Phill Miller
Managing Director Open LMS Follow

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 285. Today we’ll be talking to Phill from LMS about the use case or business case for why his customers choose Open LMS.

Open LMS provides world-class LMS solutions that empower organizations to meet education and workplace learning needs.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William.

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Show length: 29 minutes

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Announcer (00:02):

… welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast. A show dedicated to the storytelling that happens… Or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

 

William Tincup (00:25):

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Phil on from Open LMS, and we’ll be talking about the use case, or the business case for why prospects and customers use Open LMS. So Phil, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Open LMS?

 

Phil Miller (00:44):

Yeah, it’s great to be here, William, and appreciate the opportunity. My name is Phil Miller, I’m the managing director of Open LMS, and we are the world’s largest provider of hosting and support and services around the Moodle platform. And so we’ve got a wide variety of use cases. We only have half an hour, so we’re not going to get through all of them, but we focus on providing both educational solutions for higher education, that includes some of the largest universities and community college systems in the world, as well as for corporations, HR practitioners, learning and development practitioners who need to platform to deliver training, onboarding, and all of those. So it’s lots of use cases, and we’ll dive into a few of them over the next few minutes.

 

William Tincup (01:27):

So those that are listing, one of the things that Phil and I talked about a couple weeks ago is, Moodle is an open source, kind of like Linux, if you’re familiar-

 

Phil Miller (01:38):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (01:38):

With Linux years ago, and Open LMS is like Red Hat, here’s a comparable.

 

Phil Miller (01:43):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (01:43):

Do I have that right, Phil?

 

Phil Miller (01:45):

Yeah, it’s a great comparable. I mean, many people want to use an open source platform like Moodle, but they are worried whether, it’s about… They want to have somebody to call when something goes wrong, and they don’t want to have to be a software shop that’s constantly looking for updates, and participating in the community.

(02:01)
So what Red Hat did with Linux, and what we I think have done with Moodle is provide the best parts of both worlds. You get the flexibility that comes with open source, and probably total cost of ownership that’s lower than a proprietary solution as well, but you still have a single throat to choke when something goes wrong, and you’ve got the support, and service, and adoption that goes along with that. So we try to thread that needle, and it’s worked pretty well. We’ve got more than 1700 clients worldwide, like I said, that range from the largest universities in the world with online programs, to small businesses that use us to train salespeople around the world. So I think we’re finding a really nice value proposition for those clients that are looking for that.

 

William Tincup (02:50):

So with LMSs, years ago, the failure rate was based on content, either not having access to content, syndicated content, not creating your own content, basically it was a warehouse, it was a data warehouse that, other than compliance, I think LMS have all always, or at least historically done a really good job with compliance training. Check-

 

Phil Miller (03:16):

Yep.

 

William Tincup (03:17):

Great. But LMSs, as you well know, are much larger, much better, and can be more refined than just that. So first of all, bring me up to date with the successes and failures, and within just on the LMS market. What do you see when companies do it really well, they do these things, when it doesn’t work, this is why?

 

Phil Miller (03:38):

Yeah, I mean, there’s both, there’s technical and there’s organizational challenges. And on our side, we take care of most of the technical challenges for you. But first of all, on the organizational side, you’ve got to have strong champions that are really going to push this out, and you have to have both bottom-up and top-down support for your learning initiatives. You have to take that as a given, or your project is going to fail, or is going to really struggle to take off. If you want to move beyond compliance, then it’s really about, to your point, getting the right content. And most of our clients, I mean obviously on the educational side, they either get content from a publisher, or they create their own, because they’re a professor and they’re the subject matter expert. Most of our corporate clients, it’s really a hybrid of content. You’ve got your standard courses that range anywhere from compliance stuff like you mentioned, to leadership training, and other sales training that are really common customer support, and how to interact with customers.

(04:39)
To really make it applicable, you really want to use content that really is your secret sauce, what does your product do that nobody else does? And how do you make sure that all of your people, whether they’re salespeople, or marketing people, or they interact with customers are talking about that? And so often you either have to create that content yourself, which most people aren’t really good at, or you have to find a partner to go create that for you. So we see a lot of our clients that will buy the LMS, they’ll also work with a big content provider, like a Go1, or an OpenSesame for example, to get some of the off-the-shelf content. But then they’re always a handful of things where they’ve got to go create content for themselves, and we can help clients with that, or point them to people that can do that.

(05:25)
But you really want to build, especially about those things that are core to your value proposition, your content for that has to be really good, it has to be engaging, and it has to be something that everybody, or large chunks of your organization can go through, so that you can have that shared vision and shared purpose. So again, usually, it’s a bit of a hybrid situation, especially once you go past compliance. I mean, compliance can be pretty cookie-cutter-

 

William Tincup (05:50):

Right.

 

Phil Miller (05:51):

To your point, you’re only getting about 5% of the value out of an LMS if you’re just doing simple compliance on that, on your LMS.

 

William Tincup (05:59):

So years ago, the CLOs, chief learning officers, would be the people obviously that would care the most about this, training and development, learning and development, depending on the organization, how they phrase that, Open LMS as it is right now, organizational-wise, who owns that right now?

 

Phil Miller (06:25):

So chief learning officer for those that have them, or HR leadership that often, especially in worlds where budgets are stretched, people are carrying multiple roles. So an HR practitioner that has a talent development calling, or… There’s a lot of different flavors of what those are called in different organizations, but it’s that HR, and then to your point, chief learning officer at larger organizations, or the manager or director that’s in charge of talent development. We’ve seen an increasing interest from folks that are on the talent recruitment side as people are trying to differentiate when they’re… It’s such a difficult recruiting environment right now, although maybe that’s changing as the economy goes whichever way it’s going to go, but positioning learning and development as a benefit is something that a lot of companies are starting to do now when they’re recruiting, and saying, “Hey, we’ve got this leadership program.” Or, “We’ve got lots of opportunities for advancement.”

(07:26)
And so we’re starting to see more interest from, even the recruiting side on, “Let’s make sure that we have learning and development buttoned up so that we can talk about it, and then actually live up to that once these employees are on board.” And then of course, that it matters a ton for retention. So I think that’s an important part of it as well. So we’re seeing broader applicability than we did, to your point, a few years ago, where it was really just the one or two, or a small team of people that were focused specifically on learning and development.

 

William Tincup (07:58):

Yeah, and I see the same thing on the talent acquisition side, candidates are asking-

 

Phil Miller (08:03):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (08:04):

In the interview phase, “How are you going to make me better?” Which is-

 

Phil Miller (08:08):

Yep.

 

William Tincup (08:08):

Skilling, upskilling, learning, training, development. They want a pathway, they want a learning pathway, and if recruiters can’t answer that question, they’re literally dead on arrival.

 

Phil Miller (08:18):

Yep, [inaudible 00:08:19].

 

William Tincup (08:19):

So it’s interesting to see that the candidates are driving some of this change as well.

 

Phil Miller (08:26):

Well, and remember that with the pandemic, and with the flexible workplace now, it used to be, you brought somebody in for an interview and they would see your coffee machine, and your fancy kitchen, and their nice desk, and nice break room, and that was part of your recruiting pitch, but now you have to find other things outside of office environment to do that. And even online learning can be a part of that, “Hey, we’ve got a platform, we’ve got an approach that we take.” And that can actually be a differentiator. Your front door for a worker is no longer walking in for the interview into an office space, it’s coming into an environment, so that online presence, in all the different ways they interact with you, whether it’s looking you up on LinkedIn, or et cetera, all those things really matter, because it really is the front door now for employees.

 

William Tincup (09:14):

So things, especially as we look at the challenges, people that are running Open LMS, micro-learning, obviously things that are more mobile-friendly, or if not, mobile-first. What other trends do you see that the users are like, “Okay…” And what’s great about Moodle is it’s flexible, and you can change it, but what are some of the things that you’re seeing trend-wise from customers like, “Okay, this is how they’re using the LMS now. They’re using it for this”?

 

Phil Miller (09:51):

Yeah, a couple things. So first of all, we have an internal joke that is, the best part about Moodle is its flexibility, and the worst part about Moodle is flexibility. One of the things that we really help our clients with is, Moodle is so flexible, there’s so many use cases, it’s helpful to have a bit of a guide, or a Sherpa to guide you through that, and we can be that for our clients. What we’re seeing right now is, we’re seeing what I’ll call the evolution of the new normal. So we had this period because of the pandemic, where learning and development professionals were forced in very short order to take a bunch of courses that used to be taught in a conference room, or a training facility, move them online incredibly quickly. And they worked incredibly hard, long hours, and I respect what they did, but they also… Most of them would tell you they took a lot of shortcuts, and a lot of times, it was really more cutting and pasting something that they had from… And putting it online.

(10:48)
And so what we’re seeing now is, as people return to the workplace, some, and we see more of a flexible workplace, people actually going back and saying, “Okay, we made this really quick transition in 2020, it wasn’t our best effort, now let’s go back and make sure that we’re doing this right.” And also, and I say this as somebody that focuses on online learning, where are the spaces where some of that learning actually should be in-person? And how do we create that environment? Because there are some things that are just better delivered in-person, or sometimes even almost required to be in-person, and so they’re kind of re-evaluating.

(11:24)
And so I think we’re in what I’ll call the maturing phase post-pandemic, that we want to… And then we’re trying to encourage our clients to do that, “Hey, have you gone back and looked at those courses that you made over the two weeks in the middle of March or April of 2020? And have you thought about how you’re going to deliver those going forward?” I think it’s an important part of just the maturing of this, because 10 or 15 years of the movement online happened in about two weeks back in 2020, and we’ve got to respond to that.

 

William Tincup (11:58):

So with your customers, what’s the LMS tied to? I can see it tied to everything by the way, but I can see from onboarding, a clear path, I can also see it connected to performance, there’s a lot of things I can see it connected to, so instead of me wasting that time, what are your customers most connecting Open LMS with other technologies?

 

Phil Miller (12:25):

So, I mean, obviously we’re generally connected with HRIS system, which is critically important for all the reasons that you mentioned, but we’re increasingly seeing what some people would call extended enterprise, where sometimes we’re actually a second LMS. So they’ve got their internal LMS that’s tied to their HRIS, and that all the employees do their compliance training on-

 

William Tincup (12:48):

Right.

 

Phil Miller (12:49):

And other training. But then you’ve got a department that has a specific use case, maybe it’s to train some external people, or volunteers if you’re a non-profit. And so they need something that actually isn’t tied to their HRIS, because there’s some constraints that come into place. So we have a lot of clients over the last year or so, we’re actually the secondary LMS, and we’re the flexible one that doesn’t have all the structure around it.

(13:19)
And that’s very intentional, and you said it earlier, the flexibility of Moodle is incredibly important. So if you’ve got a use case where you’re trying to train your salespeople, and of course, they would be in your HRIS, but you also have a bunch of channel partners that are around the world selling your products, and you want to include them in the same training. Well, suddenly, you’re calling IT, and saying, “Hey, I need to create accounts for these 300 channel partner representative.” And they’re like, “Hang on a second, we’re not ready to do that.” And so there’s a lot of those types of use cases, where the flexibility that we can apply, both from a technological perspective from Moodle, but also from being owned by the group that’s actually delivering that specific use case can be really powerful. And we’re also cost effective enough to operate at that level, where, “Hey, you’ve got…” We actually offer down to 500 user license for our software, because we see those types of scenarios come up quite frequently actually, and it seems to be growing.

(14:20)
One of the ones that’s kind of related to that that we’re seeing a lot right now is associations, professional associations that are using our software to train their members. If you’re in a medical association of some sort, or a specific practitioner, you’ve got to do continuing education every year. And so the associations themselves are in the middle of that game, and they’re starting to use our system to train their members on that. Which is a similar thing, they’re members, but they’re not employees, so they’re not in HRIS. We also see integrations with things like Salesforce, people that are selling content through our system and our platform. To your point, the flexibility means there’s a lot of different ways that we need to be integrated with various systems.

 

William Tincup (15:03):

I love this. So let’s do some buy-side stuff for a couple minutes. Questions buyers should ask, especially newbies, never bought an LMS before, don’t even know what LMS stands for. Fantastic. Great. They know they need to do something with learning, and training, and skilling, and all that other stuff. What are the questions that they should be asking Open LMS?

 

Phil Miller (15:28):

Yeah, so a couple things that come to mind. One is how easy is it to integrate content from a variety of sources? You don’t want to be tied to any one source of content, because then you’re trapped. A second one, and part of this is because we’re open source, but we like to have people ask on the total cost of ownership front, what is the cost of exit, because if you implement a proprietary system, if you ever decide to change, or if the product doesn’t go where you want, or if the support isn’t what you want, then there’s a cost to transition. And we think that we’ve eliminated that by being based on an open source platform. You can take your data, you can even take the platform itself, run it yourself, or find other people in the world that provide that. So the total cost of ownership, don’t just think about, “Hey, how much is it going to cost me to implement this?” But if I ever have to change, what does that look like?

 

William Tincup (16:20):

Right.

 

Phil Miller (16:20):

And then the last one, to your earlier point, integration points, I mean, again with the variety of use cases, but start with something simple, “I need to integrate with my HRIS. How easy is it to do that? Do I have people that can help me do that?” And then, “What other systems might I want it to connect to in the future?” And at least have an idea of what that looks like, so that when inevitably somebody comes to you with a different use case than you originally thought, are you prepared for that? And do you have a system that’s able to handle that?

 

William Tincup (16:50):

Love that. That’s fantastic. I know that that Open LMS is so flexible, it can do anything, however, there’s a favorite part of showing Open LMS to somebody, so what is that for you?

 

Phil Miller (17:10):

My favorite part of this, and then there are people that are more technical that focus on the integration, but we’ve really focused on personalized learning, and we’ve built a tool into the Open LMS environment, it’s called the Personalized Learning Designer. And it actually allows you to do branching, and create different learning paths very easily, which, if you’re creating your own content and you’re not a full-time instructional designer, the ability to create that more… Not a lot more advanced, but just to make people feel like the content is personalized for them is incredibly important, I think. Again, to your point about catering to today’s workers, people expect that of an online platform, and we think we’ve created a way to do that in a really easy and straightforward way, such that it’s available to the common practitioner, not to the person who’s got a four-year degree in instructional design.

(18:05)
And so that’s my favorite. When I show that feature, when I demo the software, people look at it, they’re like, “Okay, I can see how I could use that, and it’s something that I wouldn’t expect to be able to do at my skill level.” So that gets me pretty excited. The other thing I love about that feature is, later in our community site and stuff, people have used it in ways that we never intended it to be used, and I think that’s cool. We had a certain [inaudible 00:18:32] but they’ve kind of hacked it a little bit, because it operates a little bit like creating macros, and so it’s always cool to see somebody that’s taken your feature and hacked it a little bit to do something cool and unique. And so that’s my favorite one to talk about in a show when I’m able to demo to clients.

 

William Tincup (18:48):

Extending that just for a second, without brand names or company names, and things like that, favorite story of how people have used Open LMS, and it could be your most recent favorite story, because you have thousands-

 

Phil Miller (19:03):

[inaudible 00:19:03] on that personalized learning one specifically, and this is going to be from the education world, rather the K-12 world actually, we had a teacher once that… One of the things you can do is you can schedule personalized messages to be sent at specific times based on certain things. And so a teacher friend of mine that was using our platform set up a little macro, and 5:30 in the morning, it would check and see if the student hadn’t logged in the last two or three days, and it would send a very personalized message like, “Hey, Sally, I see you haven’t logged in since Friday, the whatever. I really need you to do that. Here’s your next…” And you can macro all that out.

(19:44)
The students showed up at the… Because they were getting the emails too, the parents show like, “Wow, you’re up early every morning.” And really, she actually is not a morning person at all, but she just automated… And again, the hacking the system a little bit to do something, and it made her look like an early morning early bird that was up bright and early sending emails to parents, and the system made her look really good. So that’s an example of a fun story that people can achieve when you really get the automation of some of those things down.

 

William Tincup (20:18):

Drops mic, walks off stage. Phil, thank you so much for your time, and your wisdom today, and explaining Open LMS to us.

 

Phil Miller (20:26):

I appreciate it. Well, I appreciate the time and the forum, appreciate it.

 

William Tincup (20:30):

Absolutely, and thanks everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.

 

Announcer (20:35):

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Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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