Online Learning Technology: Buying vs. Building

Stephen Newman
Aug 11, 2016 3:10:03 PM

When new industries and business models begin to emerge, companies have to make do with home-grown software to run their businesses because the technology platforms and applications they need don’t yet exist. Over time, robust commercial systems and platforms come to market, but companies who have written a custom application are sometimes slow to recognize the benefits of a commercial platform over a home-grown system. Eventually, the logjam breaks and the most successful and profitable companies adopt new systems that are specifically built for their industry or use case.

The business of managing online learning, training, and education is now reaching this inflection point, and companies are recognizing the key benefits of moving from a home-grown system to a more modern, integrated platform.

The Long-Term Cost Savings of a New Online Learning System

While companies often believe their home-grown systems are more cost effective than a modern integrated platform, this is usually because they are not comparing apples to apples. When cost calculations include maintenance costs on all the underlying technology, plus the on-going effort of keeping multiple products on different release cycles integrated and up-to-date, along with the resources needed to support new functionality to keep pace with market demands and user requests, the cost of home‑grown software can be staggering.

By contrast, a purpose–built platform from specialists within the space can be surprisingly cost effective. These platforms and technologies typically include everything the company needs to create distribute, monetize, and deploy a viable solution with the ability to report on many different success metrics. The cost of using the complete platform is spread out over many customers, making a highly effective and functional platform more affordable than even a bare bones home-grown solution.

Lower Risk

With a commercially available platform, the developer is responsible for ensuring that the entire platform works together seamlessly and has 99.9% uptime or higher. The customer doesn’t have to worry that a vital piece of the infrastructure will suddenly become unsupported. With complex business models and infrastructures, it's easy to lose sight of important technology which runs your business. Knowing there is a dedicated outside team whose sole responsibility is to ensure the consistent delivery of your products and services can lower the business risk and ultimately give peace of mind.

Adopting a Single Integrated Platform

Cobbling together so-called “best of breed” technologies sounds like a great idea in theory, but in reality, the end solution rarely lives up to the expectations. As the in-house team works to integrate disparate systems, they uncover areas of overlap and worse yet, unexpected gaps in coverage. In contrast, when using an integrated platform, you know you have all the tools you need at your disposal, and that they work together seamlessly, reliably, and consistently.

Increased Out-of-the-Box Functionality

When customers and users are clamoring for new features and insight, they don’t want to wait while IT struggles to develop or integrate the needed capabilities. With a commercially available platform, the functionality you need to create cutting-edge learning experience that will please your customers is already there. Most SaaS companies are delivering 50+ new features a month, and you would be hard pressed to find an IT department which can keep up with that rapid pace.

Faster Time to Market

Business moves at an incredible pace, and the early entrant to any market has first mover advantage. Using an integrated platform as the basis for your product gives you a leg up on the competition so you hit the market fast, with a viable and fully functional product.

Using a platform designed for delivering online learning, training, or education will help you develop experiences which will satisfy the needs of your customers faster, and more cost-effectively, than building a similar platform from scratch. Buying a platform rather than building one in-house is clearly the right choice for any organization.

Here at Thought Industries, we come across companies and organizations all the time who have grown tired of trying to keep up with the pace of modern technology with their home grown systems. Something as simple as updating a home grown system to handle mobile-friendly and responsive experiences would require 1,000's of lines of code and hundreds of man hours. We work with customers of all types which are struggling to maintain and modernize their current system and are now looking for a viable solution to handle all aspects of their learning business. The advantage of consolidating disconnected technology may cost more in the short term, but the long-term benefits significantly out weight the risks of doing nothing.

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