We are joined today by Paul McCoy founding Director and Matt Eggby, Technical Ops Director for JZero Solutions. They are here to tell us a little about their newly launched JZero product JLMSCloud. So without further ado, let’s hear what they have to say to our interviewer Christina…
Christina: Thank you for joining us to discuss JLMSCLoud, to make a start please could you describe it to me as though I knew nothing of it or the market?
Paul: Learning Management Systems (LMS) take all the content, courses and students that are out there and bring them together in such a way that they can be easily managed and what we have done is create one that uses the cloud. This is good because of the added ability to easily scale up and down making it very cost efficient. If you have a very small company with only a few people you can just charge them for what they use, if you’ve got a huge company with thousands of people you can scale up within a minute.
Christina: and that’s an easy, quick solution?
Paul: It will actually scale automatically and that is the whole genius of the cloud. You can make a course available using a cloud LMS and if that course were to go viral and suddenly ten thousand people want to access it, the cloud will adapt immediately. The cloud has a whole special set of technologies to make that available so you can instantly scale up
Christina: So what sets your Cloud LMS apart from any others on the market?
Paul: Well for starters it is built by JZero and with that comes many years of experience. There are a whole range of cloud products out there and ours was specifically built using the Microsoft Azure platform to be very fast, very simple and very adaptable.
Matt: Learning Management Systems were first brought about to ease the burden of formal classroom training. So companies that have a disparate workforce, employees in difference geographical locations they are wanting to pull all those people into a classroom to do training. The cost of undertaking that exercise is massive in terms of travel expenditure, then venue, loss of productivity because you haven’t got bums on seats doing work, that’s how they originated and how eLearning came about as it was much more cost efficient to put someone on a course when they are sat in front of their screen instead of sending them off to Birmingham to do a course on how to type.
Paul: This is a perfect example of how we work so well together; as you have Matt who is customer facing and uses his experience in eLearning to make practical examples and from my side it is all about the technical puzzle. When you put both sets of experience together you end up with a fabulous new product like JLMSCloud.
Christina: Your existing product JLMS Enterprise has proved popular. Can you tell us what improvements you have made in the Cloud release?
Matt: I would say that we haven’t actually made improvements in that sense. We have the JLMS Enterprise product which is the more robust, feature rich product and the whole idea of the cloud product was to create a more simplified, fast and easy to use product that is specifically targeted at small to medium sized businesses. So it is easy for Fred Smith’s Curtain Making Company to get their 5 employees onto a Learning Management System, taking courses in a very cost effective and fast time to delivery.
Christina: Is there anything you have had to exclude from this release?
Paul: V5 Enterprise has a huge amount of features that have been built up over a decade or so and that is a massive amount of features. With that it makes it brilliantly able to be used in the enterprise but for the smaller business needs something simpler. The cloud is definitely a more simple system than the enterprise.
Matt: As an example, to properly implement the Enterprise version of JLMS you are looking at a 3 – 6 month project to get the system in place, configure the whole thing, get people ready to be using it. With the cloud version you can be up and running in a matter of minutes or hours. So you can upload your users, courses and logo and then start learning. That’s what the initial release of the cloud has been designed for.
Christina: Can you walk me through some of the particular attitudes/needs that have lead JZero to finding success in the learning management industry?
Matt: We are very adaptable and that has always been one of our key selling points. We are always willing to adapt our functionality to suit a customer’s needs so that our system adapts to how a customer works rather than expecting a customer to adapt their processes around our system. I have worked in the software development industry for quite some time now and have seen how larger organisations will avoid adapting their software to specific customer needs by adding a very high ticket value to any system changes. That leads me on to how JLMS came about really in the first instance; I used to work for a large corporate learning provider who had their own hosted platform that was developed in the US. They were not willing to change that to accommodate specific customer requests. So the international side of the business took the decision to create their own version of the LMS to accommodate the European and International market. It was because of the way the learning industry works, certainly in Europe, is markedly different to how it works in the US. Even if I go back 10 years, in the US you would have 80% of your client base using a hosted system and 20% using a system installed on their own servers; it was completely the opposite in Europe with 80% of our customer base having installed versions of the platform. That’s because once you start stepping into markets like Germany, they have very strong data protection laws and you can’t have any employee personal information on a system that is hosted outside of their network. We then developed our JLMS platform based on real customer requirements and this has served us very well as when we present to a potential new customer we are showing them what has worked for existing customers so they can see how it works in a way that is going to benefit them.
Christina: On a personal level for you it must then be quite a different experience to go from an immovable corporate environment to being able to go in with a bit more flexibility?
Matt: Yes, to a certain degree but then when I was working for that large corporate organisation I was actually using JZero as a supplier so had flexibility there. That corporation no longer exists and being made redundant from there is actually how I ended up working with JZero. Luckily, I was able to bring some of the customers from the corporate organisation with me who we still have as customers to this day. They are still using the platform that was provided in its infancy and these customers have been big contributors towards functionality within the platform along the way.
Paul: Great summary, this is an LMS designed by the people that use the LMS.
Christina: I bet that the team are enjoying the challenges that come along with that level of adaptability, also with working with new cloud technologies alongside your existing solutions. How would you describe their reaction?
Paul: The team has two sides really, you have the front facing team who put all their knowledge of what the clients want back into it and as far as the technical side goes, they are loving using new technologies and adapting to new challenges. It is all about standards; we have gained standards in ISO 9001 and 27001 and are also working with Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) which provides great standards in delivering customer requirements often, fast and at a high standard. The team therefore gets to deliver things fast and see the results fast.
Matt: The development team who are working on the JLMSCloud project are a young team and so many of them were not even with the organisation when the enterprise product started to be developed, so they have come along and had to plug in to where it is. So what has been good for them with the Cloud version is that this young team have been able to see a product come to life from conception and they’ve been involved for the full life-cycle from initial ideas to live product. All this has been managed using the structure of ISO processes; the quality management processes of 9001 and the information security processes of 27001. So put all that together and it is a massive plus for the team to have been involved in that whole process.
Christina: Going back to the product itself; who is your target customer?
Matt: It is really targeted toward small to medium sized companies of up to 100 employees who have a specific need to train those employees on a specific subject to get them up and running really quickly. The JLMSCloud product is free for any customer with up to 10 employees and 20 courses with no cost whatsoever and you can scale up from there. That can also apply to the amount of users and/or the amount of courses you want to put in the system. The pricing is very competitive and very attractive in terms of the bandings that have been set
Christina: Having that free portion must help to alleviate any fear that a potential new customer might have of excessive or hidden costs?
Matt: Absolutely because any customer can use the try before you buy option, as they can create an account for themselves and put some courses on there. They can use the system to test it out basically before then making a decision on whether or not they want to go ahead. It gives them that freedom to do it completely autonomously, they don’t have to contact us to do that, they can simply visit www.jlmscloud.com and sign up for an account and they will be up and running.
Christina: That’s great to hear and you were saying that the pricing structure beyond that is still competitive in the market?
Matt: Yes definitely, we have a number of bandings from the Standard Edition which is the next band, all the way up to the Professional Edition and then we also have an Enterprise Edition available which we provide a consultation on before giving pricing because we can then talk to the customer about their exact requirements and tailor a solution toward their needs.
Christina: So apart from ‘Sign up for our free version’, what other advice would you give to someone considering signing up for an LMS?
Matt: My initial piece of advice would be to make sure you know what the reason is that you want to sign up for an LMS. Don’t do it just because you think everyone else has one, you need to have a real training need, there needs to be a compelling event that requires you to train your staff. That might be that you need to get everyone up to speed with a new health and safety regulation or it might be that you need to provide training for your staff as you are going through a Microsoft Office migration to the next version and you need to provide training on the new features, or it could simply be part of a development package that you offer to your employees as a benefit to them working for your organisation. You also need to be clear on what the content will be as there is no point in using an LMS if you have got no content. Will you buy content off the shelf from an existing provider or are you going to buy an authoring tool and create your own courses because the training that you need to provide is specific to your organisation? We can advise on either but we are not beholden to any providers so can give impartial advice.
Christina: So from what you have been saying so far it sounds like you can accommodate any requirements within the JLMSCloud?
Matt: Yes of course, the technology is in place, all you need to do is sign up.
Christina: These are new and exciting times; can you tell us what is next for JZero?
Paul: What is next for JLMSCLoud is part of the process that our JLMS Enterprise product has gone through in the last 10 years; that is that it will continue to grow in features so that every time a client wants an update or we develop new features, we can plug it in and roll it out across the platform. It will be a continual evolution…
Matt: We have a clear roadmap of the functionality that we know we want to build into the system and the way that we now develop our new functionality is to make it common to both the Enterprise version and the Cloud version. It is a common architecture allowing us to provide the benefits of this development to both our Cloud and Enterprise customers. It is indeed a very exciting time!
Christina: Finally congratulations on a great new product, thank you for taking the time to tell us about it. Just one final question; what thoughts would you want the readers of this interview to take away with them?
Matt: What I would like readers of this to take away is that one of the challenges that JZero has always had in being a relatively small organisation, is gaining the confidence of potential customers that we can deliver to their requirements. This is not an issue that is unique to JZero, but it is applicable to any small vendor out there. You are always competing against the bigger fish in the pond and a lot of the time it is the bigger fish that win. This is purely because they charge more so the perception is that because they are paying more they are getting a better service and product. That is not always the case and we have proven that with many long standing customers, just because we are a small organisation and we are competitively priced does not mean that we fail on service, product and quality. We are an ISO accredited organisation and we have a fantastic service desk that provide support to our customers very, very rapidly. Don’t be afraid to get in with a smaller organisation because more often than not, that smaller organisation is going to be more attentive to your needs.
A big thank you to Paul and Matt for taking the time to tell us about the exciting new JLMSCloud product, available on the market right now!
The only thing left for us to do is… Sign-up: http://www.jlmscloud.com/