R.I.P. LCMSs?

You could hear a pin drop this entire Learning 2007 conference if you were trying to have conversations about LCMSs. In other words, no one was talking about it other than me. Lance Dublin, whom I admire a lot, led a session on implementation and lumped the LCMS and LMS in the same bucket, but everyone was talking LMSs. LCMSs? Nada, zilch, zip, nein!

So, by a nifty mistake, I ended up in a Learning Consortium meeting instead of the 10 Years of SCORM meeting I had planned to show up to. I sat with Judy Brown and Rovy Brannon from the ADL Academic Co-Lab at University of Wisconsin, and at 8:30 in the morning on the last day of the conference, it became a very intimate open discussion with Elliott Masie, instead of the guided activity to collect themes for the next year of the Consortium.

I addressed the elephant in the room and asked Elliott why no one was talking LCMSs this year when last year we were beaten over the head with it. His reply was honest and maybe a bit surprising.

Elliott told me that an LCMS purchase right now has about a 30-month lifespan, because the real shifts in the tools learning organizations will use will be in powerful Talent Management systems and powerful Content Systems (not solely learning content or authoring tools), because there is a shift more and more towards immediate knowledge, which means that the traditional e-learning as we do it will be supplemented more and more with our broad spectrum of documents (excel, word, powerpoint stuff within what we currently call a document management system). Elliott suggested this is because the search and retrieval features of document management will significantly improve.

Now, Elliott did tell me that it’s not a bad idea to turn on an LCMS because of the workflow benefits we can gain and the way in which it, as a tool, will support standard quality of content… but his caveat was that we should know going in that in three years or so it will probably be outmoded because of the leaps in both technology and the necessary shifts in talent management that will make the top-down management of content too time-taking and too laborious to do. In other words, “rapid” will get “rapid-er.”

So as “learning content” changes in its form, its authors are going to be spread throughout the organization. I think an LCMS is useful for the reasons Masie described, but in the planning for my organization, I need to organize the change management issues related to shifting our Instructional Designers into learning content producers and then, eventually, learning content specialists consulting with the rest of the organization which will do the authoring. That’s a very distinct set of change issues that is related but not necessarily coupled with change management dealing with the LCMS.

When I think about this distinction, I think the LCMS isn’t such a big deal for my organization to handle… and the change around the roles, communication chains and workflow in our future are going to be much more difficult if we’re not very clear about the change we want to create and understand the impacts on all of us and the clients inside the company we serve…