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Why your vendor research shouldn’t stop at analysts

Another year. Another Fosway-9 grid. What else is new? It’s certainly not the data they collect.

Cassie Gasson Chief Marketing Officer

Why your vendor research shouldn’t stop at analysts

Like clockwork, the Fosway Group 9-grid has released their 2022 “multi-dimensional model” that’s created to position and compare learning system providers against each other. 

In theory, an impartial advisory board to help buyers compare different solutions based on their features, service and evidence feels like it should be a useful tool, right? 

In reality, it creates more confusion in the market than it does support and guidance on the right solution, here’s why.

It's time to improve as an industry

Dinosaur processes don’t equal inspiring change

One thing that still comes as a surprise to us every year is that nothing’s changed in the evaluation process since 2003. As a vendor taking part you have to spend hours filling out a spreadsheet with over 500 line items of functionality that's accumulated for over twenty years and most of which no longer reflects modern L&D.

And even then, some of the newer analysis fields are arguably questionable, last year Fosway asked us to rate our “ecosystem-ness” on a yes or no scale. Guess there’s a first for everything! 

Our CEO, Sean Reddington, recently commented his thoughts on the process behind the 9-grid and the reasons why our industry needs to evolve:


More analysts need to pay homage to what also matters to customers. How about culture? How do they treat their employees? Pricing transparency? Values? Customer happiness? Platform innovation? Implementation and onboarding? All this contributes to the customer experience and forms a huge part above and beyond if your platform supports SCORM 1.2 or 2004. 

Is it really fair and impartial? 

The only way to explain this one is using our own experiences. So, we started our journey as Fosway fans, signing up just after a few weeks of trading in the hope it would put us on the map. After going through the motions and paying a lump fee, we made our way onto the grid. 

Since then, we haven't moved in positioning, despite now having over 200+ clients, releasing a ton of new features, two new products and servicing 1.9M users. When we queried it, the feedback from lead analyst, Fiona, was; 

“Last year, only months after launch, the addition to the 9-Grid was because Fosway recognised the disruptive nature of this learning system in the market; this year THRIVE achieved its position on its own results.”

So, we were curious. If we didn’t pay or complete their questionnaire, would we even end up on the grid? 

Fast forward to today and to our surprise there we are! A “solid performer”. Well, guess they’re proving not to be pay to play (which is actually refreshing), but what’s more is, how has Fosway come to this conclusion when they haven't; 

They haven’t had a demo of THRIVE since November 2020 (that’s 440 days!).

They haven’t spoken to any of our 200+ customers.

They haven’t seen or asked about our future roadmap.

They haven't spent time understanding roadmap, customer happiness, retention, implementation, support, growth.

Knowing that, is this research or model, something buyers can really trust?

The right solution might be ‘out of the box’

Your perfect learning solution is out there, but different sized squares and circles on a box isn’t the way you’re going to find it, especially if your dream vendor marketing team hasn’t budgeted for it.

We do believe in soul mates. So much so we have even walked away from prospects before if we know we’re not going to be the right fit for them and instead recommended vendors that could be. Why do we do this? Because it wouldn’t work for either of us to force a round hole in a square peg. (Sorry more shape analogies).

Let the customers do the talking

Currently, 30% of all THRIVE’s new customers come from referrals and that’s because there’s no better analyst than the people using your products. Most analysts have never even interacted with the platforms they review, let alone implemented and rolled one out. 

A great example of this is Craig Weiss sharing the news that we have the best SMS notifications in all learning systems... Well, that was news to us, too! 

Ultimately, would you trust a restaurant critic who hadn’t tried the food? 

Our advice? 

Ask your potential vendors to put you in touch with a client in your industry. That way you’re going to get first hand, meaningful stories of what their experience is like. Everything from features to product development to customer service.

Additionally, neutral review sites like Venndorly, Capterra and Software advice are a great way to understand a solution in the context of its real users.

This isn’t a self-promotion gig and we tried to keep the ranting to a minimum, but we are just truly passionate about finding the right learning solutions for the right people. 

But ultimately, it’s your decision to choose who and what you listen to.

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