Blackboard collaborators are primarily divided into three categories: members, partners and channel partners or resellers. "Members are typically Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) who independently develop and market software solutions to extend the Blackboard applications. Partners strategically invest in and collaborate with us to deliver joint solutions to our clients. Channel Partners/Resellers are primarily focused on international sales and distribution of Blackboard software and services."
Blackboard continually collaborates with universities in order to get feedback and improve the products. Among the universities which collaborate with the manufacturer are the University of British Columbia or Princeton
Blackboard collaborates with Microsoft and they have even formed an alliance in order to improve the quality of the e-learning process. "Students and faculty using Blackboard's learning platform, built on Microsoft.NET technologies, will be able to more easily integrate a wider array of academic resources in a learning environment tailored to their individual needs and preferences."
Blackboard has initiated several strategic alliances with companies that produce complementary products or software technologies that can be used to improve the quality of the Blackboard Academic Suite. These alliances include a partnership with the U.S. military, provided that the military always possesses the latest cutting-edge technologies; Microsoft Corporation, Barnes and Noble, Berkley Electronic Press, Concord USA Inc., Dell Inc., Eiffel Corp., Health Education Systems Inc., Intel or Pearson Education.
Blackboard has a current market share of 60% and they desire to increase this to 80% by 2010
Blackboard Academy Suite consumers are students, teachers and universities across the globe
Clients' needs include a more diversified and efficient learning system to suit students' changing features and demands (such as distance learning) and to allow universities to keep up with the rapid pace of development in the social as well as the technological life
Blackboard Academic Suite programs are generally available for online purchase from the company's own webpage or from other partners of Blackboard's. Also, clients are given telephone numbers and emails where they can address any question
Blackboard's main competitor in 2006 was Moodle, a free and open source course management system (CMS), followed by Sakai. Moodle was the market leader, with a market share of 54%; Blackboard was the challenger, with 45% and Sakai was the third as market share, with 0.63%
Source: Zacker, Higher LMS market penetration: Moodle vs. Blackboard + WebCT vs. Sakai
Blackboard's primary competitor possesses less developed technologies and less trained personnel. However, their comparative advantage lies in the application's pleasant interface, its user-friendly structure and its' being free and open source
Blackboard can easily surpass Moodle by redesigning their interface and by "moving away from compartmentalized presentation to a more natural flow of the information, like Moodle has. Blackboard has superior tools; they just need to be presented to the user in a more natural manner. If Blackboard does that, then Moodle has nothing on it, other than being Open Source. OS will ensure it a small market, but that will not move it into the "big time" markets."
Climate (PEST Analysis)
Political, legal and regulatory environment: the laws and policies that govern the software application domain include copyright, patents and fair competition, all regulations fully respected by Blackboard Inc.
Economic environment: the growing economy nurtures a beneficial environment for the development of software applications. All economic features, such as inflation, taxes or interest rates are incorporated in the Blackboard prices
Socio-cultural environment: there is an increasing demand for software applications, developed with cutting-edge technologies and aimed to aid the e-learning and e-commerce processes
Technological environment: the rapid pace of the technological development is incorporated into the Blackboard products, which uses the latest technologies on the market to come up with the most efficient products. The development of AJAX, a set of technologies used for the front end of web applications, is prone to further on sustain the improvements of the Blackboard Academic suite.
Blackboard possesses an extremely skilled and trained human resource, including an experienced management board and a marketing department
Blackboard is internationally recognized for their merits in the e-learning process, being presented with numerous awards, among which the Prestigious 2002 CODIE Award or the SIIA 2006 CODIE Award
Blackboard products are well received and perceived by the market, registering a constant increase in demand
Blackboard Inc.'s financial highlights reveal a strong organization, with sustainable growth and real investment opportunities
The company is continuing to increase their investments in the Research and Development department in order to improve the overall quality of their existent products and come up with new ones
Blackboard is the market leader, with a market share of 60%
Blackboard has set the basis for a multitude of strategic alliances, mergers and collaborations, including hi-tech corporations (WebCT and Microsoft), universities (British Columbia, Illinois Chicago, San Francisco, Texas or Princeton) and the U.S. military
The company uses the best technologies available on the market and improves their performance. They use Java and import packages into each other, as opposed to the traditional importing into a class. This makes the system easy to maintain and sustains its growth and development
The "Building Block" features eases external programs' access to the Blackboard and has the ability to save memory
The Blackboard products have a poor interface, they are complicated, require to many clicks, are poorly organized and are not at all user-friendly
The company has registered significant growth in terms of functionality, in the detriment of easing the users' access to the Blackboard Academic Suite
The Blackboard system has become chaotic due to numerous code purchases from outside Blackboard has promoted limited thought and consistency in regard to product design
Blackboard has a poor sales and support department, which offers limited aid to the customers
In their desire to host all applications on their personal servers, Blackboard seems to have shifted their attention towards server management, in the detriment of product design, the manufacturer's core competency
Users' confidentiality is unsecured. In order to better understand, take for instance the case of a student in Canada. His personal data have to go all the way to Washington DC, where the Blackboard server is hosting, and then return to the Canadian university
The Blackboard servers are located in numerous U.S. cities, and the company does a poor job at managing them. Therefore, they are slow in responding to their clients
The external environment, through economic growth and technological development, sustains Blackboard Inc.'s growth and development
The market presents the manufacturer with a high demand for their Academic Suite
Blackboard is presented with the chance of incorporating the features desired by customers with other systems, such as WebCT
The usage of AJAX will aid Blackboard developers to create a more pleasant design and a more user-friendly interface. In addition, with the usage of AJAX, the Blackboard software applications will become better responsive, timely and interactive
Due to their strategic alliances, Blackboard is presented with the opportunity of using their partners' latest technologies. For instance, Blackboard Inc. could benefit from their partnership with the U.S. military, as the latter generally possess the latest technologies
Based on some features of the macroeconomic environment, such as market liberalisation or globalization, Blackboard has the opportunity of outsourcing some of their projects to other regions of the globe that possess better technologies, better prepared personnel and cheaper labour force
Also based on the unique features of the contemporaneous macroeconomic environment, Blackboard is presented with the opportunity of expanding to other countries, especially on the European and Asian continents. They could easily make the Academic Suite more accessible to non-English speaking countries by installing several language packages. "Blackboard Academic Suite provides full support for multi-byte characters and includes more than 10 languages. In addition, Blackboard provides a Language Pack Editor which lets institutions edit an existing language pack or create a new one to meet their own needs."
Blackboard is faced with fierce competition from Moodle and Sakai. These two companies pose a threat to Blackboard as their products are either free, either cheaper, and they are almost always open source, as opposed to the Blackboard Academic Suite which is a proprietary application. The competitive products require limited costs and offer the benefit of "power of choice. By being open and allowing it's users to see the source code, open source opens a gate towards a plethora of opportunities that wouldn't otherwise be possible, if you would use commercial closed source software."
An external factor that casts a shadow of doubt upon the Blackboard activities is their involvement in law suits, generally lawsuits against other companies that produce learning management systems, based on patent complaints
There is the general perception that Blackboard is capable of doing more and launching better and innovative products, but they seem to stumble and miss the overall picture.
5. Market-Product Focus
Marketing and Product Objectives
The marketing objective is to successfully launch the new version of the Blackboard Academic Suite 7.8 onto the market. The product objective is to meet all…