It’s a tale as old as time: the legacy learning management system (LMS) that took your company from point A to point B no longer meets your needs.
Your company has grown.
You now educate multiple audiences.
You plan to scale your eLearning academy.
But your legacy solution just isn’t scalable; adding new users requires lots of human effort.
Meanwhile, your company’s burning cash on apps that barely get used, and employees across the organization are doing duplicate work inside similar systems (e.g., building product onboarding courses inside an LMS and an LXP).
You’re sure it’s time for a tech stack consolidation.
But how do you get started? How do you convince resistant colleagues? And how do you avoid “rookie” mistakes?
Read on to learn:
The average organization uses 130 apps, according to a 2023 study from BetterCloud.
And while we couldn’t find any reputable studies citing the number of edtech apps used, McKinsey says the adult edtech sector is growing quickly to keep up with increased market demand; more companies realize the value in doing organizational education.
Do you know how many tools are in your edtech stack?
Often, education professionals can’t answer this question with certainty for one simple reason: teams responsible for educating different audiences buy education tools to meet their needs.
The bloat builds each time a team adds an additional tool—i.e., when someone identifies a need to use gamification to boost learner engagement and buys a bolt-on gamification tool.
In other words, your edtech stack is bigger than your team’s edtech stack; it encompasses all tools used across the business to educate your company’s audiences. And chances are, your organization uses more tools than you realize.
A common problem companies with bloated tech stacks face is resource waste. For example, different teams upload similar course content to two separate eLearning platforms—when they could have adopted a single eLearning platform that lets them share content across audiences. (They’re paying for two tools and the humanpower required to maintain two tools.)
Consolidating your ed tech stack can help you to eliminate costly redundancies.
Other key benefits of consolidating your tech stack include:
The benefits of consolidation are clear.
But while most articles on tech stack consolidation jump straight from the benefits into the how, there are two important points to understand before you take action.
If you open an article that attempts to make tech stack consolidation sound easy, run.
As much as we’d love to share “five easy steps to consolidate your tech stack,” we’d be doing you a disservice.
We interviewed Yevgeniy Tsvetov, Principal Consultant at Cleartelligence, a Boston-based data and analytics consultancy serving brands like Boston Scientific, TJX, and Citizens Bank. Tsvetov’s an expert in tech stack consolidation who helps companies plan and organize their deployment—from deciding which apps to choose to planning implementation.
He mentioned two important points worth sharing:
Unlike cooking an omelet where you follow a set of clearly defined, predetermined steps, tech stack consolidation isn’t a “first do this, then always do this, then always do that” type of activity.
“It’s nuanced,” Tsvetov said. “There’s no specific playbook I use with every client.”
For example, consolidation steps can vary based on factors like:
“[For multiple teams using an app] you’ll need some sort of chargeback structure: this department has x number of users; this department has x number of users,” Tsvetov said. “If they can’t charge it back, we’re out of luck.”
"Tech stack consolidation is nuanced. There's no specific playbook." - Yevgeniy Tsvetov, Principal Consultant at Cleartelligence
“Learning management systems are usually purchased out of compliance requirements,” Tsvetov said. “At the time of purchase, no one is truly excited about it. But as time goes on, three different systems get bought by departments because they have to facilitate training. Eventually, someone new is in charge of merging systems, and they’re excited to replace several legacy systems with a better solution.”
For example, one manufacturing company brought on an experienced education leader to take its digital education to the next level. That leader got a lay of the land and started working to see if it was possible to consolidate various platforms into one system.
But while some people see a need to consolidate in order to scale, not everyone agrees.
“Some stakeholders feel the amount of effort that would go into replatforming—and figuring out who’s paying for or partitioning licensing—is too high,” Tsvetov explained. “So they say ‘let’s stick with what we have.’ No one wants to spend time and effort figuring it out.”
Prepare to be met with resistance. And have a plan for overcoming resistance.
That said, if you don’t have deep experience overseeing a tech stack consolidation—and if you don’t have a Chief Information Officer or Chief Data Officer to guide you—you can hire outsourced expertise. This activity is too important to go it alone and hope for the best!
Since there’s no one playbook to run in every situation, we’re sharing some “best practices” rather than rigid steps to follow.
As mentioned above, teams often create education content in silos. Customer support creates knowledge base articles. Customer success creates customer webinars. Product creates product onboarding videos. Marketing creates a certification. Learning & Development creates on-demand courses.
Because there are many cooks in the kitchen, you’re not just making decisions that impact your team; you’re making decisions that impact several teams. This means you’ll need buy-in from other team leads and senior leadership in charge of IT and security.
Develop a business case for consolidation including:
If you have an executive sponsor, that person will likely be critical in terms of helping you gather the support and resources you need to complete the consolidation project. Remember what Tsvetov said: “No one wants to spend time and effort figuring it out.” Your executive sponsor can help you polish your argument and present information in a way that overcomes objections.
Most advice will tell you to “go audit your tech stack.” But that advice can be interpreted as “go audit your team’s tech stack” rather than “go audit your company-wide tech stack.”
When it comes to edtech tools, you might not be aware of which tools are being used, why, how, and by whom. Put on your detective hat and interview stakeholders across the business.
Questions you can ask include:
Interviews are often eye-opening. Perhaps you find that your organization pays for a standalone gamification tool and an LMS that offers built-in gamification functionality.
Perhaps you find that employees on three different teams do customer product training. In addition to time spent creating the content, they also upload and maintain content in different systems: an event platform, an LMS, and a LXP. Is this necessary or efficient? Probably not.
But before you rush to cancel subscriptions, make sure you understand exactly what features, support, and professional services each company offers. For example, that standalone gamification tool might offer learners the ability to trade in points for physical goods via an e-store. If your LMS doesn’t offer the same functionality—and it’s critical in keeping learners engaged and returning to your academy—you might decide to keep both tools.
Do a gap analysis. The learnings from your interviews also help to identify gaps.
Perhaps you discover that measurement and reporting is a pain point for several stakeholders because you’re unable to track the full learner journey—or visualize education content performance. You can’t make smart data-driven decisions without high-quality data.
You might look for a tool with built-in analytics and robust dashboards—or one that integrates with your preferred data visualization tool (i.e., Domo or Tableau).
Or perhaps you discover that it takes lots of extra effort to support new learners inside your LMS. In other words, your ed tech platform isn’t scalable. This is a gap you’ll want to address quickly as it’s something your senior team cares about. (Last year, we surveyed 502 decision makers involved in workplace education and found that scalability is the most valued learning platform capability among C-level respondents.)
Not long ago, Jaclyn Anku, Director of Community and Education at Gusto, set out to replace her legacy LMS with a more robust LMS in order to build Gusto Academy.
“We’d outgrown our previous LMS, and we needed to rip off the Band-Aid—but the prospect of migrating our content, data, and systems made my head spin,” Anku said. “As daunting as it was however, we had one thing going for us: we knew exactly what we needed to do.” (Jaclyn and her colleague had prepared by doing internal interviews and competitive research.)
Lots of competitive research.
“After all the competitive research James and I had done, we had a 10-page wish list (read: highly detailed specs doc) outlining all of the baseline features and services we were looking for, along with all those extra bells and whistles that made my heart skip a beat when I saw them in action.”
This legwork allowed Gusto to enter vendor conversations with a robust RFI (request for information), which made the buying process more efficient and effective.
Like Gusto, impact.com needed to upgrade their legacy LMS to support their growing eLearning academy.
After vendor conversations, an internal committee of 10 employees reviewed RFP (request for proposal) responses and attended demos to narrow down the selection. The group used scorecards to make a final decision.
If employees across the organization will be asked to adopt a new tool, they should have some say as to which tool is best.
If you’re moving from one tool to another, you’ll need to safely and efficiently migrate your existing data and content so that your learner experience isn’t interrupted.
Find out in advance whether your new tech partner offers migration support—as well as the level of support provided.
And if needed, hire an expert to oversee your implementation and ensure a smooth transition.
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