Learning Through Lockdown, Plug-in For the Win, Skilling For the Future: 5 Key Takeaways from the Fosway Group 9-Grid™ report for Learning Systems

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In a crowded and rapidly evolving market like Digital Learning, it’s important to have analysts who can provide an independent view of what’s worth paying attention to. Fosway Group each year publish their  9-Grid™ for Learning Systems and it always gives a clear picture of the state of play in this rapidly changing market.

If you’re in the market for updating your knowledge or refreshing your approach to your learning systems, the full report published today is a must read. We were delighted to move up the rankings to be listed as a Strong Performer with our curation tool, and to see 18 of our partners (and many more launching soon) on the 9-Grid™:
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David Wilson, CEO of Fosway told us, “The learning technology industry has had to really step up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in some innovative approaches and overall market growth. But there is still a tendency to cling onto outdated labels and ideas like the LMS and LXP.”

“Anders Pink is a great example of a Specialist learning system fitting into a wider learning ecosystem. It unapologetically focuses on curation and content recommendations aligned to skills, which is an area of critical importance. And its continued growth and customer success is underpinned by its move into the Strong Performer zone in the 2021 9-Grid™ for Learning Systems.”

The report is rich with insights beyond the valuable 9-Grid™ itself. Here are five points that piqued our interest, and our take on them:


1. COVID-19 Has Made Digital Learning a Must-Have

The current pandemic has transformed how we’re all working – and learning. Digital learning has shifted from one option in the kit-bag to being the whole bag. The report notes that “Vendors are reporting a 200-300% increase utilisation of platforms, as customers push everything into digital channels”. It’s been a scramble for some, and a transformation for others. But we’re all digital learners now.

Our take:

There’s no going back: Of course, we will all come out of this crisis, meet again, and there’s much to be hopeful for. But what it’s proven is that digital learning via systems (as long as it’s the right type of learning in the right systems) is not going to go backwards from here. Just as we can all legit work from anywhere now, the same holds for learning. It can be done anywhere, at any time, on the learners’ terms. OK, maybe we can pull back on the homeschooling, but corporate learning is forever changed. 

Speed and agility are key: The pandemic was not the time to build a course in remote working, managing virtual teams or wellbeing. No time, costs too much, and there will be new content tomorrow on these topics anyway. Smart organisations have learned how to leverage publicly available content and customise it to their needs, to quickly and cost-effectively respond to emerging skills. To this end, curation has risen in demand. Our own experience of more than doubling usage of Anders Pink in our partners’ platforms over the past year supports this view. 


2. LMS, LXP, Look beyond the label

Last year the report regrouped the platform side of the market into two categories:

  • Suites: Those looking to offer a full-service platform for learning experience, delivery and management
  • Specialists: Those focused on a particular aspect of digital learning, usually integrated with Suites

It was a refreshing and welcome distinction, helping buyers (and the market) get more clarity on what vendors offer. It helps buyers to consider their needs — replacement (or implementation) of a full service learning platform, or something more tactical that can be added-on or integrated with an existing platform? 

Our take: 

Be clear what you are, and are not: We think it’s helpful for all players in the learning market to look to broadly align with these categorisations, though adoption of new terminology takes a while and there’s obviously widespread use and understanding of LMS/LXP – even if it sometimes subjective what the distinction is. Many platform providers have shifted positions towards one or the other, or offer both or variations. Whatever terms are used, we all want potential buyers to understand what we do, and what we don’t. It saves everyone time.

Especially for Specialists…The Suites/Specialists distinction is particularly helpful in making it clear that Specialists are not looking to be your enterprise learning platform. For Anders Pink – we’re a Specialist, and really pleased to be ranked as a Strong Performer on the 9-Grid™. We’re focused on intelligent and automated content curation for any skill or topic. We integrate with Suites to bring curation into their solutions. We’re not an LXP, LMS or NGLE. We integrate with over 30 of them. We’re not a replacement for them. We say this in every call. Keep it simple. We’d expect to see some more distinctions in terms of suites, as they are not all equally function and many have different focus. Looking forward to seeing this evolve and help with category definitions. These could be about: the problems we solve, our core differentiators, what industries or performance areas we work best in, what scale of organisation we best support. Those kinds of categorisations can further help buyers to make informed decisions.


3. Bursting the Learning Bubble: We Live in an Ecosystem

Building on the theme in last year’s report, Fosway notes that for buyers to get value out of Suites and Specialists, they need to be connected. “Learning itself is an ecosystem, but it’s also part of a wider HR and business ecosystem too.” In simple terms: it’s on all of us in the market to make integration easy.  Hide the wires, let organisations access the power of the Specialists inside the Suites – and wherever else they want to, be it Slack, MS Teams or anywhere else.

Our take: 

Integrations are the Engine for Platform Growth: For Suites, integration and partnerships make sense. They have full roadmaps. Why spend three years building a sophisticated skills assessment or curation tool when you can plug one in now and support customer demand?

…But it’s got to be easy: For organisations, it streamlines buying decisions and saves on integration and data transfer headaches – as long as the integration is easy. The report rightly notes “many vendors will rightly say can technically be done, but how quick and painless they are is another matter.” Our mantra on this: zero development effort for the end-client. 

We’re delighted that 18 of our partners with Anders Pink Curation integrations feature on the 9-Grid™ Report. There are lots of different flavours of integrations. Some have Anders Pink white-labelled and switched on as a default feature in their Suites. Others list us in their app stores and the client can pick and choose from pre-built connectors. But in all cases, the hard work is done for them, and in many cases the integration pulls in their skills maps to make curation easy – more on that below. 

We’ll see more variations in how ecosystems work – but the key point is they do work, they have to be easy, and they’re better for the buyer than a lock-in to one vendor’s feature set.


4. Skills Are Moving Up The Agenda, And They Won’t Stand Still

Napoleon Dynamite isn’t regularly quoted as a digital learning guru but he was right when he said “You need skills.” This has been bubbling for years, but 2020 brought it to the top of the table: we all need to develop new skills to survive and thrive. The World Economic Forum reported that By 2022, 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change, and 133 million new jobs will be created to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” And that was before the pandemic changed everything, and fueled demand for skills around managing virtual teams, remote working, resilience, creativity and many more.  The 9-Grid™ report picks up the skills drumbeat: “The skills agenda is set to make its mark as the headline act in 2021.” 

Our take:

Right skills, right support: Identifying the skillsets your learners need and want to develop is the first step. There are many tools and taxonomies available for this, and many Suites have these baked in. Our latest partner Degreed for example positions itself as “the upskilling platform, connecting  learning and career growth to business opportunities through one single, fluid skill-development experience.” That’s the right way to approach it. Content and courses are enablers, skills are the dominant currency. 

Meet skills with content: Identifying skills doesn’t convert them into capability unless the right content is there to develop them. Suites need to ensure that whatever skills need support, there’s depth and range in the learning experience mapped to them. And it needs to be constantly updated as new skills emerge, and new insights about existing skills are published.

This has been our focus with partners like Degreed, Docebo, Fuse and many others:

  • Identify the full range of skills your end users need to develop 
  • Curate relevant and high quality content, tightly mapped to those skills
  • Embed that content in the right places (in those platforms but also Slack, MS Teams – wherever is right for the audience)
  • Update it automatically to fuel continuous skills development. 

We totally agree with Fosway that skills will top the agenda for organisations – and governments – in 2021 and beyond.


5. What’s in the Box? Nobody Wants an Empty Learning System

Given the investment buyers make in Learning Suites and Specialists, it’s not surprising that organisations want something in these systems that’s worth seeing. The report notes that “buyers are actively looking for system providers with pre-stocked content libraries.” It further shows that short forms in high demand: “With video, curated content and microlearning proving successful in supporting organisations through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unsurprising that demand remains high.”

Our take:

You’ve got to pre-load: Faster access to value was key for us and our clients and partners in 2020. With Anders Pink you can curate customised content on any topic from any source. But we recognised that there are many common organisational needs across Leadership, HR, Sales and Marketing, and other areas, and clients want curated content ready to use on these. We made 150 pre-loaded briefings in 7 languages in response to this. Out of the box (OK, already in the box) thinking is going to be vital for time- and cost-pressured buyers in 2021 and beyond.

For example our great partner TalenTeam (SAP Gold Partner and I’m sure future 9-Grid player) do exactly this in their Blend solution, which itself is a powerful LXP-led ecosystem of  the best of SAP Success Factors, SAP JAM, Anders Pink and several other components: They make sure there’s valuable curated content, from us and others, when clients switch it on, so there’s value right away.


There’s so much more in the Fosway 9-Grid™ report, and we urge you to read through it. Thanks as always to the whole Fosway team for bringing insight and clarity to a rapidly developing market.