Here are the top 10 trends (1 -5, part 1 of 2) that I have seen taking place in the industry, as well as a few forecasts. They are in no particular order. The trends apply to both LMS/LCMS vendors.

1. Extended Enterprise - Vendors are expanding into the wholesaler/reseller/affiliates/sales agent sector with their solutions. The note of interest is that it is occurring with all size of vendors, albeit the charge is being led by mid size vendors. Not all of the big dog vendors have entered this space, despite it being a huge revenue opportunity. That is expected to change.

Forecast: Continued growth and expansion, as this space has profit written all over it, especially if the vendor provides a skinned/branded solution, e-com (with currency options inc. Euros and the pound) and multiple flavors (one size fits all, will not work for a sizable chunk of the wholesaler/reseller/affiliate industry).

2. Global markets

Often misleading in a vendor’s pitch is that they are truly global, when in fact nothing could be farther than the truth. They show you a huge map, color in the countries they are in, and you assume they have clients there, when in fact it could be just a sales office. Many vendors service multi-conglomerates that are international, rather than companies that are based only in country x and no where else. U.K. and European vendors interestingly enough, do not follow suit. While they do incorporate the multi-cong. angle with their global perspective, they do so in limited fashion. Companies in Australia and India – for the most part, identify themselves only in countries they have actually penetrated, rather than the inclusive sales office or “partnership” approach.

Forecast: Sadly on-going, thus will not fade away in 2010-11. This trend is one of the worst in our industry and while not every vendor does this unscrupulous approach – with the appearance of worldwide dominance (even if they just have a sales office there and no clients), there are enough vendors who do this that it serves as a disservice to potential customers.

The way to stop it, is simple – ask the vendor specifically what countries they are – with clients, how many of those are international multi-conglomerates and have many companies/firms they have in a specific country (that they show on their map) that are only based in that country and nowhere else. Even if your vendor is outside of the U.S./Canada, if they show they are all over Europe and Asia, ask them specifically, because the “Asia” angle can be very misleading (more in a sect).

3. Europe, U.K., Russia, Australia/NZ

Two trends are appearing in higher frequency

a. U.S. and Canadian vendors are penetrating into the U.K. market (very high), Europe (moderately) and Australia/N.Z. (although more Australia) (moderate). It makes sense. With over 200 vendors in the market, and 95% plus targeting the U.S., the market is becoming more and ore saturated. Too many vendors of all sizes target the Fortune 1000, and a small select few have high penetration in the Fortune 250. Thus, identifying and targeting new markets is an important driver.

U.S. and Canada firms (although primarily U.S.) are putting up sales offices in the U.K. and throughout Europe, although not necessarily Eastern Europe, rather more so in Western Europe. The U.K. market faces real competition in that, the U.S., Canada firms are entering, while the U.K., Europe vendors already play there. Put Australia and N.Z. into the mix, and now toss in vendors based in those countries, plus Europe, U.K. and U.S. and see what develops.

b. U.K. and Europe vendors. While they have penetrated and have strong market share in the U.K. and Europe, they are equally entering the Australia market and slowly the U.S. market. More so however, there are vendors who will not cross the pond and rather stay in Europe. A smart move. Some of these vendors have entered the Russian market and have clients. Equally smart. However, they have not necessarily hit the Eastern Europe markets – untapped IMO.

c. Asia – misleading by LMS/LCMS vendors. Many vendors will pitch they are in Asia, but in a sense they are not. They do not have clients in China nor Japan. Many have clients in Australia and a few in N.Z. , which they place under “Asia”. Ahh, I would not consider those two countries as being in the Asia continent. With the exception of only a small handful of companies – and I mean minute, no one has penetrated two monster markets – China and Japan – as in having clients, not just a sales office.

Forecast: Untapped growth in China, Japan and Eastern Europe inc. Russia. Enormous growth possibilities in China and very good growth opps in Japan, although as a whole the country is having debt issues. Australia is still a very good market to penetrate, but expect some real competition as other vendors – Europe, U.K., U.S enter. Europe – a gold mine opportunity, especially companies that are based or located in only one country.

U.K. companies are slowly implementing LMS/LCMSs, so there is a strong revenue opportunity. Many companies in the U.K., have relied on COPs (Communities of Practice) along with ILT to drive their training. Some are starting to adapt web conferencing to their training. Reason? Lower cost and the locations of their personnel and other clients.

4. Easier UI – front end – what the end user sees. Vendors are finally getting it and realizing that the end user in fact is essential to the client’s success. UI (User interface) is becoming more friendly and intuitive. The growth behind this trend, is the charge of smaller size vendors. Even some of the Big Dogs are finally getting it, albeit some have a way to go.

Mid size, is mixed, with some getting it and many still living in the dark ages. If your employee or customer cannot figure out how to move around the front end of the system (what they see) then no matter what you place on the screen, they won’t use it. Keys to success for UI from an end user perspective – navigation and ease of use. Especially since a greater proportion of employees and customers have very limited tech skills.

Vendors and sadly, companies who purchase their products, believe that since someone can open up their web browser and click to view pages, they can figure it out. Many people still have no idea where to find the address line on their browser, what a URL is, where to locate the “file” button their browser, let alone change options.

Equally horrible, is that some companies are still using old versions of IE or an outdated computer system with Windows 2000 on it. Explain to me how someone using those sweet options are going to figure out your navigation? They won’t. As a company you have one chance to get them into the system and use it, otherwise they won’t. Many vendors are finally getting it, but we still have a long way to go.

Forecast: Continued development by LMS/LCMS vendors making their front end UI (what the end user – i.e. employee or customer) more intuitive, easier to use and truly user friendly. With 200 plus vendors in this space and continued growth, failing to adapt will result in loss of market share.

5. Wizards, Graphs and Administration side. Equally growing is the admin side becoming more user friendly, intuitive and requiring less and less tech skills. Wizards is the new trend, enabling admins regardless of tech skill to create and make changes quickly. Report capabilities are becoming equally more robust with the added inclusion of visual – graphs, bar charts. Ad-hoc reporting features is increasingly growing and will only continue to become an important choice.

Reason? While some vendors offer over 100 canned reports, may do not. Plus, a client will often seek data that info., that is not standard, as in they change their labels, add and remove columns, etc. Companies are increasingly seeking true ROI on these systems and some canned reports do not deliver the slicing and dicing of data needed.

Another small trend is providing advanced admin capabilities in the form of admins who have CSS, Flash, .PHP or other languages. Personally, I think this is a mistake. It assumes that your admin is someone in IT/IS or you will have this resource available to make those changes. A typical admin may be the person overseeing training (if the company is small) or someone in the department who is an instructional designer or more often then not, someone in your department who has been assigned this honor.

If they have been assigned and do not have a LMS background, the likelihood they will have these advanced skill sets are low, especially considering the current economic times. Think about it. If I have those skill sets, why would I want to be an administrator of a LMS, when I could work free-lance or in some other programming capacity?

Forecast: Wizards will become ever increasingly popular on the administration side. Ease of use is the common denominator. Anything that reduces calls into a company’s tech support (and thus lower the costs for that vendor’s customer support) will be incorporated. Another trend – ability to make changes in a more quick fashion. Time is short, productivity must remain high, even after the end of the recession. Admins must have other tasks and responsibilities, especially after layoffs and the combination of roles. Same is true for the person overseeing the training department or division.

Stay tuned for the top 10 trends (6 - 10, part 2 of 2)...

by Craig Weiss, E-Learning 24/7 (

** Guest Blogger **

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