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The beginning of Docebo’s multi-product journey

• 7 min read
Behind every superhero, there’s an origin story. The same goes for every Docebo product. This is the story behind how Shape, our AI-based content creation tool, came to be.

Jam packed. Developers, finance, marketers, salespeople, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder from one wall to the other, four rows of Italians (with a few international folks sprinkled throughout the crowd) on the amphitheater steps in Docebo’s Italy office on a June afternoon in 2019. The sun beat through the windows on our backs, glueing our shirts to our skin as we waited for our executive leaders to join us.

We were already on the brink of a historic milestone for a small Italian startup turned up-and-coming LMS powerhouse, close to becoming a public company on the Toronto Stock Exchange in October 2019. We were nearing the top of the learning technology world with a single product scaling so fast that we’d started to outgrow – for the third time – our two-story office in northern Italy. 🇮🇹

What could possibly be next?

“We’re splitting the product development team in half,” CEO, Claudio Erba stated. “Our CTO, Fabio (Pirovano) is going back to our roots, taking a garage-band-style approach and assembling a team of developers to build products that solve new learning challenges. Starting today, we have two product teams: Crazy Innovation and Core Innovation.”

…..excuse me? 😳

Our learning management system was (and still is) moving up market rapidly. We had a hungry customer base loving our product and eager to see it evolve, and new organizations lining up to implement learning strategies to tackle employee development, social and collaborative learning, and customer training. The industry couldn’t get enough of the Docebo LMS. 

You want to split our focus, potentially slow down our product roadmap, and experiment in building new solutions that may never see the light of day? We were curious but cautious. We trusted leadership, but wanted to see what it looked like in practice. 

But for a long time, we didn’t get to see anything. No update, no sneak peeks, no insight into what they were building, not even a possibility to stroll past their desk and side-eye their screens. 👀 Fabio and team holed up in a corner of the office, shut the doors, put their heads down, started brainstorming, and got to work. The new Crazy Innovation product team was officially split from the Core Innovation team, and the first lines of new product code were written.

Crickets. 🦗 For months. Who knew what this would amount to.

Crawling before walking

Towards the end of 2019, news slowly started trickling from the Crazy Innovation team about an AI-based learning content creation tool. Curiosity was sparked by way of morning espressos in the office kitchen with colleagues. When could we get a preview?

Next came an unmistakably out-of-place, deep pink circle taped to one of the office shelves in the Crazy Innovation corner. In an office with all white furniture and glass walls, that stuck out like a fly on a wedding cake. Docebo blue was in the water at this point. 

New products, new branding, and more AI (we’d introduced artificial intelligence into our LMS in October 2018). The suspense was killing us. When we finally got the long-awaited invitation to try out an early-stage alpha version of the content creation tool, we jumped at the opportunity.

But a brand new AI-based SaaS product is a lot like a young superhero.  They need to learn how to harness their powers. They need to learn how to crawl before they can walk (or even fly).

The job was simple: plug different types of content (like case studies, slide decks, and website content that we share amongst each other) into the tool, and then sit back as AI would then extract the text from the pieces of content, identify specific topics, pull the most important information, and find images and videos to go with the text.

But the result wasn’t what we expected. The AI wasn’t quite walking yet, so what was supposed to be a beautiful microlearning content video turned out to just be a… well, a moving shape on our laptop screens (hence the name – and now you know the origin story behind that too).

The potential was there, but the algorithms needed training if Shape was going to make it to market. It was time to nurture this young superhero of a product, all hands on deck. 🙌

From vision to value

If you’ve ever been tasked with the time-consuming job of creating e-learning content, then you’re no stranger to the steep curve of trying to master an authoring tool. For trained instructional designers (who are the true unsung heroes of corporate training and enterprise learning), feeling comfortable authoring learning content in SCORM or xAPI format can take anywhere from months to years.

Even after finding your groove, you’re still spending dozens of hours creating learning content that people likely are consuming (or aren’t, let’s be honest) without any impact. For any instructional designers or e-learning content creators out there, be honest with yourselves:

  • How often are you being complimented on the learning content you create?
  • How and when is your e-learning content being consumed?
  • Honestly, is the payout worth the effort?

We got real with content creators in our network, including several currently leveraging the Docebo LMS to deliver their content. We knew that creating beautiful, engaging and informative learning content was a huge thorn in their sides. It’s a critical piece of any successful learning strategy, but the ability to create great content quickly and at scale is often a pipe dream. 

The tools in their tool belt didn’t allow them to move with agility and create content that people actually wanted to view after standard onboarding or compliance training. The payout for creating content that was good-looking, short enough to keep learners engaged and formatted in a way that people actually want to view (i.e. videos or animated presentations) just wasn’t worth the time it took to get microlearning content out the door.

They needed to create content that kept up with business growth and change, allowing them to deliver content to learners faster without being chained to a tool that didn’t allow for speed and limited who could actually create the content because it requires a specific professional skill set.

Enter Docebo Shape, that once young AI-based content creation tool that was close to flying by now. These content creators became early adopters of Docebo Shape, or beta program participants as we call them in the SaaS world.

Their mission: provide us raw, unfiltered feedback (even the kind we don’t want to hear), and help train our artificial intelligence algorithms.

Content creation made for anyone

Early into our beta programs for Docebo Shape, we caught on to a pattern: people with no time or desire to master a content authoring tool loved being able to deliver learning content in shorter formats that weren’t just emails, blogging articles, infographics, whitepapers, or PowerPoint slides.

As they let AI do the heavy lifting to turn their good content into the kind of high-quality content that people wanted to engage with, more possibilities opened up. Suddenly, they could:

  • Create marketing videos to launch new formal courses to target audiences. 
  • Automatically translate a piece of content into several languages. 
  • Produce high-recall learning content to increase knowledge retention in formal training.
  • Make sharp course intros and refreshers to build hype and engagement around topics.
  • Replace long PowerPoints or articles on tasks and processes with short how-to videos.
  • Deliver key business updates, infotainment style, instead of via email text.

With the bulk of the work behind building out beautiful, engaging learning content taken care of, all content creators had to do was tweak the content or template as desired, like changing the text, images, videos or music in the actual shape, or adding automatic translations to the content directly in Docebo Shape.

When the content creation process becomes that simple, it opens up a world of opportunities for non-expert content creators and subject matter experts to play a significant role in your learning content strategy, instead of just limiting it to professionally trained instructional designers.

When learning content becomes a game changer

Investing in learning content creation and management is a must for any organization implementing learning strategies to internal audiences like employees or extended enterprise audiences like customers or partners. But if your learning content isn’t actually driving any positive business change, then you’re tossing money down the drain. 💸

A few questions to ask yourself about your learning content strategy are:

  • How many hours or days does it take to source, design and develop new content?
  • What is the cost per hour of updating my learning content?
  • Do I have the resources to create learning content that keeps pace with my company’s growth?
  • Does the content I’m creating tap into all of the available knowledge in my organization, or are subject matter experts creating their own content?
  • Does my content make employees feel less panicked in the face of business changes and ready to pivot because they have fresh knowledge?
  • Do my customers or partners engage with my brand or product after initial onboarding, or does my content fall flat afterwards?
  • Is the engagement with my content worth the amount of time it takes to create it?

If you’ve answered these questions honestly and feel good about what you’ve discovered, then congrats! You’re in an ideal place in your learning content strategy, and likely have the right tools, resources, and people in place to create content that keeps your learners updated, engaged, and excited about what you’re delivering.

If you’re not feeling positive after answering those questions, it’s likely time for a change in your learning content strategy. That starts with taking a look at who is creating your content, what tools you’ve given them to perform the task, and what business outcome you’re expecting from them.

Introducing Docebo Shape

Looking back to nearly two years ago at that company huddle, it was and continues to be clear that our innovation and commitment to providing organizations with best-in-class enterprise learning technologies is the true engine of Docebo, and the concept of a Crazy Innovation team building new products wasn’t crazy in the slightest.

That driving curiosity about how our customers solve specific learning challenges turned into an innovative enterprise learning tool with trained AI algorithms that turn your run-of-the-mill material into engaging, digital content that people actually want to see (while getting you successful content metrics you can be proud of).

We made Shape intuitive and easy to use so that you don’t have to rely on a select few people to manage the load of learning content creation and management. Instead, you can tap into the wealth of knowledge within your organization and enable your internal thought leaders and subject matter experts to turn their expertise, updates, and insights into the best content for your learners.

When you empower more people to play a part in your learning content strategy, you help your employees learn and grow while enabling them to deal with change as it happens. You also deepen the connection and commitment with your customers, partners, and stakeholders as you continue to innovate and grow. 

That’s the (super)power of Shape. 💪