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Where the LMS market has landed and how Cornerstone is meeting the moment

Josh Bersin

Global Industry Analyst

At its core, Cornerstone is a learning technology company. And today, as the economy grows again, this is a very good thing.

Why? Corporate learning, which is a $260 billion market, has exploded with growth, impact and importance. Today’s L&D market includes skills technology, internal mobility, career development, new career pathways, upskilling and reskilling — all coupled with the evergreen topics of leadership development, diversity compliance and technical training.

In the early 2000s, we believed this would be handled by the LMS. So Cornerstone (and Saba) built out much of this functionality, and it has been built into the business rules and infrastructure of more than 6,000 customers.

Now everything has changed

The original design of the LMS was patterned around a course catalog, more like a university. Today, we live and learn in the flow of work, so we need systems that recommend, deliver and curate content in a new way. We want to learn based on career journeys, jobs, transitions and many other business rules. And employees need to search and share external content, which is located in thousands of sites across the internet.

The paradigm of the solution was the LXP. Once considered the darling of the L&D market, vendors like Degreed, EdCast, Percipio and now LinkedIn Learning Hub and Viva Learning promise to “democratize learning” by opening up the platform. The LXP doesn’t replace the LMS, but it has clearly become essential.

But the world hasn’t stopped there. Since the introduction of the LXP around 2010, companies have gone much further. Today, we want a talent marketplace, career pathways and intelligent skills engine built into the platform. We want true “learning in the flow of work,” and we want development tools that let HR managers, L&D leaders and employees create content.

Enter Cornerstone with its new platform, Cornerstone Xplor

Over the last four years, Cornerstone has been responding to this change. The company acquired Clustree and Grovo, built out the content business and experimented with its own LXP. They found that yes, the LXP was important, but companies wanted more. So as Cornerstone went private, the team built out something bigger.

Cornerstone Xplor is one of the first integrated platforms that delivers a skills taxonomy, learning management, learning experience platform, talent marketplace, opportunity marketplace, career portal and career development tools in one. And this is what big companies want.

Why did this take so long? There have been two things in the way. First, the market itself has fragmented into separate segments (Talent Marketplace, Talent Intelligence, LXP), forcing buyers to acquire multiple platforms, so the vision of an integrated platform was not yet clear. And Cornerstone itself, as it acquired Saba and other businesses, had to focus its investment.

Prior to going private in June, the management team was chasing profitability and revenue growth to keep the stock price high. This distracted from the massive investment needed, forcing the company to look at investments like building out its content business. Now that Cornerstone is private, the company can pour resources into the platform.

I have high hopes for Cornerstone Xplor. I’ve worked with this team and they understand the market. The product comes from more than three years of effort and has many advanced features. And the product roadmap is expansive and impressive.

Despite the fragmentation of the market, companies don't want five different systems to handle the learning experience. They don’t want an LMS, LXP, talent marketplace, career planning and skills assessment in different systems. Cornerstone Xplor has the potential to bring this together.

I applaud Cornerstone for this massive effort and look forward to seeing success in the market.

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