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The digital learning platform model is reinventing talent development

How cloud computing, mobile apps, and AI are helping build workforce skills of the future

The IBM Institute for Business Value reports that 60 percent of executives globally confirmed they are struggling to keep their workforce current and relevant. What’s more, they recognize that the skills of the future may be unknown or entirely new to the organization. Tackling this challenge requires a new approach to talent and development based on a network of strong partnerships, a laser focus on user experience, and the bold application of emerging technologies and learning science. Enter the digital learning ecosystem, where parties share and enhance every aspect of the talent development function.

Accelerating time to skill with consumer-grade learning experiences

There is a clear imperative to improve scale, experience, and speed in learning delivery–yet many organizations are unsure how to forge a new path. Capitalizing on the shift in business to platform-model thinking is an effective first step. Platforms can serve as orchestrators in a living system, connecting needs, ideas, content, and people to the benefit of all. At the heart of the platform is an ecosystem of producers and partners that can form tightly integrated networks powered by technologies such as cloud computing, mobile apps, and artificial intelligence (AI).

The models of the past are not fit for this purpose. Consider how common it was for small, centralized training teams to create courseware in ratios of 40:1 where each hour of delivered in-class content took nearly 40 hours to build and publish. E-learning development has been similarly slow, and typical development can range from 80:1 to 200:1, depending on the complexity of content, media, and navigation in the design. These lengthy lifecycles are not acceptable in today’s competitive environment. Employees demand consumer-grade learning experiences that fulfill their knowledge needs in dramatically accelerated timelines, when and where they need it. Moreover, skill requirements are nascent and shifting, which means that long design cycle times result in missed opportunities and business risk.

In the learning function, a digital platform model can enable organizations to accelerate time to skill in many ways:

  • As a responsive, employee-centric “curator” of content who understands the fluctuating needs of the business and the workforce, the learning and development (L&D) function shifts focus to ensure coherent, relevant content is woven together.
  • Employees can easily search for and find the right content at the right time, based on a blend of internal and external content providers in the ecosystem.
  • New content is shared and updated continuously across the platform, so learners always have access to the most current knowledge.
  • AI capabilities, such as machine learning and natural language processing, enable the platform to remember preferences and provide stronger recommendations with every learner interaction.
  • Social capabilities can drive curation and quality control better and more effectively.

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Meet the authors

James Cook

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, Global Practice Leader, Talent Development Optimization, IBM Consulting


Gordon Fuller

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, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer


Timothy Shriver

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, Partner, Talent and Engagement, IBM Consulting

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Originally published 01 January 2018