SumTotal Blog

Debasis Dutta (5 Posts)

Debasis Dutta

Debasis Dutta is Vice President and General Manager of Product Management for SumTotal Systems, a Skillsoft Group Company. Debasis joined SumTotal in 2015 as Vice President of Engineering. Prior to SumTotal, Debasis was with Oracle in different leadership positions to build the next generation Fusion product for HCM. Debasis has 20 years of rich, hands-on experience in the HCM space and loves to conceive, build innovative products that resonates with the latest technology trends. He has a Computer Science degree from Jadavpur University and MBA from IIM Bangalore.

Welcome to the Internet of Careers

Welcome to the Internet of Careers

For years blockchain experts have been promising that Bitcoin transactions were just the beginning of what would be possible. And the predictions were right. Blockchain is transforming how we validate transactions across all kinds of important applications from food safety to insurance processing.

Blockchain’s ability to provide a secure, trusted method of transferring information across parties that is irrefutable is speeding business processes and increasing transparency across our lives. As blockchain technology adoption grew, it was natural to seek applications in Human Capital Management (HCM) to address the growing concern over data privacy, and fraud. Individuals and businesses alike are seeking ways to both verify and control personal career records.

At SumTotal Systems, we believe blockchain is the foundational technology enabler that will allow us to unlock the Internet of Careers to address this growing concern. Blockchain is the difference between a digital identity that is vulnerable to hacks and misuse, and digital identities that are secure, immutable, and give users control. Individuals oversee what and where their personal data is stored, who has access to which elements of the data and for how long, and where and how the data is used. Since blockchain technology is decentralized, no one party is ever in control. Consensus across the ecosystem is required before new transactions can be recorded, and once recorded those items cannot be altered, ensuring safe and secure transactions.

We’ve already seen these concepts in practice. As far back as 2016, Blockcerts allowed any school to issue and verify blockchain-based educational credentials. Soon after in 2017, we saw a huge leap when educational powerhouse MIT piloted a digital diploma.

We couldn’t help but ask ourselves, “why couldn’t we do the same for other career records such as job roles, certifications, promotions, skills and salaries?”  We can, and we will.

Today, we announced our founding membership, alongside 14 other Education and HR tech leaders in the Velocity Network Foundation. Our mission is to reinvent how career records are shared across the global labor market. Together with our consortium partners, we are taking an important leap towards truly unlocking the Internet of Careers.

This is just the beginning. Trusted, globally accessed career records will allow us to better develop our people and more quickly match candidates to career opportunities.

For more information on the consortium please see the press release.

SumTotal 18.2: Have Learning Your Way with a Netflix-like Experience


For those of us of a particular vintage, “have it your way” was a call to individuality, a large corporation’s message that spoke of personalization and the freedom to select what we each liked rather than settling for a predetermined litany of ingredients which we may or may not wish to have on our burger.

Nowadays, thanks to technology and innovation, consumers assume a certain level of having it their own way – from personal recommendations when shopping, (thanks Amazon) to Spotify’s bespoke playlists (love these) and of course Netflix, the entertainment giant that seems to know my movie tastes better than I do.

Such is the omniscience of personalization that it wasn’t surprising that people began demanding a learning experience tailored to their particular needs or requirements.  We responded to the change in expectations, and in recent years our solutions have enabled learners to choose what they learn, when and how.

And we continue to do so with SumTotal 18.2.  Here are the highlights of what you can now expect!


Personalized learning experience

The new release delivers precisely what users are looking for – Netflix™ style, consumer-led design, with an experience personalized to the individual’s learning and development requirements. This means users are shown the courses and recommendations that match their learning needs.  We spent a lot of time researching user experience to ensure that this is a genuinely consumer-led design.

Reimagined social capabilities

We rebuilt our social platform from the ground up. We know from talking to our customers, they need to enable informal communication as part of the LMS. Our new social platform allows customers to build communities, post blogs, start and respond to discussions, and share files. Of course, if you prefer to bring your own social (BYOS) approach, SumTotal integrates with market-leading social platforms. An integration Yammer™ is already available and integrations with Slack™ and Teams™ are in development.

More extended enterprise

SumTotal 18.2 extends the reach of your LMS with a rich set of new extended enterprise marketing tools, including email marketing campaign support to grow revenue by targeting your customer base to announce new offerings and upsell new learning.

A Brandon Hall Group 2017 study reported on the revenue and customer service gains from extended enterprise learning. The study found that “learning for non-employees and remote and distributed employees now accounts for more than half of learning, and 40% of organizations surveyed are charging for this content, with almost one-third of organizations recouping more than half of their total LMS costs.” The study also reveals that 56% of companies believe their extended enterprise learning efforts are effective or very effective.

These results got us thinking. How can we help our customers further capitalize on this potential? With this release, you will have more flexibility than ever in how you package and bundle your content to create compelling learning bundles and channels. In addition, we’re offering flexibility in cost, currency, duration, cancellation methods, policies and bundles.

Enhanced Skillsoft content experience

For those customers who are lucky enough to have Skillsoft and SumTotal (better together!) we have further improved the learner experience. Percipio Experience Services (PES), formerly known as Percipio Content Services, gives learners access to channel curation and multiple modalities, including courses, videos, and books. PES also provides dynamic content curation, competency alignment, and value-based reporting – all to enhance the Skillsoft experience!

Mobile first

As a development team, we ensure our mobile-first design philosophy is part of our DNA. The new learner experience and our social platform are both smartphone optimized. The mobile experience is the best on the market and we are incredibly proud of the work we have done to ensure mobile is at the core of what we do. We do allow choice and flexibility to our mobile consumers and hence our mobile app is always made available in iOS, Android and Windows at the same time.

SumTotal 18.2 goes on general release today. Check out our launch video here.

No small feat, but one I’m sure you will appreciate “having it your way.”



How to Use HCM Tools to Improve the Hiring Process


  • 65% of recruiters claim talent shortage is the biggest challenge in hiring.
  • 86% of recruiters and 62% of employers felt the 2016 labor market was candidate-driven.

As suppliers of Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions, alone these two statistics are enough to warrant attention. But as anyone working in Talent Management or Recruitment will tell you, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Companies are facing enormous challenges, everything from skill shortages, unrealistic remuneration expectations to competition for top talent all of which is contributing to the very real problem that is hiring today.

Plus despite efforts made to streamline the hiring process, all too often we hear employees detailing the difficulties faced when applying for a job. Invariably we see a huge disconnect between the employer’s perspective of the process and the employees. The majority of whom report having a poor experience

However, April of 2016 saw an all-time record high of 5.85 million job openings, the highest since The Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting data, demonstrating that irrespective of the hardship faced, companies are hiring and in large numbers.

This translates to an increased workload for those in HCM, workloads that could benefit from advances and improvements to recruitment software.

Which is why when it came to deciding what enhancements to our Talent Suite would best suit our clients, it really was quite simple.

We needed to look to ways to improve, to streamline the hiring process- for both employer and employee, or more accurately, prospective employee.

We began by adding some new features to simplify how organizations can engage and attract top talent, with a focus toward ensuring a modern, consumer-driven candidate experience, available on a rich and smartphone-responsive external candidate site that would match and recommend jobs that reflect the career path of a candidate, as well as offering capabilities that promote company culture.

Additionally, we sought to offer an interactive, candidate profile portal that will show any progress in the candidate journey, thereby demonstrating a transparent hiring process which in turn will contribute towards maximizing candidate outreach and engagement.

Apart from the enriched candidate experience, there was also a conscious push to enhance the recruiter and hiring manager experience. To that end we have streamlined the requisition management and candidate management solutions with modern one-stop actionable and an intuitive candidate dashboard, equipping it with modern interview scheduling, tracking, assessment and management tools.

This data-driven approach to recruitment provides useful insight, optimization recommendations to effectively eliminate the bottlenecks in the hiring process and improves the overall business metric needed to attract and retain top talent.

Find out more on SumTotal System’s website, here.

How to Expand Your Corporate Learning Program Without Developing New Content


According to David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group, “Video learning is exploding, with around 80% of organizations increasing their demand this year alone.”

This figure is hardly surprising given the sheer popularity of video. 55% of people watch videos online every day and video currently accounts for around 73% of online traffic, with expectations that by 2021, video will account for 82% of all IP traffic. On YouTube alone, over a billion hours of clips are watched per day, which means as the leading provider of talent management solutions, this trend is just too important to ignore.

So, we didn’t.

One of the most recent enhancements to our Learn, Talent and Workforce Management solutions that sit within our Talent Expansion Suite, is support for the Experience API (xAPI), which enables customer tracking, reporting and analytics for learning experiences that occur outside of the LMS, thereby offering a truly holistic and unlimited learning opportunity.

For now, YouTube is the offered connection.

Why YouTube?

We selected YouTube because it offers the world’s largest library of free video content with some of the most well-known publishers/authors. YouTube also offers an API that allows external systems, like SumTotal, to embed the player into our system so we could track all the interactions and post back to the Learning Record Store (LRS). This made it the best integration option to make available to customers who are just beginning to investigate how to leverage xAPI (as the content is free), while also making it valuable to the learners who are thirsting for access to videos to meet their training objectives.

How will it work?

Any YouTube video can be setup in SumTotal Learn and made available to learners. Plus, companies will be able to track user interactions, meaning that time spent on YouTube is considered part of the development process and not something separate and therefore not recorded.

What about NSFW material?

While YouTube has tens of thousands of business-oriented videos, we all know there is also perhaps an even larger repository of videos that are most definitively not appropriate for the workplace. With this in mind, it is anticipated that individual company Training Admins will curate what YouTube content can be accessed, and ideally, they would also ensure that any new content made available for consumption not only aligns with their corporate & training goals, but also is blended with activities in SumTotal Learn that map to the chosen videos.

Will I be able to track what YouTube content is being accessed?

Yes. For now, though only the interactions with selected YouTube videos will be tracked in SumTotal.

xAPI also provides a ton of insight into how the learner is interacting with the content.

Now you will have:

  • The ability to track how someone interacts with a video – did they skip ahead? Replay a part? Pause the video for an extended period of time while the player was still loaded?
  • Be able to tell how users finding content of interest?  What did the user search for when finding and starting the content?
  • Follow the reaction to their search results – did they find the content valuable or was it abandoned? Did the user close the content before finishing and go back to the search results?

What does all this mean for the learner?

One of the biggest and most obvious benefits is that now learners are no longer limited to just the resources available on their learning management system (LMS). Now they will have almost unlimited access to other resources, to pick and choose the modality- video, book, course, that best serves their needs.

It also means training departments can assign and make new training readily available to their users without having to go through the lengthy and costly process of developing traditional content.  Additionally, the data collected through the LRS can provide the crucial analytical analysis needed to improve the quality of the training provided, but now based on an understanding of how it is currently used by their learners.

Will other third-party content be available in the future?

Yes. Overtime, we plan to offer additional sites and content to SumTotal leveraging xAPI.

With more and more content providers gravitating towards standardization of xAPIs embedded within their content, the experience of the modern learner can be brought to the SumTotal LMS/LRS.

Virtual and augmented reality enabled contents leveraging xAPIs will be the future of learning.

Why the leaderboard ranks high for corporate learning


Is there any better way to encourage engagement than with some game play and a little bit of healthy competition?

The people behind the game-changing Space Invaders thought not and some game aficionados believe it was the inclusion of the leaderboard, a first in the gaming world, that helped rocket the game to international stardom, a place in gaming history, and importantly making the manufacturers the recipients of the millions upon millions of quarters lovingly deposited in machines the world over.

Today leaderboards are by far the most popular social feature in games with Microsoft mandating that all Xbox Live games have leaderboards, while 90% of mobile games across all platforms reportedly use them. Leaderboards are somewhat more complex today as game designers have to consider more than simply the player with the highest score. Now we have databases which can among other things perform score updates and ranking, accommodate players moving platforms and also allow players to select a leaderboard depending on their geographical location.

However, despite such advances, the core principle remains the same. The player with the top score gets to sit at the coveted top of the table.

Although you might be tempted to think the appeal of the leaderboard is exclusively a video game phenomenon and has no place in education or corporate learning, think again. Research by the University of Tampere found that rewarding learners with badges when a task is completed increases work activity. Richard Landers, a professor of industrial and organizational psychology at Old Dominion University, completed work on the subject too and he found the use of a leaderboard scaused people to put in more time and effort, which in turn led to better performances. Landers believes that leaderboards encourage people to strive and aim higher, to achieve desired goals because of our competitive nature and can, therefore, help with employee goal setting.

On a broader scale, leaderboards and other similar gaming elements, have proved to make learning more fun and engaging. a TalentLMS survey found that 79% participants believed they would be more productive and motivated if presented with more game-like learning environments. That belief translates into better outcomes too – a UC Denver study had learners scoring 14% higher after undergoing gamified eLearning courses.

We are always looking for new and innovative ways we can help our clients attract, retain and train the best workforce. So it makes sense that we incorporated gamification to ensure our customers can give their employees a fun and effective way to learn and continue to develop. Our SumTotal Talent Expansion Suite now offers such enhanced capabilities as leaderboards, badges, points and other elements all of which allow users to get their name on highly desirable ‘the table/list’ and see how they rate against their peers. And because it is an extension of our core platform it will work on a global scale, no matter the size of your organization. Additionally, since gamification is an intrinsic component of the core platform, it can be utilized for more than learning and development making it even more advantageous.

To learn more, click here.