A Product Manager's Guide Through the L&D Buying Labyrinth

By Tom Stanley

4 minute read

Making strategic product purchasing decisions is hard. It's essential for driving growth, efficiency, and maintaining a competitive edge, but it's hard. For anyone tasked with selecting the right tools and solutions for their departments, this process can often feel like traversing a labyrinth without a map. Fear not, for in this blog, I will guide you through an approach to evaluating products from one very important perspective, often overlooked when buying: end-users.

These are challenges a Product Manager faces every day, but from the other side of the fence. When making product decisions, we have to ensure that everything we do focuses on the user and how we can help them in their day-to-day tasks. This can often get lost when evaluating products from a procurement perspective, but sometimes it's good to take a step back and evaluate.

The challenge of buying

Procuring products without specialised knowledge or experience can present significant challenges. Technical specifications, industry terminology, and a myriad of options and features can overwhelm even the most seasoned professionals. It is crucial to break down the evaluation process into manageable steps and leverage available resources for guidance.

The best place to start might sound obvious but is often overlooked: defining clear objectives and requirements. In other words, focus on a specific problem. Instead of 'We need to be more efficient!', reframe this as: 'Our team headcount has been reduced, and we still have to curate 20 learning pathways a month with reduced capacity. How can we halve the time it takes to curate a learning journey?'—as an example just off the top of my head."

Next, we have to consider factors such as functionality, scalability, integration capabilities, and budgetary constraints. Engage with stakeholders from across the organisation to gather insights into their needs and preferences, ensuring alignment with overarching business goals. Research available products thoroughly, from online resources, industry publications, and peer recommendations. Talk to countless vendors for additional information or demonstrations. It’s quite the process.

Sometimes a key factor is overlooked: who is going to be using this product, and what do they need to solve the problem we have already agreed upon?

Putting the user first

At the heart of successful product development lies a deep understanding of the end user's needs and preferences. While technical specifications and feature sets are undoubtedly important, they must be evaluated through the lens of usability and practicality in real-world scenarios. This should be no different when evaluating the product in a buying decision.

In L&D, this can take many forms. One we are all already familiar with is around content:

  • Does the content we offer work for our users?
  • Does it not only cover the skills we care about, but is it in a form that they can use when they need it?

Offering courses can be great for long-term growth and development, but sometimes a short, focused article or video is just what is needed. Our partners at 5Mins.ai and getAbstract can give you some great examples.

But this extends to whole platforms. Learning platforms have a lot of features nowadays, but there are thousands of empty profiles for users who log in once a year to do compliance training and use Google for everything else.

Engage with end users early and often throughout the evaluation process. Gather feedback on existing pain points and workflow inefficiencies. By involving users in the decision-making process, we get two huge benefits: we can ensure that the selected product meets their needs and enhances their productivity, and, crucially, they have been brought along in the process and are invested in the product. How often have we heard of instances where a great tool has been deployed to a team, but it doesn’t get used?

The end user knows what they need. They can cut through the noise of fancy features that look nice but do not help them achieve their goal.

How Filtered focuses on user needs

It would be irresponsible to write this without addressing how Filtered applies our user-centric approach. We have been working in the L&D industry for over 10 years and have found that there is one problem that has persisted—content discovery.

Whether the user is an L&D professional who needs to sift through thousands of content pieces to create a learning journey or a data scientist who needs to find a quick refresher on topic modelling, it can be hard to pinpoint the content you need when you need it. So, this is what we have focused on: a real user problem that can be solved.

1. Content discovery through search:

You have thousands of content pieces to offer your users. This is great, until that one piece of content the user needs is buried under all the not-so-useful ones!

Filtered has the best search in the business. We use a machine-learning-based search that really 'gets' you and your needs. Forget keywords and tags; just explain the problem, and you will get the best content from anywhere in your learning ecosystem.

This is something we have focused on to allow users to get the content they need, when they need it.


2. Content discovery through curation:

We work with a lot of L&D teams. An effective way to get the best content to learners is through targeted pathways. That way, you have already done the filtering for them. The problem is, this is a time-consuming and expensive process.

Filtered has you covered here too. Using our AI-powered curation assistant and our aforementioned search, curating quality pathways has never been faster, easier, and more efficient. Using Filtered as a curation tool has enabled our users to curate up to x25 times faster than before and generate over £1m in savings.

CurateThere we have it. Two user-centred use cases that will help real teams make a difference in learning. There are a lot of tools out there and all of them claim to solve a problem for you and your users. If you make sure you frame a clear problem you need to solve and then involve the people that have that problem in your decision-making, you can ensure that you find the right tool to solve it. Champion users will help with adoption and application of the tools to ensure that you get the best ROI for all those demo meetings!

It sounds so easy when put like that.

If you need to solve content discovery chaos and efficient pathway curation, then we can help. Complete our demo request form and we will be in touch.

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