Thursday, May 29, 2008

My take on analysts and their reports

What I have seen is that there are a few different categories of
analysts. Keep in mind that they have businesses to run (and if they
can't keep their businesses operating, we don't get the benefits of
their work):

1. The analysts who reflect what the "big boys" are doing. This group
is considered vendor neutral, except that they will tell you that the
most widely used tools are the best. By doing this, they will not
offend any of their customers who bring them in to review their
approaches. Currently, they are showcasing Microsoft PowerPoint, because
that is what so many trainers are already using. There is no discussion
of learner satisfaction (which is pretty poor when it comes to
asynchronously delivered presentations.) They are promoting the status
quo, and driving the decision makers to follow the pack: "driving by
looking in the rear view mirror". This approach is "safe" from a
business point of view. (They would have recommended horse-and-cart as
the best car in the 1900-1920 time period.)

2. The analysts who reflect what they are paid to. This group masks
paid advertisements as "white papers" and "studies". Our company has
been approached by some of these companies who are writing reports about
all the tools in the market. We are told that if we don't purchase a
$20K "case study" from them about us, there is a chance that our tool
won't show up in their study. They have followed through on their threat.

So, when people review analyst reports, it is important that they keep
this in mind. Just because an analyst has written about a tool in their
report, does not mean that the tool is being unbiasedly endorsed as the
"best" approach or even as an "effective" approach.

The Brendon Hall authoring tools reflect what the vendors submit to them. They
provide an excellent service as a collection of what is available (and
are worth the money), but should be considered in this light. Many
vendors will market-spin when it comes to what they submit, e.g. they
will say they are completely ADA compliant when they produce a separate
single file that is the text from the entire course, but the course
really delivered is all chained graphics (not ADA compliant). Similarly
they will say they are SCORM conformant, but they track no student

Regarding W3C standards, I am glad that finally people are asking about
building web courses that actually consider "web" design. The W3C
standards really do lead to learner satisfaction and accessibility (e.g.
look at Google - does it use flying bullets?). Learner satisfaction and
accessibility lead to return on investment and to lower
maintenance/support costs.

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