In this third part of our series of behind-the-scenes posts, we’ll be interviewing Simon Birt, a recent addition to the eFront team, who is in charge of the product’s global business development.
Could you please introduce yourself for our readers?
My name is Simon Birt, and my background is in technology and business development, and more specifically the application of these into the enterprise space (large and medium-sized businesses). For the past nine years, this has been in the field of Corporate Learning and Development.
My role at eFront is to lead the business development of the eFront Learning Management platform throughout the global corporate marketplace.
Where would you place eFront in the competitive landscape?
eFront is a unique platform because it addresses formal and informal learning needs in an Enterprise Deployment Model (Private Cloud). This makes it attractive to buyers who prefer an option to Software as a Service (SaaS).
What do you think are other companies’ shortcomings with regards to how they design and market their LMS platforms?
The LMS marketplace is crowded. This is great because buyers have lots of choice, but it is confusing because it is hard to determine which LMS is the best fit. The features that make one LMS a good purchase for one company will not be applicable to all.
Among the best LMS options, such as eFront, there are common areas of focus: the blend of formal with informal needs, the ability to integrate easily to Human Capital Management (HCM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, the ability to manage mobile content with Responsive Design, and the option to deploy in the Enterprise (Private Cloud). The weaker LMS are not designed with this functionality, and consequently they will struggle to attract large user numbers.
So, whilst the LMS marketplace is crowded, once the buyer understands the importance of the aforementioned focus areas, there are fewer realistic choices available.
eFront has had some undeniable success in the global market already. How do you plan to take it to the next level?
There is a promising future for this platform, as I am convinced that buyers will be searching for an Enterprise (Private Cloud) solution.
This is for a few key reasons: the ability to deeply integrate and embed learning into workplace software such as IBM Connections, SAP Jam, Jive-n and Yammer; the need to ensure complete data integrity and security; and the need for a great user experience around learning content delivery, management and reporting.
Having said that, we need to dramatically increase our presence in the marketplace by recruiting a large number of partners to drive our business development, in every geography around the world.
My primary objective is to attract, meet and sign up as many partner companies as possible to resell and locally support eFront.
In addition to this, I will work closely with our very talented team to ensure we have great lead generation, online marketing, and partner business support in place to strengthen our growth.
You have a lot of experience in the eLearning industry, both as a professional and also for having (literally) “written the book” about the use of eLearning in the modern enterprise, ‘Learning Unscripted’. What insights can you share with our readers regarding the present and future of this industry?
Technology Enhanced Learning is going through a dramatic change. This is being fueled by the redesigning of workplace productivity from email to social networks, our adoption of smartphone and tablet platforms, and our repositioning of services from Enterprise to SaaS (Social, Mobile and Cloud). Our experiences and interactions with technology are becoming more sophisticated and demanding.
For the Learning and Development industry, this will be about delivering technology that supports informal and formal learning in one single, personalized and social environment in the short term. Further out, we will see the emergence of adaptive ‘smart’ learning platforms that are deeply integrated into our workplace infrastructure.
On another level, there will be a tremendous take-up of SaaS-based learning platforms that are needed to deliver content with little management, maintenance and integration. I believe that this area will have tremendous growth in the EdTech Universities and Schools market.
How do you like working for eFront thus far? Anything particularly rewarding or challenging regarding your new role?
I have been working here for one month. In that time I have been impressed by the passion, commitment and talent of the people I have met.
It is particularly noteworthy that the company lives and breathes the new way of doing business e.g. delivering great software using a predominantly internet-based business model.
Without over-extending itself, I believe the company is well positioned for the next phase of business development. This is essentially a break-out from the virtual to the physical marketplace; in other words, getting large numbers of partner salespeople into customers on our behalf.
This is a challenge to execute well, and I am really excited by this opportunity.
Do you have a concrete roadmap of where you want the platform to be in 2 or even 5 years?
Yes. This is something we have been formulating with the company leadership over the past three weeks.
eFront is already a strong LMS for those businesses that wish to deploy it within their enterprise as a stand-alone or lightly-integrated eLearning platform.
However, in line with my comments earlier, I would like to see eFront become deeply integrated to the user workplace of today and tomorrow.
I would also expect the platform to become more adaptive and ‘smart’, in the sense of being able to capture learner interaction and behavior to deliver a more personalized and effective learning experience.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The only thing we haven’t mentioned is our search for enterprising learning companies to join us on this journey to growth.
I’m very interested in talking with any company working in Learning and Development, HCM, or in the wider area of Social Software deployment about becoming partners with us.
We have a tremendous value proposition for the right partners in these areas, and I’d like to hear from any who would like to learn more about partnering with us.
Furthermore, we have four other categories for our partners outside of the one I just mentioned. I am also keen to add partnerships with companies around eLearning and other learning content, marketing opportunities for eFront, and technology.
This is a great moment to be in the business of learning technology and, together with our partners, I’m sure we’ll continue to be at the forefront.
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