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It’s All in the Architecture: Sustainable Customization™ in Learning Technology

  1. Pen Jolet Olsen
  2. Calendar October 1, 2012

I’m really excited about making the Trainingindustry.com Learning Portal Watchlist!  Creating high-value, custom solutions for our clients is what we’re all about, so our success is definitely a reflection on our corporate training clients because our LMS is driven by them.  It really couldn’t work any other way since a custom-tailored LMS is our primary offering.  And it’s our architecture that allows us to operate in a client-driven, custom-tailored model.

Sustainable Customization™

Have you ever been on that proverbial fence planted between two undesirable choices: 1) making compromises to adapt your business processes to an LMS that was designed for the masses, or, 2) getting some customizations done that are expensive and will probably also leave you with a difficult upgrade path for new product enhancements?  Our clients have, and that’s how we ended up entering the LMS market in the first place – at their request.

When we decided to take on the challenge, we knew we had to develop a model that allowed us to custom-tailor an LMS to each individual client’s needs, but do it in a way that maintained the product integrity, and that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to deliver.  Isn’t the ideal something like this?:

  • an LMS that does what we want it to do; that fits our own needs,
  • a short delivery cycle,
  • a reasonable price, and
  • something that isn’t such a one-off from the product that we can’t benefit from new product enhancements.

With this vision in mind, we decided to come up with a third alternative, so we architected our LMS in layers that allow our clients to have all of the benefits of custom software (custom look and feel, unique business processes), while still staying aligned with the core product (easy upgrades of new enhancements).  We call this Sustainable Customization™.  There’s no reason to choose between two bad alternatives when you can have it all.


Things are always changing.  It seems like every year (if not every month) brings some new learning technology innovation or business trend that may actually improve how learning affects performance.  But how do LMSs get new feature sets without a rebuild that takes a lot of time and a lot of money?  This is another challenge our clients have brought to us, and once again our answer is in our architecture.  Our architecture is designed with “placeholders” for future cool stuff, which means we can add new feature sets to our core product without a major upset or rebuilding of the product.  So our clients can quickly and easily adopt the new stuff without it being a big project and the product stability stays is intact.  Based on what our clients tell us, other vendors don’t think that way, which means they have to rebuild the LMS in order to give you those cool, new enhancements you want and you know what that means in terms of time and budget.

Comments 2

  1. “But how do LMSs get new feature sets without a rebuild that takes a lot of time and a lot of money?”

    That’s a great question. When a client tells us they want to take advantage of a new feature (we announce new feature sets in our quarterly newsletter) we simply “turn it on” for them. And it really is simple because every client implementation is always part of our code base. The “turning on” process might involve some configuration, but we typically do that at no charge. And yes, this is very different from most LMS products; which usually do require a rebuild that takes a lot of time and money.

    Since all of our enterprise clients have custom implementations, it is possible that a given implementation might have a customization that needs to be updated in conjunction with turning on the new feature. If that is the case, we work with the client to scope out the cost of updating their customization to accommodate the new feature that is being turned on. Generally, depending on the feature(s) being turned on, this process can range from as little as an hour to as much as a few days for a new update. And the cost corresponds with the effort, which means it’s low as well. In fact, we have yet to have a client not take a desired new feature because of the cost of updating an existing customization.

  2. “How do you source the right learning technology?”

    Can I unpack that question down a little?: SaaS or custom? Platform or component? How does it fit in my budget? How easy is it to manage? How effective is it in improving organizational performance? How do I find the system that is right for my organization’s needs?

    These questions make it seem like all we do is make a bunch of compromises or sacrifices and implement something that isn’t quite right. There has to be a way to provide an LMS that is stable, reliable, with standard functionality, and can be custom-tailored to meet an organization’s needs and add feature sets that are specific to the business environment. It just can’t be impossible. And it’s not!

    Our clients had these questions before coming to us, so we created a learning portal that’s as easy to manage as SaaS, but gives clients flexibility to adapt the system to their business processes rather than the other way around; is not a platform system that tries to be all things to all people, but integrates well with other best-in-class tools (course authoring, robust content management, etc.); is a fraction of the cost of most platform systems; has a quick turn-around for new implementations and enhancements; and can easily be tailored to meet organizational performance goals.

    The bottom line is, organizations are entitled to learning technology that is right for them. In every way. There shouldn’t have to be so many compromises. I could talk about this for hours, but instead of doing that, I’ll give you my contact information ([email protected], 801.799.7289) and you can let me know anything you’d like to further discuss about sustainable customization or learning technology. I’m always up for a good discussion that pushes the boundaries.

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