Nils Heuer: The man behind SmarterPath – our social learning management solution

August 7, 2014

Nils Heuer is Managing Partner of Pokeshot///SMZ and a recognized expert in all things Jive and Pokeshot///SmarterPath. He’s responsible for product sales and development. Under his direction, Pokeshot///SMZ brought home a Jive Award in 2013 for its social learning management system add-on Pokeshot///SmarterPath.

Hi Nils, can you summarize what Pokeshot///SmarterPath is?

Nils: Pokeshot///SmarterPath is the first social learning management system (sLMS) to be specifically developed as an enterprise level application on the Jive platform. Companies can develop staff training programs within their familiar social business environment while employees are given the opportunity to ask questions and communicate directly with the owners.

Where did the idea for the social learning management solution Pokeshot///SmarterPath come from?

Nils: Our clients often use Jive for training and enablement processes. But there was no way to see whether all of the relevant information had been viewed and understood – this basic aspect was lacking. So we asked what might be of interest from the point of view of the content developer. And it quickly became clear that the most relevant issues were the ability to create structured training schedules and paths. On top of that, support for formal eLearning content (e.g. SCORM) was important.

How long have you been involved in social business? What were the most important landmarks on your journey?

Nils: My first encounter with social software was with Cycosmos/Cynigma in 1999, which was basically a forerunner to Facebook. It arrived on the scene too early, but was able to gather a million users. I was responsible for the server and networking technology. I used Lotus Notes/Domino quite a bit for the knowledge management foundation. After that, I went to Mercury Interactive (which was later acquired by HP), where I was able to become familiar with social business, or rather the lack thereof.

How did the lack of social business affect the workplace?

Nils: At Mercury, I was constantly putting together analyses of competitors’ products. It was difficult to distribute these reports in a meaningful way without bombarding hundreds of colleagues with emails. Unfortunately, it was also fairly commonplace that colleagues would pass on my reports with their names on them. That was frustrating both for myself as the author, but also for other colleagues who faced extra hurdles finding the true expert for specific topics. If we’d had a functioning social business solution such as Jive, who knows, perhaps I’d still be working there.

Today you are Managing Partner of Pokeshot///SMZ. Can you tell us how the company was founded?

Nils: In 2009 I became the first permanent employee at Jive in EMEA. I was Sales Engineer and helped the sales team build annual sales from nothing to an eight-digit figure. During such a process, numerous issues arise that clients request but that Jive can’t or doesn’t wish to pursue. By the beginning of 2012 I had the feeling that my work at Jive had been done. So Stephan and I founded Pokeshot///SMZ, after a short phase in which we transformed our three years of experience with Jive sales and support into product ideas. We didn’t want to be yet another Jive implementation partner, however. Our goal was clear from the beginning. We wanted to enhance the Jive ecosystem with standard products that our clients could use immediately. At that time, there was nothing like this out there. It was all custom development.

What did the development of Pokeshot///SmarterPath look like?

Nils: We were already able to present a first prototype at JiveWorld12. That was important, because we could gather feedback and impressions that showed us the potential of what we were working on. Then, in December 2012, we began concrete development with three colleagues. The main development was completed by mid-2013.

Were there difficulties?

Nils: (Laughs) I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we were the first company that had the guts to develop an enterprise application within the Jive platform. Previous apps had been limited tools or integration services with existing systems. This has been the perspective from which we have followed the development of the Jive Apps/Add-on frameworks from the very beginning, and we have certainly had an influence on it. Of course, there will be problems here and there when the platform doesn’t fully conform to the manufacturer’s vision. The cooperation with Jive has been very close and constructive. The fact that I’m the only external developer with the status of Jive Master Developer is perhaps an indication that we discover many issues and actively share our experiences with other developers via the Jive community.

What is it that makes Pokeshot///SmarterPath stand out from the crowd?

Nils: I think Pokeshot///SmarterPath is so successful because it brings proven concepts together and intelligently integrates them. We weren’t after a completely new learning management system (LMS), but rather a way to incorporate meaningful learning into a social business platform. The basic idea is a simple one: we’re always learning. Everywhere. At home, in our free time, when we’re doing sports, and on the job. It’s not an activity that can be kept separate from our day-to-day experiences. Pokeshot///SmarterPath makes it possible to learn naturally within the realm of social business.

What types of companies use Pokeshot///SmarterPath and what for? What feedback have you received?

Nils: We have clients from a wide range of industries, from software to media to medical technology. A typical use case is employee or customer onboarding. Instead of supporting new colleagues via email (which can seldom be carried through consistently), the colleagues walk through their curriculum in a structured way using Pokeshot///SmarterPath. The feedback has been very positive. We hope of course that it continues to be so, but we’re also open for critique and new ideas.

How does Pokeshot///SmarterPath fit into the overall range of products from Pokeshot///SMZ?

Nils: Pokeshot///SmarterPath is one of three main product lines, next to Translation Manager and Integrated Communications Solutions. Some new features that we’re working on can be integrated into Pokeshot///SmarterPath and use the same data platform.

What new ideas do you have?

Nils: A social business platform like Jive is perfectly positioned to take over the job of a learning records store (LRS). The basic concept is subject to intensive discussions in learning management circles, as it breaks with the rules of traditional learning management. It allows the learner to complete courses anywhere they happen to be, and still have the results flow into a central repository. Pokeshot///SmarterPath already supports the TinCan/xAPI technical standard. The more interesting question is how to design the user experience around this issue. So things will remain exciting!

If you want to know more about Pokeshot///SmarterPath please visit our Pokeshot///SmarterPath product site or the Jive website where our product is promoted.

Nils Nils Heuer, is Managing Partner of Pokeshot. He studied Business Informatics and started his career as system and software developer for several companies. Before founding Pokeshot Technologies in 2012 he also worked as Technical Consultant for Mercury Interactive, Jive and Hewlett-Packard. Since 2013 Nils Heuer is the Managing Partner of SMZ Pokeshot Technologies GmbH & Co. KG and responsible for the product sales and development.