I say that, but October was actually a great month for business at Bluewater.  October in 2017 also turned into conference season.  Over a period of three weeks, I attended HR Tech, Learning 2017 and DevLearn.  Great events for a variety of reasons, but please spread them out in the future. Lots to consider about the state of the industry; what’s hot and what’s not.

One thing is clear.  There is still quite a bit of confusion about technology in the HCM and Learning space.  Those who own technology want more value and those who are looking need clarity.  That is why we started Bluewater Assurance.  Expertise you need, when you need it.

In this post, I will review what we learned from each event.  Our meetings with clients, partners, vendors really helped provide a great picture of what to expect in 2018.

HR Tech 2017 – October 11-12, 2017

HR Technologies Conference »

Let’s start where the month began with HR Tech.  Back in Las Vegas this year.  HR Tech was an odd event for me this year.  For the first time in years, we did not have a booth and decided just to walk the floor.  $300+ for a floor pass was pretty expensive but it ended up being worth it.  Our team met with partners, vendors and clients during the two days at the Expo. There were several themes that continued to resonate this year which we had not seen in the past few years.  I was starting to wonder if HR Tech was going to become a recruiting event but this year we saw the re-emergence of Learning as a primary competitor for dollars and attention. The emergence of the LXP (Learning Experience Platforms) was clear.  Lots of traffic in the Pathgather and Degreed booths. 

There was also substantial interest in the new Cornerstone Learning Suite as well as SumTotal and Skillsoft’s announcement that Percipio will become the front end platform for SumTotal in the very near future. That means a great combination of content and user experience.  The Saba/Halogen combination also got lots of attention with the combination of excellent Learning and Performance platforms beginning to merge.  Saba did a great job of marketing at the event and captured a bit of mindshare with prospects. Of course, we were very curious about the Learning advances of Ultimate SoftwareWorkday and Oracle.

How will the big HCM players fare in the competitive Learning market?  Ultimate seems to have the lead in functionality with their Learning platform and partnerships with Cornerstone and Saba. Workday has a small booth and no one that could really speak to the learning platform. Oracle’s demo of learning is a work in progress but has some potential.

Maybe it is an oversimplification to focus on just Learning.  The real theme of the event was people development. When asking our clients at the event, ‘what are you looking for?’, the common and overwhelming answer was something….anything that will help me improve the development of people. This year was less about talent acquisition and more about doing more for the people already inside their companies. When we asked vendors what prospects were looking for, they said the exact same thing. Great to have a common answer from vendors and clients.

Takeaways from HR Tech:

  • Renewed energy around People Development and specifically Learning
  • Decrease in participation from small Talent Acquisition players
  • Emergence of LXP Platforms

HR Tech 2018 – September 11-14 in Las Vegas

Learning 2017 – October 22-25, 2017

Learning 2017 »

This is always one of my favorite conferences of the year. It is all about learning.  No pretension about the purpose of the event. There is limited vendor exposure and hey, it’s at Disney World! I started attending this event in 1997 when it was TechLearn.

The best part of this event is that we have an opportunity to meet with clients and leaders in the industry and learn from all of them. What is it that is moving learning and people development forward? Where are people and companies being successful? Where are they failing? What are the demands on their time and what are the expected corporate outcomes from their efforts? There is a lot to learn from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning.

So, what did we hear this year?

Similar buzz to HR Tech on the learning side but here I will be more specific. It is all about the experience of the Learner. There needs to be a better model for engaging Learners and everyone is searching. There seems to be a theory that engagement is the gap in knowledge transfer. If we are not engaging then we are not fully transferring knowledge. Engagement models that are working include video, social and some of the new LXP’s.

For the first time at this event, I heard senior Learning leaders discuss xAPI as a potential solution to information problems. The quest for data and data to inform decision making was a major theme with the people I spoke with. Most are still searching for how to collect that important data. A few are collecting and now trying to determine how the data they have collected should drive an impact on the business.

My primary excitement from this event was the focus on business impact. A few years ago, we would hear about making a business impact from a few learning leaders. At this year’s event, I heard it from everyone. There is a critical focus on not just measuring business impact but aggressively pursuing business impact. I believe this is a great thing for the industry.

Overall, this was one of the best Masie Learning events I have attended. The time passed too quickly and we were off to the next show. I am already looking forward to next year at Learning 2018.  You should consider attending.

Takeaways from Learning 2017:

  • Learning organizations must focus on business impact
  • Learning engagement is a priority
  • Need to work together as a community to understand how learning data can help drive decision making within the business

Learning 2018 – November 4-7, 2018 Disney’s Coronado Springs Convention Center in Orlando

DevLearn 2017 – October 25-27, 2017

DevLearn 2017 »

DevLearn was a really interesting event for several reasons this year.  First was that I was in Orlando at Learning 2017 for the start of the event and took a 7am ET flight from Orlando to Las Vegas so I could make the beginning of the DevLearn Expo at 10am PT.  Made it…will not do that again.  It was an experience. 

At this year’s DevLearn event the Bluewater team put on a mini-conference inside the event.  We hosted a Learning Stage in the Expo hall and put on eleven different sessions with our clients United Airlines, 3M, Cisco, NiSource and Fossil.  It was a lot of work but the sessions were well attended and we learned quite a bit from the attendees. The third point, and less personal was the conference itself.  Normally DevLearn is very focused on instructional design and development.  This year we met a number of senior leaders who were looking for solutions.

What solutions were they looking for? Pretty similar to our experiences with HR Tech and Learning 2017. They were looking to solve specific business problems, address learner engagement and find a way to impact the business. Now, we did have the traditional individual looking for a new way to develop eLearning content and quite a few people looking for help with their learning technologies. That was consistent.  However, this year we heard from a few people who were beginning to look for new methods of delivering learning experiences outside the traditional method of classroom or eLearning. That was different for this event. 

There was also a very intense focus on xAPI, data collection, measurement and evaluation. The expo side of this event led itself to more of a focus on innovation vs. status quo. Our friends at Xyleme and OnPoint have quite a bit of activity with prospects looking for object-oriented content development and mobile support, respectively. There was a surprising absence of the major LXP providers at DevLearn. I found that curious.

My favorite part of this event was engaging with our clients. They have a real passion for making a difference for the people in their business. We see that throughout this industry.  I love that part of our business.

Takeaways from DevLearn 2017:

  • Mobile is no longer a nice to have but a necessity
  • Learner engagement is critical
  • It is all about solving business problems

DevLearn 2018 – October 24-26, 2018 Las Vegas

Thank you for spending a little time with me as I reviewed the flurry of events in October 2017.  Thank you to the conferences this year for a very educational experience and for spreading out these events in 2018!

As always, let me know what you think. I look forward to your feedback and sharing more about my travels through the Learning, Talent and HCM markets.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chris Bond