Moodle Update September 2010

This month we look at performance management and how – and if – it fits with the LMS and other systems. And closely related, we take a look at the acquisition of and mull over what it means for the market.

Over the past two years we’ve built a number of modules for Moodle that support employee performance management. During a recent discussion about the design of performance management software we questioned how far software should actually get involved in this process. While organisations have historically been sold ‘talent management’ software suites that claim to help manage the entire performance management process, of course we all know that effective performance management is done by people, not software.

So an organisation that might already have a perfectly good performance management strategy runs a risk here. Implement a ‘talent management’ suite that forces people into a performance management straight jacket that actually helps no-one. Not what you want. into Taleo – will it fit?

Well someone wants it. Taleo, originally a recruitment automation specialist but now providers of a ‘talent management’ suite encompassing recruitment, compensation, performance and learning management, announced last week its acquisition of, one of the leading Software as a Service learning management vendors. In response, Ani Mukerji observed in a blog post that, “All these vendors are good at…the part that made them a leader. They are often poor or mediocre at other parts of the process.” This echoed our conversation exactly and got us thinking more about what it is that customers really need from learning management and HR vendors.

One big system, or lots of small ones - what’s the way forward?

Elearning researchers Bersin say that HR organisations cite ‘systems integration’ as their biggest frustration with HR software. However, while Enterprise HR vendors continue to create monolithic software suites, the wider software world is fragmenting into more specialised applications that connect and interact using web services. So which is the right way forward? Do these software suites really reduce the integration headache, or do they short-change customers by mixing best-of-breed alongside mediocre software in a single suite?

Big may not be better

A key disadvantage of monolithic suites is that due to the business process re-engineering that comes with these purchases, buyers will be locked in for many years to come. Is that a good buying decision in a rapidly changing and innovative market place? Our Enterprise customers tell us they want to reduce vendor lock-in, not increase it. Even the most monolithic of the monoliths, SAP, now acknowledge that customers are not well served by this model. SAP now give customers the option to buy modules instead of full applications and even actively use and engage in open source projects, to underpin their core products (such as Ruby on Rails and Jruby which are used in its Business Objects software).

So are the likes of Taleo, SumTotal, SuccessFactors and the rest flogging a dead horse? Should they instead decouple their application suites, sell modules and create open interfaces that outside developers can plug into, or will they risk being left behind by more specialist and innovative competitors? Should they keep their code base closed to the world, or build on and contribute to an open source base? Many vendors in the HR software market are old-timers who need to change their ways in the face of disruptive market forces. It was interesting last month to see Saba say their place in the Enterprise market is protected from such disruption and they “believe the impact of open source platforms is very minimal in the enterprise LMS market”. We’d respectfully disagree - we’ve seen clients including Ministry of Justice, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Cable & Wireless, BP, McDonalds, BBC, EMI, Burger King, RICS, Kronos, HMV, Nike and Toshiba using Moodle in just this way. If we were Saba, we probably wouldn't feel so secure.

Moodle - plays nicely with others

So before you look at some monolithic talent management suite, think again about what you already have and how you can make it work with a learning management product that is innovative, scalable, flexible and open source. Moodle plays well with others in our experience. We’ve integrated it with the likes of Skillport, SAP, HR.Net and Oracle (LMS/HR applications), Joomla and Vyre (Web content management), WebEx (Web conferencing) and SugarCRM (salesforce automation) among others, so please do talk to us first and find out more about what is possible with what you already have.


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