The Learning Management Systems Market In Spain
Jonathan Estrella develops Learning Management Systems with nine project partners in a loft-style technology office. He started programming at the age of 10, he studied computer science by vocation and after his studies, when being 21 years old, he started his own tech company. Immersed in a family of musicians, he created his first Learning Management Systems for music academies, conservatories, and community centers.
So far, we can imagine a geek Millennial generation just launched into the world of startups and working surrounded by other young innovators in a coworking space.
It is the same profile, but all this happened 20 years ago. We are talking about 1996, the year in which François Mitterrand died in France, Palestine Yasir Arafat was elected president, the final phase in the peace process between Israel and the PLO was opened, Garry Kasparov was defeated on playing chess for the first time by a supercomputer in Russia, Teodoro Obiang was elected president in Equatorial Guinea, Europe was fighting against the “mad cow” disease, Hotmail.com was born in Los Angeles, in Atlanta there was a terrorist attack during the Olympic Games and the launching of 44 missiles was ordered on Iraq, diplomatic relations were established after five years of war in Croatia and Yugoslavia, John Paul II greets Fidel Castro in the Vatican, Dolly was born in Scotland, Charles and Diana got divorced in England, first artificial heart was implanted in Spain, Mario Vargas Llosa and Antonio Munoz Molina achieved their chairs in the Spanish Royal Academy, ETA kidnapped Ortega Lara and murdered Tomas y Valiente, and Felipe González lost the general elections against Aznar after 14 years of socialist government.
By then, the “entrepreneurs” were simply called bosses, co-working spaces were just offices and geeks were nothing but computer mads. Even with so little “glamour” in the environment and a somewhat turbulent international scene, Jonathan was adventurous and Ender Software Factory was born, now turned into a training management technology company with 20 years of experience to their backs and customers in Europe, USA, and South America.
Since 2002, the company also got open to the languages sector to drive their integrated management software. Although there are many types of schools, they are perfectly consistent with his understanding of management. They target all except public schools and colleges, which are different in nature and where Jonathan perceives that there is a monopoly of software companies that have cornered the market.
Although they are not specialists in content, they have made some integration works with Moodle. For ONCE and Fundosa, they made a learning platform tailored to different disabilities which then was also used in the National Cooperation for the Deaf, which is still in use for its sign language courses. In this project, they cooperated with teachers and outside experts advising them in the field of training content.
Learning Management Systems
Jonathan’s specialty is the ERP (enterprise resource planning systems) commonly known as management software systems. These systems handle invoices, bills, receipts, management of the course structure, prices, discounts, fees, students, classes, attendance, grades... they are prepared to manage in-house training globally.
Jonathan is intended to stay on the crest of the wave and he incorporates innovation in his company: They have started working on a management software solution in the cloud. His team worked in two phases: First, only certain profiles, as teachers, could access the platform by internet and assess their students. Then, in 2012, a new project based on their experience, which was to develop a fully online system, began: Profiles that make sense to be accessing from outside the institution, as the teacher, the student, a business customer, and so on, could do it from a tablet or a mobile phone, because it is a “responsive” system and it is adapted to all types of devices. Internal and SMS messaging are integrated so that, for instance; if a class gets canceled, the teacher will receive a message or an SMS and automatically stay warned.
In Spain, Jonathan have been among the first to make the leap to the cloud; there are still mixed solutions. “This update has changed our mentality”, says Jonathan: “Some years ago, when going to a client, if you told him that someone outside the office was going to be able to access his system, and that the system was going to be in the cloud, he wouldn’t like to hear about it. Today the opposite is true. We have convinced everyone that it is safer to have the system out of the office, or at least as safe. There is still some that resist, but usually we are requested to have the server and the backup system out, but controlled by us. This allows them to access their data, for example billing, from anywhere.”
“The programming paradigm has changed a lot”, he says. In a technological world ruled by Google in 2006, Jonathan was among the first to delegate certain services to Google domain (such as mailing). He is taking a task of evangelization about it with his clients, showing them, for instance, that if the computer were damaged, they may lose messages accumulated during four years, and it is good for them to have it in the cloud.
But Jonathan is not only innovative in his company. In 2015 he took an executive MBA, after 20 years working as an entrepreneur. “At first I learned on the fly, commenting with friends, clients... But it was time to upgrade”, says Jonathan.
Relationship With Clients, A Two-Way Street
In selecting his clients, Jonathan works with both consolidated and new business initiatives. He is offering the ability to adapt and customize the software. After a long path, he has enough “knowhow” to accompany newly created startups (for instance, he has made that work with a language school that just opened in Madrid in Moncloa district). He gives advice beyond technology, entering management issues as the approach of the training offer, prices, etc. Also with customers that are consolidated and offer a wide range of training to a large numbers of students, as “they often come with vices” as he says, he advises them about new ways to run the process.
In relation to learning from their customers, Jonathan has taken engineering projects that have “gone wrong” especially because the client thought they would be able to do a knowledge transfer, but the way they did it was not appropriate for them. Technologically speaking, they have taken on successful challenges: “There are customers that are based on an idea but do not know how to deploy it, and you have the challenge of shaping it”, Jonathan says. “Then we discover new things, such as unstructured databases (NoSQL databases), as MongoDB (from “humongous”, meaning huge)”. “This is in our R&D on the part of language”, he explains.
The biggest challenges for Jonathan are the integration processes: “Integrations are like a monster that binds to a worse monster”, he says. “For instance, developing an intranet that must be integrated with the client SAP”. Another monster like data migrations are: “When a customer who has a management software wants to adopt ours, we make significant discounts if we convince him not to do data migration, because it can be even more expensive than the development of the system itself. When a customer has spent 10 years using other management software, you end up doing the migration”.
To receive feedback from his customers, Jonathan has a project management system since many years ago, which is also online, and has a user so that customers can enlist all their concerns, problems, and enhancement requests. He always gives his telephone number to customers and invites them to talk once the project is implemented, in order to see if they can do anything else for them.
Learning Technology Market And The Learning Management Systems Market In Spain
Regarding the market in Spain, teaching languages is a sector that has been strengthened with the crisis. Right now, in the company they are 9 people and have had to say “no” to certain projects that were above their capacity.
In relation to their market share against concurrence, in terms of technology they are good, but they lack marketing, they need to improve customer relations, customer acquisition. “We especially sell a lot by contact, by word of mouth”, says Jonathan. At first, they used to travel more, and they gave on-site training for the customer. Now it is done from outside: “There are people of the team that are all the time on the phone and it is something that ultimately the customer appreciates. You have to balance between what makes the customer to stay and be happy, with what you are billed for that service... In my team we are ‘too human’, but clients appreciate it”.
- In Spain, innovative technology startups already existed 20 years ago!
- The leap to the cloud is key today for Learning Management Systems.
- The sector of language training is booming in Spain.
- Recycling and updating knowledge is essential for the entrepreneur.
- Technology companies are doing a work of evangelization in innovation.
- Customers help us discover new technologies.
- Communication and marketing should go hand in hand with technical profiles.
- Is it necessary to open the technology market in public institutions?