"Life is like a box of chocolates": Why your organization needs an LCMS

February 6, 2015

As much as we may hate to admit it, the core focus of Learning & Development has historically been the implementation (and re-implementation) of Learning Management Systems (LMSs). In the past several years, we’ve also seen the rise of Talent Management Systems (TMSs) for leadership and performance management. While both these systems are critical pieces of a learning architecture, their shortcomings show us that they, alone, cannot keep up with the speed, complexity, and growing volume of business critical learning content demands.

Enter the Learning Content Management System (LCMS), the third critical piece of your learning architecture. But what is an LCMS and what can it do for my training organization? It’s a hard question to answer because content issues within most organizations are vast and complex. Learning leaders know that the status quo of the LMS and TMS are not meeting their needs, but they often don’t know what the solution is. So understanding how an LCMS helps with these content issues and completes your learning architecture can be a lot to take in and make sense of.

Lucky for us though, we have people like Michael Rochelle, chief strategy officer at the Brandon Hall Group, to help us see the light.

Michael is a big proponent of learning content management because he strongly believes that it’s a technology that allows learning content to be used strategically, and repurposed to move learning at the speed of business. When learning content is used with this approach, content becomes a competitive advantage and transforms the training organization into a high performing function.

Michael and I collaborate on this subject frequently, and what I’ve found over the past couple of years is that he likes to take complex ideas and boil them down to simple, yet highly effective analogies. As we all know, analogies are handles to grasp a larger, more slippery idea by connecting it with familiar information. They are a highly effective strategy used in the classroom but can be just as effective in corporate training environments, especially for more complex topics. So I’ve gathered some of my favorite analogies from Michael regarding the use and adoption of an LCMS here. Enjoy!

Here is Michael’s take on the overall benefit of an LCMS to the instructional designer. Think of it as the elevator pitch to these users.

“With an LCMS, you don’t need to retool your organization to make business process improvements. The LCMS is just like Iron Man – you’re putting a suit on the Instructional Designer. The LCMS still aligns with role of the ID; it’s just giving them a much more formidable vehicle to get inside of and boost up their work.


Michael and I often discuss the problems associated with the status quo described above. Here are his thoughts on the problems training organizations incur when they don’t have an LCMS as part of their learning architecture.

On the problem of not being able to reuse content:
Content is basically set in stone because it’s in a course. And when someone says they want a new version, or there’s a new audience, or both, they can’t repurpose it. They have to tear everything up. It’s kind of like tearing up the pipes in a road and repaving every time someone says they want something different.

On the problem of hard-to-find content:
“I’ve got all these storage repositories and they are just a big storage bin for content. It’s kind of like looking in someone’s attic, on the shelves in their garage, in their closets, storage bins, under the bed, etc. I’ve got stuff everywhere, and when I need something, I don’t know where it is or how to find it.

On the problem of trying to improve performance:
“Content development needs to move at the speed of business and be repurposed quickly to meet adjustments in the game plan just like the pace of a football game. The challenge with the current approach is that it’s halftime, you’re down 14-7 and need to adjust. The problem is that the game plan is based on courses and not chunked-out content. So even though their team is within reach of winning the game, L&D does not have the flexibility to adjust to changing game conditions because the courses are set in stone, and lack the ability to be flexed into a new offensive and defensive package like chunked content. And that’s the problem with having all learning confined to courses, you can’t adjust your game plan at halftime to position yourself to win in the second half.

Michael has no shortage of analogies when it comes to how these problems are solved with an LCMS:

On improving performance (a continuation of the football analogy):
“An LCMS is a unique playbook that gives you the opportunity to rework your passing and running game instantly to adjust to the defensive package you are facing. L&D can go into the second half with content that is completely reorganized and allows the organization to adjust to what the business threw at them in the first half.

On how the LCMS lets you organize and find content – Dewey Decimal meets Jerry McGuire:
“Traditional content management systems are okay, but as far as creating any kind of taxonomy like the Dewey Decimal system in a library, or anything that helps me to understand where all the books are categorized by subject, or be able to get into the pages of a book and then move into using that content to quickly create new courses or bundled content within the same system is not there. The best place to digitize content and then immediately construct bundled content, courses and content to support social and collaborative learning, is in an LCMS. When you have those discussions with people that know what you’re talking about like content developers, graphic designers and instructional designers, they say ‘You had me at hello.’”

Brandon Hall recently held their HCM Excellence Conference and three of Xyleme’s customers, Baker Hughes, Paychex and The Princeton Review were honored along with Xyleme for their strategic use of an LCMS to drive performance within their organizations. A big congratulations to these High Performing Organizations!!!

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