Agile Methodology and Stakeholder Engagement
Our mission is to change how learning technologies are developed, delivered and purchased. Our primary propositions of flexibility and cost leadership are underpinned by an open source technology strategy. Open source enables "demand-side innovation", which means we rely on engagement with our partners and subscribers to inform the technology needs of our customers. We do this through active community engagement, where new features and improvements are openly discussed, debated and refined as they are added to our backlog. Our community site is here.
Whilst having a clear product strategy is paramount, it is also critically important to maintain flexibility in defining the feature-set from version to version within a fast-changing environment. This is true for all software, but even more so in a collaborative partner network coalescing around an open source framework. In Agile, the focus is not on fulfilling a rigid long-term roadmap, it's on delivering business value on a consistent, iterative pattern. It’s incredibly difficult (if not actually impossible) to have high confidence yearly roadmaps at a granular level. Of course, the biggest advantage that there is in an Agile approach is summed up by the word agile – instead of trying to figure out right now what's going to be the top priority in a year (because we will all be wrong), we define what's important right now and deliver that business value as quickly as possible.
However, we also appreciate that customers and sales teams would like to get some level of commitment for features released during the next year or two. To strike that balance, prioritisation of features comes from engagement with our stakeholders, including the Product Advisory Boards plus Evergreen as a continuous release methodology. As an outcome of these processes we define priorities for the current four month horizon.
This page is updated at least every month.
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Product Platform Strategy
We are adopting a modular programming approach and leveraging the proven base architecture of Totara Learn to deliver new product offerings. Initially, these will be Totara Perform and Totara Engage (our future replacement of Totara Social). Each of these products can be used stand-alone but will also be intrinsically linked through a shared common core platform.
A common core platform delivers some significant benefits to all partners and customers.
- A powerful platform, based on a single code base that offers the flexibility and range of functionality to address multiple and varied use cases.
- New products can be made available through simple configuration settings, significantly reducing the time and cost of implementation.
- Product development and administration efficiencies through the removal of duplicated methods of localisation, user management, audiences etc.
- Extensibility - a modular development methodology on a single core platform simplifies future product developments, as well as the development and maintenance of plugins and custom extensions offered by partners.
To begin with, this enables 7 potential combinations for customers:
Totara Learn. This is our current flagship LMS product already used by over 1700 customers worldwide.
Totara Engage. In the medium term this product will replace Totara Social. Through our existing development work, we have acquired a clear understanding of how to build Totara Engage.
Totara Perform. We already have the Performance Management module within Totara Learn as a starting point, but there is a substantial amount of work to both improve this and add needed new functionality.
Learn + Engage. This combination helps connect and engage people across the organisation. Often this will mean the social networking, engagement platform is a central component of the user experience, providing tools that are used on a daily basis, with the administrative power of the LMS delivering the formal learning function.
Learn + Perform. This is an obvious addition that completes the formal learning, development and performance management requirements of most organisations. The inclusion of continuous performance management functionality will allow partners to position Totara as accommodating modern, emerging best practices in this area.
Engage + Perform. This is a powerful combination for organisations already using an alternative LMS, or simply do not want the formal structures of traditional learning management.
Learn + Engage + Perform. The full combination that will now be enabled through configuration settings rather than separate installations or customisations.
The Product Platform Strategy follows these core principles:
Each product can be deployed on its own, or in combination, as part of distinct product offers.
The product ecosystem will share a harmonious underlying UX, however each product will adopt a necessary fit for purpose interface, rather than conform to a uniform single product experience.
Interoperability between the products is built in through sharing a common core platform.
Shared services across the architecture.
Increased flexibility to address multiple use cases and product mixes.
Totara Learn is a flexible, open learning platform to engage, develop, and align your people across your organization and extended enterprise.
Through innovative and flexible open source technology we enable highly tailored and continuously improving learning solutions. We give you the freedom to constantly adapt your learning solutions for an ever-changing world.
Our roadmap is strongly influenced by our community
Flexibility to support multiple business scenarios in the same functional area
Open and designed to be customisable - so partners can tailor solutions to the needs of their customers
Provide strong interoperability with third party tools and key business systems
Totara Learn Roadmap
These releases introduce major new features and improvements, changes to core architecture and APIs (such as refactoring). Major releases are normally once per annum although in 2018 there were two; v11, and v12.
These releases include bug fixes, security patches, and minor improvements to previous major releases. They are stable and minimise the business impact of keeping implementations up-to-date on a given major version.
Minor releases are monthly, normally towards the end of each month.
Evergreen is a supported, production-ready version of Totara Learn released on a monthly basis and includes the bug fixes and security patches from our minor releases as well as any newly developed functionality or changes to core architecture.
All new features and improvements are developed and released on Evergreen and these new features and improvements will be included in the upcoming major release.
Evergreen may not be the best deployment choice for all customers. The suitability of deploying Evergreen vs major release should be discussed with your Totara Partner and we have produced some guidance documentation to support that discussion.
Our R&D team is working on the following new features and improvements in the near future.
Web API redesign
Implement a new web API to improve support for integrations with external systems and provide better experiences on mobile apps (including the planned official Totara mobile app). The proposed approach uses the same new API specification standard in the whole lifecycle of all new Totara web APIs:
- AJAX API
- REST API for external systems
- REST API for mobile apps (including the official Totara mobile app)
The key benefits of this solution include standard API documentation and a lower entry barrier for developers and systems integrators.
Technical proposal (for Totara Partners)
Messaging and Notifications
A new centralised messaging library to solve several common problems (including managing workflow, localisation, event triggers, reporting, placeholders, and recipients), and to be applied to all components over time. A key objective is to ensure consistency across the platform as well as push notifications used by mobile apps. A related task is to fill in commonly raised gaps in messaging capabilities in various modules.
Requirements discussion (for Totara Partners and Subscribers)
Design and build a native app focused on consuming learning, downloadable from iOS and Android app stores, and initially focused on providing:
- Secure login without frequent re-logins
- Basic branding capabilities (change colour, logo, icon)
Learner view of relevant learning items (e.g. enrolled/assigned courses, programs and certifications that are not yet completed) and progress in those items
- Push notifications, with settings management in the LMS
- Offline SCORM player capabilities
Ability to launch a mobile-friendly version of other course content from the app, without having to login again
Dependent on Web API redesign (currently being implemented)
Requirements discussion (for Totara Partners)
Improve the performance of SCORM reporting by refactoring the database schema. The goal of this initiative is to:
- Reduce time required to generate reports in large implementations
- Reduce disk space used for SCORM tables in disk
The Report Builder's graphical reporting capabilities will be improved as follows:
- Replacement of the existing chart library to enhance the look and feel of graphs on the web interface
- Creation of "canned reports", eg. pre-built reports, to improve the usability of getting up and running with graphic reports for commonly needed graphs
Increase broad support for multi-tenancy by providing site administrators with the ability to delegate user account management to 'Tenant user managers', who would be restricted to viewing, creating, editing, and deleting user accounts in their tenant.
Course creation workflow improvements
- Simplifying the UX for creating new courses
- Introducing the ability to create courses from basic templates
- Adding options for admins to elect existing courses to become new reusable templates
Add virtual classrooms as a concept with similar capabilities to seminar activities.
There is currently no consistent no way to use the seminar booking system to create, track, and manage virtual seminar events.
While there are a range of Moodle plugins for 3rd party virtual classroom software, none are built into Totara and there is no integration with the seminar module.
Moodle 3.4 and 3.5 major bug fixes
Merging major bug fixes, API changes, and some high priority new features and improvements from Moodle 3.4 and 3.5.
Totara Perform is a flexible, open performance platform which allows organisations to proactively manage staff performance in order to operate more effectively and achieve their goals.
Our solution should:
- Be easy to use, flexible, and suitable for companies across a range of sizes.
- Provide options to support traditional as well as modern performance management practices.
- Support easy user customization, both via the interface and via bespoke plugins.
- Integrate seamlessly with other Totara products, providing a suite of products that offer even greater value than they would individually.
The first major release road map includes:
Due to the nature of software development, the Perform Roadmap might be subject to change. Please check this page regularly for updates.
Totara Engage will provide a secure social space powered by people, where learning comes recommended and self-directed, and not just mandated by the organisation - an LXP that supports day-to-day workplace communication, knowledge sharing and discovery.
Empathy and empowerment of users directs the design. Users don’t face any difficult learning curves (when joining, using new features, etc.)
Our key differentiators from other social platforms is integration with other Totara products and its open source nature
We facilitate learning through social interactions instead of delivery of formal learning content
Establish and promote network effects
Where appropriate we will adopt design conventions from other popular social networks
Provide a harmonised experience with Totara Learn and Totara Perform whilst ensuring that Totara Engage has a clear, independent product strategy and purpose from Totara Learn
Provide strong interoperability with third party tools
Totara Engage will replace Totara Social, a leading enterprise social (learning) network (ESN) for day to day workplace communication and knowledge sharing.
The last major version of Totara Social (version 3.0) was released in February 2018. For a full list of features that were included please see the release notes (Community login required).
We will not be developing substantial new functionality on the current Totara Social codebase. For the time being, we continue to support Totara Social, however its evolution as a stand-alone product architecture has ceased. We will of course support an upgrade path from Totara Social to Totara Engage.
We continually revisit the relative priority of items in our backlog and sometimes features are not developed because:
- something else in the backlog is given a higher priority due to changing market needs
- in assessing the new feature, a bunch of pre-work is needed to build it the way we would like and we will do that first
- the change is much bigger than we originally thought, we need to break it down into smaller developments and deliver smaller feature improvements over time to get to the same end point
The information presented here is intended to outline general product direction and should not be used to make purchasing decisions.
The content is for informational purposes only and may not be included in any contract.
The information presented is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any material, code or functionality within a defined time frame.
Any references to the development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for these products remains at Totara Learning's sole discretion.