4 tips on talking about learning technology (with vendors) at ATD ICE 2019

ATD ICE 2019 in Washington, DC is just around the corner. If you intend on asking exhibiting vendors about how their learning technology can help solve your workplace learning dilemmas, we have some tips on how to get the conversation started. 

Build the business case internally for new learning technology to solve business needs 

First thing's first: what business challenges are you looking to solve with new learning technology? Before you can even get that one-on-one time with a vendor, you need to think realistically about your core business challenges and how L&D can solve them.

Gather the appropriate team of people who will need to be apart of this particular vendor-selection process, and from there, start defining the challenge, and what kind of product or solution you're looking for from a vendor.

List out the technical requirements. Make a pro/con list of what you don't like in your current learning platform and what's on your wish list, what will be required to transition your existing learning programs from a flop to a fabulous success? 

Some things to consider are: 

  • How will your existing learning platform grow with your organisation over time? 
  • Is your platform, flexible, adaptable and innovative enough to evolve as quickly with your business needs? 
  • Open source learning technology or proprietary? 
  • Are you willing to sign another 3-4 year contract with a proprietary vendor?
  • What were some of the challenges that you came across with this type of situation already in place (where applicable)? 
  • What are the limitations of your current learning platform and what would you like to accomplish with a new system? 
  • What features in your next learning platform will help you determine the success of a learning program that you currently do not have? 
  • Are there other divisions in your organisation that use a different learning technology platform to the one your division currently uses? 

Avoid buyer's remorse: your guide to buying learning technology

Our latest guide helps you understand what to look for when procuring a learning platform so that you don't end up with buyer's remorse. 

Do your due diligence on your preferred vendor's software in advance 

This sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many times vendors get asked "what exactly do you do?" at tradeshows, even by delegates who want to talk to them.  Now that you've figured out that you're looking for a new learning technology solution - start doing your due diligence on what's out there in the market and narrow your options down. Read their latest resources, go through their case studies, read their product sheets, join their communities

Make a shortlist of the vendors you're interested in talking to at ATD ICE 2019 

ATD ICE 2019 is a massive event with over 400 vendors in learning and HR technology, offering the latest and greatest solutions in the market. We suggest that to make the most of your expo hall tour, go through the list of exhibiting vendors at ATD ICE 2019 and determine which vendors you'd like to most see and talk to at the event.

This year, Totara is excited to have Platinum Totara Partners onsite at ATD 2019, including Partner of the Year, eThink Education, America's Totara Top Seller Remote-Learner, Moonami, and Synegen. Along with these Platinum Totara Partners, we are also going to be joined by our Content Partner, GO1, giving you a one-stop shop in the Totara Village to meet and greet with experts from our open ecosystem.

This will give you the chance to ask how one Totara Partner differentiates from the other; what customers they've worked with, view demos, hear live case studies, ask questions (see below) and more. 

Be sure to add your preferred vendors to your ATD ICE 2019  showplan so that you don't forget.   

Ask the right questions when you're speaking to vendors at the ATD ICE 2019 

Totara DevLearn 2018 Conversations

Here are some common ones that you can reuse: 

How can I adapt this LMS/LXP/Learning Platform to meet my needs?  

Not all learning platforms can be tailored, so if you have unique requirements now, or may need more specialist configurations in the future, it makes sense to opt for an LMS which allows this. Proprietary learning management systems tend to be much harder to configure to your needs,  whereas open source learning platforms can generally be adapted to your needs, whether that’ means the overall look and feel, UX, functionality or plugins. In general, the more flexibility the better - even if your use case is relatively straightforward right now, this could change in the future, and you want to avoid being stuck with an LMS that doesn’t meet your needs halfway through your contract.

What does your product roadmap look like?

This is a sensible question to ask whether you’re considering a proprietary or an open source LMS. If you’re considering a proprietary LMS, this is essential - you won’t have the option to build any new features or functionality if you require them before they are available.

However, it also makes sense to ask this question if you are looking at open source learning management systems - you don’t want to start development work on a custom feature and then discover that it will be available in the next release of the product.

Does your LMS integrate with other tools and platforms? If so, which ones?

Remember how we mentioned you need to determine which technical requirements you would need for your future learning platform?  This could be HR systems, social learning platforms, productivity plugins, CRM,  e-commerce functions, additional analytics tools like Zoola or Intellibord, content from GO1, a mobile app like Aspire,  or anything else. 

Many companies use lots of different tools which all need to talk to each other, making it essential that your LMS integrates effectively to ensure data transfers across the various systems.

What type of companies currently use your learning technology software? 

This is a question that most people forget to ask, but it’s important. Are there other companies like yours (in terms of size, sector, location and more) using the same learning platform? Ask for specific examples - it can help to see a live demo on the day, but if you’re especially interested in a particular vendor, it makes sense to check out their case studies online.

It’s not necessarily anything to worry about if your company is the first of its kind to use a platform, but it can help you build your business case with your organisation’s stakeholders if you can show them examples of similar companies using the software successfully - and, bonus points, if you work with the same vendor, they can share the secrets of their success with you.

I am looking at you along with XYZ vendor - how does your solution compare on price?

This is a loaded and tricky question that vendors are often asked.  Proprietary vendors will charge a set price for 3/4 year contracts that are easily discernable online, but usually, this comes bundled with limited support and hosting - based on the customer's needs.

This will vary on a case by case basis with most proprietary vendors, as well as their business development reps.

Making the most of ATD ICE 2019

While an event like ATD ICE 2019 is a decent place to ask vendors such a question, it's better to park this and enquire with your preferred vendors via email at a later date, so that you can provide them with detailed specifications and/or an RFP with everything you need.  This will give them a better chance to assess your needs appropriately and how their learning technology can best serve you and meet your business needs. 

Attend vendor sessions during ATD ICE 2019 

This is a great opportunity for delegates to hear first-hand accounts by not only your preferred vendors but oftentimes, their customers.

Once you have your list - attend their sessions to understand how they've worked with specific clients. This will also give you the chance to talk to their experts, and if you're savvy enough, you'll be able to speak to their customers after the session to ask them any pertinent questions you might have (i.e. so really tell me - how was it working with this particular vendor?) 

At this year’s ATD International Conference and Exposition, Totara is proud to present case studies by both JLG Industries, an OshKosh Company, and Vistaprint on Tuesday, May 21.

In this session, delegates will hear how both organisations have found the freedom to innovate and scale their training programs with Totara Learn, the leading open enterprise learning platform.

With the flexibility that Totara offers, Vistaprint (helped by eThink)  and JLG Industries (helped by Remote-Learner) have been able to create a custom platform that can adapt to meet the company's evolving needs and future-proof their learning investment. 

Totara ATD 2019 Exhibitor Session

In addition to the case study sessions, many vendors will be hosting onsite informational demos during expo hours. At the Totara Village, delegates and expo pass holders are invited to attend one of the several free L&D micro sessions being held at the Totara Theatre.

Topics range from case studies from Red Hat, Albertson’s to a deep dive in H5P, learning analytics, gamification and more.

And there you have it 

We hope this list helps fellow ATD ICE 2019 delegates ask the right questions when they're speaking to vendors, and that you don't end up with buyer's remorse. If you are looking to speak with a member of the Totara Team, you'll find a number of us at the Totara Village at stand 1019, surrounded by our expert Platinum Partners. If you can't make it, contact us today for more information. We look forward to seeing everyone in Washington, DC!