Archive for July, 2010

A bit of shameless self-promotion

July 29th, 2010

masiethinkFor the company I mean.

Elliott Masie just posted the interview we did on his Learning 2010 site.

He asked good, open-ended questions. You can judge how good the answers were yourself.

Listen to the podcast interview here.

A different drum

July 21st, 2010

drumbeat_logoThe good people over at Mozilla set up a spin-off called Drumbeat, essentially a peer to peer, open source, learning and development environment.

Two Drumbeat projects caught my eye.

The first, Universal Subtitles, is both a technology development project and a global learning initiative. To date 772 people have contributed to this project. Subtitles clarify a lot, even song lyrics in one’s native language. Speech-to-text transcriptions and follow-on translations (this is the universal part) cost money and take time. Easy, user generated subtitles mean that videos in one language can be leveraged out to any number of languages easily.

It’s a very cool idea with lots of implications for making video-based learning that gets pushed out globally.

The second project that caught my eye is the P2PU School of Webcraft, which aims to make a “vibrant, peer-led system to help people around the world easily access and build careers on open web technology.” The project bills itself as “the ultimate curriculum for open web developers” with  ”a community endorsed certificate to show off your skills” and is an outgrowth of a course held via Peer2Peer University. The first intake starts in September. The proposed syllabus includes:

* Web 200: The Anatomy of a Page Load
* Web Development 101
* Building Social with the Open Web
* Reading Code
* Semantic Markup
* Organic SEO Basics
* What is PHP
* Drupal Basics
* Building Social Web Applications with Drupal
* Beginning Webservices with Python
* Designers Tackling The Web
* Principles of Project Management
* Introduction to System Administration
* Web Accessibility
* Designing for Education: : How to optimize the user experience.
* Extension Development
* Interactive games for the open web
* Scripting 101

This is serious stuff. It bears watching.

Out of gas or speeding out of sight?

July 19th, 2010

David Wilkins, a technology evangelist at, recently published a blog post I thought worthwhile. A Defense of the LMS (and a case for the future of Social Learning) hits several nails on the head, including the ideas that (1) it is without a doubt easier to build social networking functionality into a mature enterprise system like an LMS than it is to build LMS functionality into a social networking application, and (2) LMS platforms are essential business applications in large part because compliance support is crucial, complicated and difficult.

He also makes the point that future learning cooks will want to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mix — a shake of social, a pinch of old-school personnel records,  a tablespoon of talent management, a cup of sifted reporting and repeated lashings of user generated content.

This is all true but I would add a couple of thoughts:

» Read more: Out of gas or speeding out of sight?

The cost of managing your content vs. same-old, same-old

July 15th, 2010

Fig1CmapAboutCmaps-largeThe high cost of creating a management framework for content becomes quickly apparent. The effort, which can be messy and frustrating, requires not only a lot of an organization’s internal time and attention but also a fair amount of help from outside consultants. Just doing an initial inventory and creating a governance structure to move forward with proves painful, time consuming and expensive for many organizations.

The irony of course is that the cost of doing nothing — just letting everyone continue to write Word documents, PDFs and PowerPoints and make rapid e-learning courses on an ad hoc basis (again and again, based on the same or very similar content) — often proves far higher to the organization than the cost of change.

However, the cost of doing nothing, unless you audit it in sophisticated ways, is invisible. The wasted time, mistakes, duplication of effort and poor quality output don’t come out of anyone’s budget. The inefficiency is personal to employees and not counted anywhere as the organizational expense it is.

The larger and more sophisticated the organization, the greater the cost discrepancies become over time. When scope is understood to include communication and training around company policies, procedures, product and service documentation, work instructions, regulatory requirements and quality assurance processes (let alone topics like sales, marketing and investor relations), then the cost of doing nothing and the risks associated with doing nothing (or not doing enough) start to get high.

The risk and cost curves associated with not putting together an enterprise-wide content management framework trend up over time. The associated efficiency curves trend down.

At some point the lines cross.

As a training professional you would ideally have made your move before the lines cross. That’s the hope anyway. However, it is rarely the case. As a practical matter, it is only when senior management start to see the cost of content chaos that something happens.

Organise your content; there may be a need for librarians

July 10th, 2010

If Only . . . Cover

The extended quote below is from a great book, O’Dell and Grayson’s If Only We Knew What We Know: The Transfer of Internal Knowledge and Best Practice:

“For example, a manager who has just tried out a new sales technique has “tacit” knowledge of it. If he writes it down and posts it on his company’s intranet site, some of that knowledge has become captured and “explicit.” Next, another sales manager reads the description and uses the technique on her next sales trip (hence turns it into “tacit” once more). Knowledge has been captured, exchanged, and created (see Steps in the Knowledge Transfer Process, below). The learning process hence involves the continuous “intersection” of these two knowledge types and a never-ending, closed-loop transformation process.

“Other organizational experts, such as Leif Edvinsson of Skandia, further divide commercial knowledge into individual, organizational, and structural knowledge. Individual knowledge is solely in the minds of employees. Organizational knowledge is the learning that occurs on a group or division level. Structural knowledge is embedded in the “bricks” of the corporation though processes, manuals, and codes of ethics. At any one of these three “states, the knowledge can be either tacit or explicit.

“Knowledge is broader than intellectual capital (IC). Whereas some writers have chosen to expand IC to include practices and processes, in its purest form, IC refers to the commercial value of trademarks, licenses, brand names, formulations, and patents. In this view, knowledge-as-intellectual-capital is an asset, almost tangible. Our use of knowledge is broader: we view knowledge as dynamic — a consequence of action and interaction of people in an organization with information and with each other.

“Knowledge is bigger than information. Our organizations are awash in information, but until people use it, it isn’t knowledge. While you can’t have too much knowledge, you can certainly have too much information. Indeed, many organizations have already discovered that information, carried faster and in greater volumes by electronic media, leaves employees overwhelmed, not overconfident. Fumbling rather than focused. Paralyzed rather than proactive.

“Hence, our simple working definition: Knowledge is information in action. In the organizational and commercial context of this book, knowledge is what people in an organization know about their customers, products, processes, mistakes, and successes, whether that knowledge is tacit or explicit.”

You say customize, I say configure

July 8th, 2010

How do you know if the LMS you’re about to buy is going to cost you an arm and a leg in professional service (mostly implementation and customization) fees?

Here’s one proxy measure. It’s not perfect but it will give you a sense of likely costs. Ask to see the vendor’s audited financial statements with a segmental analysis by revenue stream (companies that do IFRS (international GAAP) reporting will already have these numbers on hand — companies that use country-specific GAAP reporting standards may have to do the math for you).

If the vendor you’re considering gets more than half of its revenue from professional services, you’re likely to end up spending a lot of money on the implementation.

If the vendor gets, for example, 60 percent of its revenue from professional services and only 30 percent from licenses, whatever the vendor tells you the license will cost, double that figure and add it back to the license fee to get the real cost of doing business with that vendor. So if the license costs $100,000 you’re likely to end up spending $300,000 all in with that vendor.

This is not a perfect indicator, but it’s a good start for having the hard conversation before you sign because armed with the vendor’s real revenue breakdowns, you’re in position to force that vendor to justify his service fees to you.

Note: This test works equally well with SaaS vendors. If the hosting contract is X and professional service charges for the vendor generally equal 2X, then assume 3X in your year-one costs.