“In the midst of historic technology and market disruption, only the fleet of foot will survive” (Atilla Terzioglu, Martin Kamen, Tim Boehm and Anthony Stephan, Deloitte Insights).

Companies are experiencing disruptive change driven by the rapid pace of digital advancements, yet most cling to what feels stable — the past. A company’s future readiness and competitive edge lie in its ability to rapidly develop skills and knowledge and commoditize learning content.

The scene opens with the Ghost of Christmas Past, the first of three spirits to haunt a banker from Edinburgh. This angelic spirit shows the banker scenes from his past to demonstrate to him the necessity of changing his ways. At the story’s conclusion, the banker is transformed into an open-minded and generous man by the spirits who showed him the consequences of his greedy, self-centered lifestyle.

You may recognize this story as Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol.” Much like the banker, Ebenezer Scrooge, many companies are out of step with best practice and clinging to 20th-century learning architectures while being haunted by their inability to deliver 21st-century learning experiences. Regardless of your organization’s lagging learning architecture, there are steps that you can take to navigate the powerful forces of the digital revolution and usher your organization into the modern era.

The Digital Revolution Driving Profound Disruption

It is widely known that the pace of digital revolution is accelerating, evidenced by the speed and use of disruptive technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies are reshaping the workforce, workplace and marketplace. This era, known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is profoundly disrupting all industries across the globe.

Attending to legacy systems and deciding on new platforms is critical to catching up and then keeping pace. As technological advancement accelerates, organizations are faced with the challenge of managing the interaction between legacy systems and new digital platforms. In addition, preparing for the future modernized architecture is no longer optional. According to Information Age, 97% of companies say their legacy networks will have difficulty keeping pace with the evolving demands of cloud-based applications.

Successful companies confront these changes by investing in disruptive technologies and continuously adapting to meet employee and customer experience expectations. A “let’s ignore it until it’s broken” approach is not sustainable and may be harmful to your company’s brand. With the explosion of cloud-based learning solutions, your organization can make decisions that align with your corporate strategy and introduce a learning technology stack that promotes learner experience and performance.

Enhance Learner Experience, Improve Performance

More and more employees are entering their workplaces expecting a consumer-like experience, which means 24/7 access to technology, mobile capabilities, seamlessly interconnected digital platforms, simple and intuitive user interfaces, and the ability to share and receive feedback. Digital learning solutions create countless opportunities for organizations to provide innovative learning experiences to their employees. With modern cloud-based platforms come improved employee access, personalization, curated micro-content, video distribution and enhanced learner experiences.

According to studies described by Deloitte Insights, “Organizations with the most compelling workforce experiences” experience 22% higher employee engagement, 12% greater customer satisfaction and 2.3 times greater three-year revenue growth. At these companies, workers are also four times more likely to stay with the organization.

Operationally, organizations with a better learner experience can count on a shortened ramp to proficiency and increased capability to integrate learning into the flow of work. Strategically, modern learning technology yields enhanced learning experiences that can occur anytime and anywhere.

Unfortunately, according to a recent Deloitte study, “nearly 80 percent of executives rated employee experience very important (42 percent) or important (38 percent), but only 22 percent reported that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience.”

If improving the learner experience is a win-win for the enterprise and the employee, why do companies cling to outdated learning models? Most organizations are aware that they need to adopt and adapt to new digital learning solutions. However, technology is the easy part. The hard part is confronting mixed mindsets based in historical, social and institutional practices — or “the way it’s always been done.” These mindsets hamper an organization’s progress and ability to unpack decades of customizations, well-meaning workarounds, deferred upgrades and cobbled-together systems that are not securely connected to the corporate digital ecosystem.

Haunting Legacy Architecture

Learning technology is rapidly changing. Solutions are becoming more cloud- and experienced-based to meet employees’ expectation that the learner experience measure up to the commercial standard. There is no doubt that a lagging learning architecture is holding back digital transformation. However, many organizations do not realize that clinging to traditional, monolithic systems is detrimental to their future.

Digital transformation is at the center of many organizations’ business strategy. Yet a surprising number of leading companies are letting a common enemy stand in their way —  aging legacy systems. One reason leaders lack confidence in their ability to benefit from technology may be the obstacles legacy technologies present. Cloud applications are a key driver of digital transformation, but legacy architecture doesn’t have the flexibility to integrate cloud-based data sources.

Opposition to any change is typically borne of fear of entering an unknown situation. A technological change is no different. Transitioning from a familiar learning technology stack to an interconnected, cloud-based architecture will affect people, processes and reliance on past practices. It breeds a fear of obsolescence, power loss and not receiving a perceptible personal benefit. However, if an organization is to stay ahead of the game, learning must be realized more quickly and at the points of need to meet business goals.

Begin Your Story of Redemption

As learning and development (L&D) practitioners, we need think beyond our own expertise and begin forging strategic partnerships to identify cloud-based technologies that are compatible with dated learning technology stacks, processes and mindsets. Rethink analog training practices, and bring your organization in step with best practices that untether it from its 20th-century learning architecture. Ebenezer Scrooge was saved, and your organization can be, too; here are five simple tips to lay the groundwork for your organization’s redemption.

  1. Educate executives and employees on the values proposition: Answer the age-old question of, “What’s in it for me?” It’s not enough to convey the danger, waste and costs of maintaining a legacy learning technology stack. Increase awareness and understanding of both your current learning technology stack and emerging cloud-based technologies. Share with your organization how cloud-based approaches can eliminate the annoying systems triage, instability, unpredictability, wasted resources and labor cost embedded in the legacy architecture.
  2. Enlist leader and learner champions of change: Any organizational change, particularly the introduction of a new digital learning solution, needs champions to promote it. If a digital solution can inspire strong support, it may equally trigger resistance. Champions influence others’ thinking and help them adopt and adapt to new learning solutions.
  3. Market benefits to the target audience: Many organizations are puzzled when innovations fail to secure automatic acceptance. Much like how the needs and wants of your commercial consumers are critical in creating and funding new services, promoting new digital learning solutions help it land better within the organization. Marketing is a proven method to promote the benefits of digital learning solutions to your leaders and learners.
  4. Conduct smart experiments: To validate the potential benefits of a digital learning solution, conduct smart experiments involving business unit owners and learners. Use control and “treatment” groups to glean quantitative and qualitative feedback. An experiment is a great opportunity to discover and validate benefits by applying the solution in the organization’s ecosystem and a controlled environment simultaneously.
  5. Establish quantitative measures: To ensure valid measurement, partner with the business owner to establish quantitative measures of success. Align learning interventions to business problems and measurable outcomes. Then, collect data to show proof of concept and impact on performance and the business.

Let’s face it: Delivering a 21st-century learning experience is challenging for many organizations. However, there are a range of best practices proven to help organizations start the process of upgrading their digital learning architecture and delivering a modern experience.

The ball and chain of legacy learning architecture will continue to keep your organization from fully implementing learning solutions that bolster learner experience and performance. Your legacy system also tells employees that it is acceptable to avoid change and put off today’s problem for another day.

A much-needed awakening has arrived in the form of the digital revolution. The onus is on the organization to keep pace with the radically shifting workplace. The alternative is to continue being haunted by a 20th-century learning architecture that is incapable of delivering 21st-century learner experiences. While a legacy learning technology stack has served your organization well for years, the powerful forces of the digital revolution are rendering them ineffective. Vendors are jettisoning their support for on-premise legacy systems. Ready or not, they are doubling down on cloud-based solutions that provide security, stability, scalability and enhanced learner experiences.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. As legendary tennis player Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can” (other than nothing at all).

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