When we start our workday, the mailbox is rarely the only thing we open up. We have both project management tools, HR workforce management software, communication apps, and shift planning systems. This goes for your employees too.
The launch of a new learning platform is a joyful event. Now, you can administrate, create, and receive learning in different formats. However, it is yet another tool (and digital hr only gets bigger!) you must log-on to to get your tasks done.
Integration of your already wellknown systems and software to your new Learning Lifecycle Platform (LLP) is a great idea to overcome the thought of logging into multiple platforms - both from the administrative - and learner perspective.
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The Reasons for Integration
It it not a question whether you should integrate your systems or not. Of course you must. And there are four clear reasons why:
1. Track Employee Data
Loss of orientation about what system holds what data is at risk - if you do not integrate. When you integrate employee data from other systems, it is both nice to have all data centralized, but, at the same time, you do not have to spend time updating employee data in both the LLP and, for example, your HR System. It is processed immediately.
Often, it is quite easy to set-up as well with the technology of today, such as APIs. But more about that in the technical section later on.
2. Automation of Actions
Actions can be automized in an LLP on the background of employee data. Let's take a look at an example. If you have a brand new hire who must be signed up in your HR system, the new hire automatically will be signed up in the LLP as well. Or if an employee switch department or get a new role internally in the company, then the employee automatically will be assigned to a new employee journey with relevant training according to the new role.
3. Easy Access
Accessing platforms should be as easy as possible. It is way smoother to reach the employees with learning if you provide it a place where they already spend a lot of time. An example could be in a retail franchise, where they use a workforce management system for when employees need to access their working schedule. Here, it can be a great idea to integrate the LLP as a simple button with the workforce management system, because this is often a place the employees spend a lot of time to see what is going on with their schedule. In this way, they have direct access to their learning universe with a single click. At the same time, they do not have to use a lot of different usernames and passwords, because of the use of Single Sign-On (SSO) technology.
An LLP can also be integrated with a communication app, your company intranet, or another system. The important part here is to make it as easy for the employees as possible to access their learning universe. This is crucial to a digital learning strategy.
4. Relating Reporting Data to Business Impact
In an LLP a lot of different reporting data is accessible, for example, completion rates. Relating these data to actual business impact is a great option in an integration setup with a business intelligence system. Here, you can see the connection between learning and business data, for example sales numbers.
In Learningbank, we have an example with the lingerie franchise Change, who can see an effect when they launch product videos and follow-up quizzes in their LLP, and afterwards connect the reporting data to their sales numbers: Sales numbers rise on the specific products from the product videos.
The Tech Stuff - Different Types of Integrations
We have already touched base with some tech terms in the world of integration, as SSO and reporting data, and now, it is time to dig a bit deeper. Users or learners as we like to call them, are the first who must be integrated. There are typically two types of integration in this case called API and File integration.
API is short for application programming interface which means that one type of software is able to talk to another type of software. We can use an analogy here:
If you go to a restaurant as a customer, you are not allowed to enter the kitchen. But, you need to know what is available. Here, you have the menu. After looking at the menu, you make an order to a waiter, who passes it to the kitchen, who will then deliver what you have asked for. The waiter can only deliver what the kitchen can provide.
How does that relate to an API? The waiter is the API. You are someone who is asking for service. In other words, you are an API customer or consumer. The menu is the documentation which explains what you can ask for from the API. The kitchen is for example the backend that holds only certain type of data — whatever the buyer has bought for the restaurant as ingredients and what the chef has decided they will offer and what the cooks know how to prepare.
A file integration can, for example, be when a customer uploads an excel-file of all employees into a SFTP server (a file sharing system), where Learningbank's system can access and read the file. Simple as that.
The process is the same when we look at import of specific department hierarchies. They do not have to be signed up manually, but can either be integrated with an API or file integration too.
Timeline and Price
In the integration process you start by scoping and confirming what integration should be done and what data is needed.
Afterwards the two parties connect even more, often by starting a collaboration between the tech department in Learningbank and the customer's tech department - or a third party, for example, the people behind the system that must be integrated. This depends on who has ownership. The question here is: Do the customer develop on their own? Or do they have an internal owner on the system they want to integrate?
An example is when we look at a large system as SAP. In a lot of organizations they typically have an internal admin who's in charge of SAP. Here, the connection typically will be between Learningbank and this specific person, if the need is to do an integration with SAP.
When the integration has been build a testing period begins. Here, we will access an independent environment to check if everything is secure and works smoothly. When data has been validated - both from Learningbank and the customer - we go live with the integration.
A quick timeline sum-up:
- Scope and confirmation
- Connection between Learningbank and specific department/owner
The timeline for an integration project is very dependent on the complexity and resources internally for the customer. In Learningbank we have made integrations in less than a week, but also processes that stretches over a month.
We care about making a great customer experience, and integration is clearly a part of this. That is why integration is part of the license you pay to Learningbank. If you want to develop a more unique integration which is not part of the standard integrations, you pay a one-off fee to develop this integration, typically between €2000 and €7000 euros.
Integration can be amazingly simple. Especially if everyone involved are ready to be part of sharp project management throughout the entire process. In Learningbank, we have had customers coming to us, because they have had an unsuccessful integration story with a former Learning Management System provider. In Learningbank we have multiple plug'n'play solutions for integrations, experience in connecting ERP systems, and this makes the difference. We are a partner, and we success in making valuable integrations for our customers.