LMSs that kick ass: Saba

January 2, 2009

The sixth LMS in the LMSs that kick ass Friday series is Saba. Saba’s primary market is corporate learning with just more than half of all implementations installed behind-the-firewall (largest implementation 2,000,000 learners). Their total number of registered users/learners worldwide is 17,000,000 at over 1300 organizations. Saba is a major player among corporate LMSs -you can say it’s a benchmark system.

I interviewed Ben Willis, Sr. Director, Product Strategy who is responsible for Saba’s Social Media strategy about their product “Saba Social.”

Q: What social media tools has Saba incorporated into their LMS?

A: Ben Willis- Saba has had social & collaborative capabilities in our product suite for a very long while (since 2004 and the 3.x generation of our suite; we are now moving into the 6.x generation of the suite). Saba’s native & long-standing social learning toolset includes Wikis, Communities of Practice, User-generated content capture and exchange, Discussion Forums, Q&A, Expert location, RSS, Search-based learning and — significantly — Saba Centra, a real-time collaborative capability for Web-conferencing, e-Meetings & Virtual Classes. Saba’s most recent social learning announcement is called “Saba Social” and is a robust enterprise social networking solution that uniquely combines a rich person profile, competency-driven expertise, real-time collaboration, and a comprehensive Web 2.0 suite . Saba Social is a productivity tool designed to engage employees & customers, build connected corporate communities and accelerate high-quality knowledge exchange.

Q: What drove your decision to incorporate social media tools into your LMS?

A: Ben Willis – For all the recent buzz around Web 2.0 and the Social Social software phenomena, Saba has long held the point of view that these are meaningful technologies and philosophies that can and do drive real productivity. The concepts are real and can be applied very effectively in a variety of contexts to engage people (friends, peers, employees, customers, vendors…) and accelerate a process, whether that process be learning, communication, performance, innovation or general social interaction. In the context of Learning, for example, social media tools are defining the “New Blended Learning Toolkit” — expanding the options available to learning leaders just as e-Learning and Virtual classroom delivery did upon their arrival. Saba feels it is critical to have these tools in a unified platform to be able to deliver learning that is both current (speaking the language of today’s workforce) and highly effective (tapping new delivery modalities). The same is true in the context of successful Talent Management — people should be fairly assessed and rewarded for both their formal and informal contributions to an organization. In short, social software tools & philosophies can be powerful enablers of true peer-to-peer learning and people productivity.

Q: If you could predict what LMSs will look like in three years, what do you see?

A: Ben Willis – NextGen learning management systems will be highly user-centered “learning environments” (vs.. management systems) and ‘learners’ will not think of these environments as learning systems at all; instead, they will be viewed as a collection of networked people and indispensable productivity tools where information is exchanged quickly and with a high degree of transparency. The LMS will shift from a focus on the “learning application” to a focus on being powerful “learning platforms” that are super-interconnected with other systems on both sides of the firewall.

Q: What difficulties are you seeing in the incorporation of social media among your current customers/potential customers?

A: Ben Willis – One common barrier to social media adoption is concern over the notion of “user generated content” and the possible organizational issues or risks surrounding that idea. There are legitimate tensions between those that view these new notions as enabling productivity & transparency and those that view them as introducing risk and/or loss of control. The good news is that the very same “Web 2.0” concepts that introduce these concerns offer opportunities for solutions to address those risks and Saba has been successful in demonstrating to our customers how we have designed those ideas into our offerings.

Thanks Ben. I agree that one of the greatest barriers in implementation is overcoming a culture of control. No easy answers there but good to hear that Saba is addressing the concerns in their design.

Prior LMSs in the kick-ass series:

Cornerstone OnDemand
Generation21
GeoLearning
Meridian KSI
Learn.com

Next week: Mzinga

(Disclosure: Saba’s Centra was recently named the Webcast platform for Brandon Hall Research’s Webinars and virtual workshops in 2009. Saba was also a sponsor of Brandon Hall Research’s IiL08 conference.)

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