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Q&A with Thought Industries’ CPO Todd Boes: COGNITION Product Showcase Follow Up

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Todd Boes headshot
Rachel Heisterkamp
September 22, 2021
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In today’s COGNITION keynote session, attendees got an exciting look at Thought Industries’ 2021 product showcase from Chief Product Officer, Todd Boes, and his team. In addition to giving more insight on the Customer Learning Cloud (CLC), Todd took us through his vision of where learning is going, and how Thought Industries is building new product features around that future.

After an exciting session and showcase, Todd answers a few key questions to provide more detail around these announcements:

Q: Can you give some detail on the Customer Learning Cloud and how you see its potential impact on the market?

We’re extremely proud of what we’ve built thus far, and the amazing things and outcomes customers are achieving on our platform. But we also know there’s more to do. As CEO Barry Kelly mentioned in his keynote yesterday, “We all want the future now, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have it.” For Barry and the Customer Learning Economy (CLE), that means building a collective marketplace of system openness and connectivity across platforms, applications, content objects and services. So for me, in the product organization, that mentality translates to our mission to accelerate into the future, and bring our customers with us.

But we also know that complex learning programs are not built overnight. They takes planning, creativity, and the right technology to reach scale and growth. And, a global business requires a comprehensive suite of features that streamline the creation, delivery, and management of content to online businesses, partners, distributors, and other groups. The Customer Learning Cloud (CLC) enables branded, multi-tenant license access to courseware and content for dedicated groups of learners or business constituents. 

It’s the bold bets a company is willing to make that drive differentiation in the market… it’s what separates good companies from great ones. Making bets, with known calculated risks, then ultimately delivering innovative features and capabilities is what will enable you, our customer, to thrive in the coming years ahead… and for Thought Industries to continue being a great company. 

We’re making a bet that we’re confident about: that contextual learning experiences, beyond the web browser, will play a large and dominant role in the customer’s education journey. And it’s this bet that is driving our product vision and the technology decisions being made today and in the future.

The vision is “learning everywhere.”

Q: You spent time this morning talking about “learning in the moment of need.” What makes contextualized learning so much more powerful than a traditional training environment?

Learning in the moment of need – what I call “learning everywhere” – means just that; the ability to experience learning at the right place, pace, and time. Location and physical devices aren’t always constraints when it comes to finding new knowledge or practicing a skill. Think about it: it’s already happening all around us. Technology is so deeply embedded in our lives, that learning and training will undoubtedly follow suit. Consider the major advancements happening today in augmented and virtual reality: when it comes to leveraging technology to enhance our experiences, the possibilities are endless. 

And it’s especially exciting for the learning industry because new developments and features will open up new avenues, new audiences, and new opportunities for businesses that just didn’t exist before. We’re innovating on the concept of learning itself – learning isn’t just something that happens in a classroom space or a training environment, and when you combine a learning experience with its own practical application, something really effective starts to take shape.

Q: How would you describe Thought Industries’ unique product vision within the Customer Learning Economy?

The solutions we’re planning to launch this year (and into next) will build on our industry leadership and continue to help our clients with retention, cost reduction, and connection (especially as companies transition to more remote learning). With our “learning everywhere” vision, data and insights are becoming more and more central to our strategy. We want to make sure we’re capturing learning data that occurs not just inside, but outside the Customer Learning Cloud. This is not only to track and provide insights into learner progression and achievements, but it’s also invaluable when it comes to informing and adapting education programs to ensure your learning objectives are being met.

We know this is a huge challenge. Identifying (and changing) parts of a training or learning program requires a lot of knowledge and insight. There are some metrics that can help us here – engagement numbers, completion rates, assessments – but they don’t always give us the clear, full picture of how effective education truly is. But at the same time, seeking data that lives outside of learning platforms inherently requires significant investment and internal resources. So, in search of a solution, we’re intent on removing this friction to provide content improvement insights and recommendations, which we’re calling “Pulse Reports and Insights.” 

We’re also focused on making sure content authoring is shifted toward a modular, reusable approach, so that existing content can actually become the building blocks for new content creation. We plan to launch new tools for team collaboration, workflow management, template creation, and more – all with the goal of making sure our CLC is as flexible and unique as your business.

Q: Today you also presented on Helium, a new way to extend the capabilities of TI’s platform to meet unique business objectives. Can you give more detail into how this plays out for users, and the impact you see it driving? 

Helium is a set of technologies and capabilities – it delivers services and features that support global commerce at scale. It is, for me, a representation of the next generation of tech that empower customers and partners to fully, completely customize their experience through the Thought Industries CLC. And other features that are part of Helium, like Atlas, which provides in-application, contextual learning experiences, are a huge part of our “learning everywhere” mentality.

And, the technologies behind Helium are all modern and highly scalable – they’ll enable developers and designers to build site themes, content templates, and application extensions that can take their businesses to new heights. But it’s not just about using themes and content templates we provide; with this functionality, we envision a vibrant marketplace where third-party themes, content types and applications are made available directly through the platform, contributing to the growth of the Customer Learning Economy.

Everyone benefits from Helium:

  • For non-technical business users, it’s about independence and choice, leveraging features developed not only by Thought Industries, but an exciting community of developers and partners.
  • For designers, whose priority is creative freedom and expression, Helium leverages Tailwind’s utility-first CSS framework powering design that makes it simple to adapt experiences to any design system. 
  • And for developers, Helium allows them to entirely unleash their potential to build anything using the popular React framework.
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