Workday Learning announcement: How will this impact the LMS market?

by Joelle Smith in SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM)

Workday has announced its offering of Workday Learning with general availability planned for the second half of 2016.  I have long been speculating how Workday would fill the LMS gas in their suite.  Analyst reports have noted year after year the absence of an LMS offering in the Workday suite as one of their main disadvantages.  Earlier this year there was conjecture of a Saba acquisition following the news of Saba's troubles with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  And then there has been the long-standing relationship between Workday and Cornerstone Learning.  I had often wondered if we would ever hear of some type of merger between these two companies. 

We know now, Saba and Cornerstone will compete with Workday's own learning solution.  While it isn't clear from their initial announcements, Workday Learning is based on their acquisition of MediaCore which is a video-based system.

In an article for Between the Lines by Larry Dignan, Workday identifies Saba and Cornerstone as their competitors, with no mention of SuccessFactors Learning.  Analyst reports by Gartner, IDC, Bersin, and the like, consistently rate SuccessFactors as a leader, specifically calling out its maturity due to its early leadership in the LMS market as Plateau, with smart and steady growth as the LMS solution within the SuccessFactors suite.  While there is no mention of SF Learning in these announcements, Workday will undoubtedly have SF Learning in their sites as a key competitor.

Given their late entry into the LMS market, Workday has a lot of catching up to do.  In an article released by MarketWatch, Workday announced at their Workday Rising conference that their learning solution intends to provide customers with:

A Collaborative Community to Gain and Share Knowledge

Content with Context

Support for Diverse Learning Experiences

Built-in Measurement and Insights

This sounds like a good start, but this is a start none-the-less.  Meaning that it will take time to grow and mature the product to a full-functioned LMS.  Will it be simple? - you can count on that.  "As simple as it is smart" is the tagline on Workday's homepage.  But will simple meet the hefty compliance demands of industries that have specific regulatory requirements?  Workday's response is to call other LMS's "clunky"; once again trying to paint the "SAP-monster" story.  Let's not mistake full-functioned LMS as clunky.  A savvy LMS client can easily simplify their user and admin interfaces by turning off the features they don't need at implementation, building specific administrator accounts, simplifying the user landing page, and then adding to those interfaces as they grow.

One of the "secret sauce" features that Workday intends to include in their LMS is Recommendations.  If this is the type of next-generation learning feature they think will distinguish their solution from others, they will be disappointed.  SF Learning started adding Recommendations in the last few releases with better functionality in each release.  By the time Workday Learning is generally available, the Recommendation feature in SF Learning will be industry-leading with a full year of client usage under its belt.

The same holds true with Workday's plans to roll-out social collaboration, mobile, and micro-learning.  SF Learning already has next-generation capabilities such as user-generated quick guides, social learning integration with SAP Jam, and more features pushed to mobile with each quarterly release.  And with even more next-gen features like gamification, I think SF Learning is well positioned to compete against the new Workday Learning offering as a next generation LMS.

As Q3 2016 approaches, it will be interesting to see how the LMS market evolves, not only to the reaction of the Workday Learning announcement, but the changing needs of the learning organizations that we support.  Regardless of the outcome, 2016 will be a very interesting year.