About four years ago, when I was hip-deep in Performance Support Technology, I contacted the Gartner Group regarding a Magic Quadrant for this emerging tech; they had none…and no immediate plans for any…stating they were not in “that space.” I suggested they include performance support if they were serious about being in the learning space and doubted if my suggestion was a catalyst. Still, they released a document for Digital Adoption Solutions – DAS Platforms in the Context of Sales Effectiveness and provided a list of vendors…no rankings…just a list. Today the naming convention has changed to Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs), but the song remains the same. Sort of…
My intent here is not to discount the vendor offerings on the Gartner list; rather, my concerns are based on who was NOT included that should have been. The 11 on the list included several new players and a couple who have been around the block, like WalkMe. The players that should’ve been included…despite the context being sales effectiveness in the earlier Gartner report…include:
- Ancile – uPerform
- AskDelphi – Learning Experience & Performance Support
- Assima – Assima Train & Assima Assist
- Epilogue Systems – Opus with “Follow Me” Workflow Capability
- OnScreen – SAP Guidance
- Panviva – Support Point & Knowledge Cloud
- tt-s – Performance Suite (tt Knowledge Force & tt Guide)
While I’m delighted to see the DAP category added to Gartner’s review scope, I only hope these additional players are added before the next Magic Quadrant is published because established heavy hitters are missing, which is a huge disservice to the buying organizations.
And that will be a challenge because of what each vendor does best. So…the next question is which one is “best-in-class?” I feel safe saying each one is best in class at something. While the vendors have some common deliverables, each has a unique sweet spot. None of them can do everything. That fact alone implies vendor selection criteria must be based upon your unique business learning performance requirements to ensure alignment of best-in-class vendor capabilities with your critical in-house requirements. When those requirements are known, they become a framework for Use Case definition for vendor selection instead of RFI/RFQ.
It would be a mistake to consider a single application, like contextual delivery of job aids or application navigation, as the only reason to consider DAP technology. Those applications are but two sweet spots possessed by several of the vendors. Rarely are those stand-alone application solutions because of what happens before, during, and after the moment of need delivery at Point-of-Work.
It would be best if you had something Workflow-relevant to deliver…so Content must be relevant, intentionally designed, effective, and accessible in the Workflow. Behind the curtain are some logistical aspects that are NOT consistent across the vendors…like:
- Authored collaboratively/captured/annotated/narrated
- Easily editable/updated/project flow managed/version controlled/ single-source documentation capable
- Accessible and contextual within workflows inside ANY browser-based applications, not just enterprise systems
- System agnostic with NO embedded code in host applications
- 100% cloud-based off-loading much of IT’s day-to-day shepherding
- Assets reusable/embedded in learning/URL addressable
- Trackable/utilization monitored/correlated with other system performance
- Scalable without loss of life trying to herd content cats (tongue-in-cheek, but a really big deal)
And then, there are Analytics considerations and API compatibility with other systems. Why? Because a DAP solution will likely not be a stand-alone “box” or “cloud” unto itself. Is Digital Transformation underway? If so, there is no better fit than DAP, given it is non-invasive nature to whatever has already been transitioned to the cloud… enabling a “start small and scale” approach to active implementations and during mid-transformation efforts.
Is the DAP platform system-agnostic? Is it cloud-based? Does it require invasive code insertion into enterprise applications? Does it offer software as a service (SaaS) pricing? What’s the learning curve for creating content? Is the DAP solution scalable once it goes viral…and it will. Does the L&D organization have the chops to assess the environment where a DAP solution has an initial fit? Does the L&D design/production repertoire exist to leverage Intentional Design using 7-Right Things solution design compatible with the DAP selection?
Here’s a big one – Will the DAP vendor selected still be the right vendor for your Digital Transformations as they scale?
I know I’m tossing many questions out here without answers. Still, such is the diversity of each ecosystem where DAP plays a role… many questions that must be answered, and each depends upon the unique requirements of that specific ecosystem. Standard consultant’s answer: “It depends!” and it does. The danger, as I see it, is the same danger we’ve already endured when somebody decided, “We need to buy an LMS!” So…how’d that work out for ya?
My point is simply this:
“Ready” to pursue DAP adoption DOES NOT equal “Readiness” to pursue DAP adoption!
Why do I say this? Reread the sampling of questions postured earlier. Adopting DAP technology represents the final commitment to optimizing a Point-of-Work Solution Discipline. Yes, that “discipline” is my language (or jargon, if you like), but whatever language you choose to apply, it’s like making a purchase decision based on the 10% of the iceberg you can see.
It will take a Point-of-Work Assessment (PWA) to see what’s below the waterline or behind the curtain where the guts of Transformation Change must take place. Technology is involved, but “readiness” to optimize it requires a level of up-skilled discipline within L&D to leverage the DAP capability. It requires an accurate assessment of your in-house requirements at GoLive and as the future scale at a viral rate…and it will, especially when the vendor platform integrates with Windows programs like Excel. Find the right vendor and buckle up.
Most important is gaining commitment and sponsorship within senior leadership. Why? That’s where transformational change gets blessed and sponsored. DAP adoption cannot be treated like a stand-alone technology purchase. The dynamics of the Learning Performance Ecosystem…the diversity of business applications to be supported…the skills and tactical disciplines within L&D…all must line up to ensure optimization is reached and then sustained when things begin to scale. DAP has edge-to-edge implications for your ecosystem.
Wow, that almost felt like a rant. But then, I’ve been known to rant when I fall into something tied to my passion for workforce optimization.
The fact that Gartner finally recognizes this very relevant space has me stoked…once again. It’s been a long time coming. I hope the DAP focus does not become too narrow and application navigation becomes the only visible point-solution when so many more productivity-enhancing capabilities are possible. My other hope is for prospective adopters to avoid jumping too quickly into a platform and not having the human infrastructure and workflow requirements identified via Point-of-Work Assessment (PWA) and performance assets designed intentionally for Point-of-Work Solutions using DAP technology. We really cannot afford another rush-to-LMS ownership scenario. It’s time for senior-level leadership commitment, where empowerment to change gets the momentum to build the necessary critical mass for digital adoption across the ecosystem.
Thanks for reading, and as always, if you have comments or ideas, please share. If you’d like to investigate how the PWA Methodology can determine DAP requirements contact me or read my new book, “Confessions of a Performance Ninja: Optimizing Workforce Performance @ Point-of-Work.” If you want to take the PWA methodology in-house, try a PWA Workshop.
Take good care!