We recently hosted a webinar that focused on how to maximize learning impact with an effective tech stack. We invited two seasoned professionals to weigh in: Ross Stevenson (Steal These Thoughts!) from the practitioner side and Kevin Smith (Degreed) from the vendor side.
Our registration link polled attendees what their current tech stack looked like. Responses ran the gamut from “what is a learning tech stack?” all the way to complex ecosystems. The session was highly interactive and clear that there was something for everyone, regardless of your current state.
Whether you missed the live session or want a refresher, we've got you covered with a summary of the questions we put to Ross and Kevin.
Without further ado, let’s get into it ⬇️
What is a learning tech stack, and what is its purpose?
In its essence, it is the collection of technology and tools used by L&D to house and deliver learning/training, as well as enable you to track progress toward your learning strategy.
Kevin spoke about the three sets of core systems that make up most learning tech stacks:
- System of Record. This category is focused on things that are usually compliance driven and a bit command/control.
- System of Consumption. Learners engage with this category of learning tech when they want to learn something or called on to solve a problem or challenge.
- System of Engagement. This category sits between consumption and record: it consolidates some of the systems of consumption and provides data to systems of record.
“In an ideal world, these various systems talk to each other. That’s where the magic happens. That’s where you can begin to develop an effective ecosystem in helping solve challenges you’re working towards.”
How do you design the perfect learning tech stack?
Perfection will greatly depend on what your specific use case is. There are many factors and considerations to make when designing.
Ross shared his process which has proven helpful in both building and evaluating the learning tech stack. He and his team would discuss the following questions to better understand current state in the spirit of designing for future state:
- What is in our current tech stack?
- What is performing, and what is not performing?
- What problem(s) do we need to solve?
- What are our non-negotiable features?
“You shouldn’t be making any learning tech decisions or purchasing any technology unless it solves a specific problem that you have in the organisation.”
Best-of-breed versus all-in-one solution and alignment to strategy?
Again, it depends on your use case. The decision between the two depends on your organisation’s specific needs, priorities, and available resources…which includes budget.
Kevin shared a personal story about how he was swayed to purchase an all-in-one air fryer, only to realize after the purchase that he uses much less than half of its capabilities. This playful cautionary tale highlights how getting caught up in the many bells and whistles of a product, versus the actual need, could lead to overbuying a solution. Having a clear understanding of the problems you face then matching the appropriate tech solution to them will determine whether the best-of-breed or all-in-one approach is best for you.
“It’s holding ourselves to account as we go through the buying process. Understanding what are we trying to get at and then what do we need to do to work back towards that?”
What is a good framework to build your tech stack?
Using a framework provides structure, consistency, efficiency, scalability, collaboration, decision support, continuous learning, and risk mitigation. These advantages contribute to more effective and successful outcomes.
Ross shared a straight-forward 5-step framework to facilitate building your tech stack:
- Research. Go back to the problems that you need to solve. Clarify the performance issues within your organization.
- Assess. Evaluate your current tech stack and resources available to you and your team. There may be a use case with existing tech that you are not using to its fullest capacity.
- Investigate. Once you have a clear sense of the performance issues and understanding of what your current tech landscape is, now you can see where can you maximise your tech. Validate that what you already have will or will not be enough to solve your problem(s).
- Interoperability. Learn how new tech will work with what you already have. Understand how it will communicate with the rest of your ecosystem. Ensure it will enhance your current stack without hindering its performance.
- Test and Learn. Piloting new tech with a small group of users will help you uncover unknowns ahead of a formal rollout. Three months is generally a good timeframe for a pilot to learn where possible barriers are to a smooth end-user experience.
“I always talk to people about looking for partners, not suppliers. Who are the people that you can work with over a 5, 10 year period? That’s really, really important. And that’s something we forget when we are blindsided by shiny tech.”
How do you get buy-in from your C-suite?
As you are likely well aware, gaining the support of the C-suite ensures strategic alignment, resource allocation, influence, overcoming resistance, cross-functional collaboration, and successful change management. This support provides L&D with the necessary backing and influence to effectively carry out its responsibilities and drive positive outcomes for the organization as a whole.
Ross explained that while building your approach is one part of the equation, the other half is being able to effectively communicate with your C-suite. And by that, it is not a 50 slide PowerPoint deck. It is distilling information to critical points they need to know and the timebound actions you need for them to take that will lead to progress towards organisational goals
“There is always this conversation around having a seat at the table, or having to get buy-in from people. The way to do that is to lead. So, leading the conversation with your research, with your recommendations, have your solutions, know what you’re going to say in terms of how you’re going to do this. So all the C-suite needs to do is say yes or no.”
That’s a wrap! Thanks to Ross and Kevin for sharing an incredible amount of knowledge in less than 30 minutes, including easy-to-implement tactical approaches.