The Future of E-Learning
The burden of choice for buyers exploring the e-learning marketplace can be a hurdle in the race of organizational learning. There is a long list of solution providers doing innovative work, but one important trend shaking up the learning and development (L&D) industry is the advancements in off-the-shelf software integrations.
While providers continue to create a competitive edge by providing feature-rich platforms, the latest marketplace disruption is a different kind of technology. Using an application programming interface (API), providers can create a stronger connection between their software and a customer’s existing human capital management (HCM) software. The future of e-learning is being quickly decided by those SaaS companies willing to do the programming work that leverages the strengths of the other software.
While software integrations are not new, the paradigm shift from stand-alone solution to technologies that work interconnectedly is fueling an exciting trend in the marketplace. With so many employees finding efficiencies through a “digital transformation,” the next logical step is for organizations to follow suit.
This model has reshaped the business plans of SaaS companies across industries. Providers that are not considering how their solution exists in the technology universe are in danger of being pigeonholed or, worse, overlooked.
Ease of Use
These efforts are aimed at contributing to a better user experience. Cooperation allows access to “single source of truth” data, which reduces errors that result from a labor-intensive data migration process. No machine or computer process is flawless, but the fewer times a human must manually enter a record, the lower the risk of typographical errors, data corruption or the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome. A well-constructed API data pull and/or push between systems saves time and reduces the tedium of manual data migration.
Adding the functionality of single-sign-on (SSO) to swiftly and easily navigate between systems is another step to eliminating barriers. SSO often allows for a seamless look and function, generating higher engagement with both systems. Another consideration is the role SSO plays in tightening the security of the organization’s data, and from a support perspective, minimizing “forgot password” emails reduces the likelihood of a potentially costly security breach.
Cost Versus Value
The SaaS company’s dilemma is vision: How far is too far? Some leaders want only to solve immediate problems, while others wax philosophical about the limitless solutions their platform can provide. A custom integration may serve the client the best, but it often comes with a higher cost of both time and money. The human capital required is especially problematic, as many organizations either can’t divert the hours or simply don’t have the IT staff to facilitate a bespoke integration.
The off-the-shelf integration model, using relevant API data, strikes that balance between keeping costs low and value high. Some API integrations are so effective that they require no coding whatsoever from the client’s side. This approach has brought more small to mid-sized businesses into the marketplace where once, only enterprise-level organizations could tread.
Choosing the “Best-in-breed”
Businesses in growth mode usually look for solutions that can scale with them. When the organization expands, they want to know that their integration won’t restrict their growth. The net effect of rapid API integration (versus a custom integration) is that it levels the playing field. The user now has the power to choose a best-in-breed solution every time without fear of a lengthy and expensive set-up period.
Function Is Everything
The competitiveness in the e-learning marketplace to create the greatest functionality increases the value of solutions while keeping costs at an approachable level. The task of creating that competitive edge falls on the solution providers. As sales training expert and bestselling author Don Hutson writes in “Selling Value: Key Principles of Value-Based Selling,” “If [companies] don’t know how to establish and build value, [they’ll] be faced too often with the alternative of cutting price.” E-learning solutions that won’t or can’t adapt to meet learners’ needs are at risk of being absorbed by competition, becoming irrelevant or being priced out entirely.
The real value lies in developing an “all-in-one-place” feature that interacts with multiple databases and internal systems. This holistic approach can produce faster and more accurate reporting and meaningful analytics for organizational leaders. Going a step further, organizations can import experience API (xAPI) data to track the learning that occurs in the flow of work.
The Future Lies in Cooperation
The future of e-learning will be won by providers working within clients’ established software ecosystem. By using powerful APIs, successful e-learning solution providers will leverage access to crucial user data, prove the value of their platform and maximize the value of their organizational learning.