Consolidation Continues In Learning-Management- Systems Market

Freedom of choice has always been coveted by consumers. But there may be too much of a good thing in the crowded market for learning-management systems--the infrastructure platform that manages Web and classroom training.

However, the dizzying array of more than 100 providers is shrinking as the market consolidates. Wednesday's merger between training content portal Thinq Learning Solutions Inc. and learning-management systems provider TrainingServer Inc. is the latest example of the trend, and analysts expect to see more vendors and content providers joining forces.

Thinq, which provides business customers with access to more than 3,000 training providers, found that customers unanimously requested a learning-management system when asked how Thinq could improve its service, says CEO Hemang Dave. That's because learning-management systems are critical for companies that want a full menu of E-learning programs. When companies take Web-based training from a pilot project to an enterprisewide rollout, they need learning management for automated registration, course tracking, and identifying skills gaps. Since no clear leaders have emerged, the overwhelming selection of providers is frustrating for potential customers. "You almost need a chaperone--someone that can suggest a good [learning-management system] for you," says Clark Aldrich, a Gartner Group analyst. Mergers such as Thinq/TrainingServer strengthen offerings and can simplify the selection process.

Thinq's content will be integrated with TrainingServer's learning-management system, making it easier for customers to do tracking and reporting, says Barb Gertner, registration manager for the training department in Lucent Technologies Inc.'s Denver office. A TrainingServer customer for the past four years, Gertner also favors the merger because she'll have access to a wealth of content quickly. Gertner prefers visiting one site to learn what's available in leadership training, for example. "Otherwise, I'd have to visit 10 or 15 different vendor sites," she says.

Thinq sets up customized training content portals inside corporate firewalls--an option Lucent may consider, Gertner says. "When we have access to more content providers, it helps us move our training from classroom to the Web."

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