improved but were still not ideal. Yes, their client LMS implementations were now hosted in a central data centre but each client likely still had their own highly customized version of the LMS. Vendors were supporting multiple code bases, having to take months to upgrade all clients to new product releases, and having their development teams tied up building new custom features to keep their largest clients happy.

There had to be a better way – and there was! But you’ll have to wait a few days.

Please come back for Part Two: The Rise of Mass Customization in the LMS World.