Double the Update – A Q&A on MTM 8.2.1 and 8.2.2 with Lead Product Manager Eric Matson

Written by Lorcan Archer, Explorance.

A screenshot of MTM 8.2.2

MTM is the platform of choice for professionals seeking to drive meaningful change within their learning and development (L&D) programs.

Even as our popular annual conference for MTM users wrapped up last week, we continue to deliver and announce updates to MTM, with a strong focus on improved functionality, insight and ease-of-use.

This blog post will focus on two new updates to MTM that have been rolled out in rapid succession in late July 2021 – MTM 8.2.1 and 8.2.2. – and will outline the new changes, great and small, that users can expect from these latest updates.

What’s new in MTM 8.2.1 and 8.2.2?

In this Q&A, Eric Matson guides us through the new aspects of MTM 8.2.1 and 8.2.2 and what specifically they deliver.

Update details for 8.2.1 include:

  • Super administrators can now delete additional form types from classes and conferences such as tests, instructor surveys, manager surveys, etc.
  • Custom logos selected under Report Settings will now appear in PDF versions of Ready Reports.
  • Administrators can now edit the options of previously created drop-down questions
  • Users can now add a course to their Course Groups while creating or editing directly from the Manage Courses page
  • Making Ready Reports easier to read on extra-wide monitors and general UI improvements

Update details for 8.2.2 focus on:

  • The provision of MTM Connect IN, which automatically synchronizes class, conference, enrollment, assignment, and learning asset data between your LMS/HRIS and MTM.

Q. Hi Eric. The 8.2.1 update was described as a relatively routine update, and was rolled out on July 18th. What can be expected of this first of two releases we’ve seen in July?

Eric: Comparatively, 8.2.1 belongs in the ‘smaller tweaks’ category. A lot of these came from feature requests from our clients, which accounts for the diverse nature of the changes.

Our last release (MTM 8.2) was all about introducing the new UI and conference reporting, which have moved things forward substantially as regards what MTM offers.

This release was all about stepping back slightly from that, and saying, “Ok, we know you’ve been asking for other things too, and we’re listening.”

Q. Usability is always an ongoing concern in MTM updates, and that’s reflected here in some adjustments to how Ready Reports are now easier to read. Where there any changes that were challenging to implement?

Eric: The majority of changes that we made to Ready Reports were based on initial feedback that we received from clients after the 8.2 release, which featured the new Ready Report UI.

We knew we could improve certain things very quickly, and act on this feedback within the next two months, which is what we’ve achieved with this release.

I would say the trickiest of these changes to implement was probably the edit-drop down option. It is probably the most straight-forward request to visualize. There are two ways to visualize a multi choice question – either radial buttons or in a drop down – and drop downs were missing the option to “go back” and edit the options.

It turned out it was a lot more complex than expected to deliver the functionality for drop downs, but our Dev team was really awesome, and did a lot of research, came up with ways to solve the problem. We were able to realize this for both the survey and test builders, which we hadn’t expecting to deliver in this release.

 The big thing is, once you created the drop down question, you were previously unable to go back and edit the options. So if you needed to re-phrase an option for better clarity, you couldn’t change the text. Now, you have that flexibility.

Q. Changing focus to MTM 8.2.2, would it be correct to say that the implementation of the brand new MTM Connect IN feature represents the majority of this release? This comes after the release of MTM Connect OUT in October 2020.

Eric: Yes, but there are also some bug fixes for MTM Connect OUT, which are very minor. As we were working on the API aspect, it made sense to include them in as well.

Q. Can you give us a breakdown on MTM Connect OUT first – in general?

Eric: Sure. MTM is a platform where we both send surveys out and have a full reporting suite ready to process information. MTM Connect refers to our new suite of API offerings focused on automation and connectivity.

MTM Connect OUT is an automated way to get your reporting data out of MTM to store in your own data warehouse or data lake.

Often, this is done because clients want to combine this with business data that they can’t import into MTM. For example, they want to mix in sales data, additional LMS data, and so on to highlight L&D’s contribution to overall business performance.

Alternatively, they may have their own data analytics team, and want to leverage high caliber analytic tools like Tableau or Power BI.

MTM is a really awesome tool for L&D reporting and benchmarking, and MTM Connect OUT allows you to access your data allows in other platforms, all with control over the cadence and contents of the data transfer.

Q. In this release, we’re delivering MTMConnect IN. Can you break this down a little for us? How long has the team been working on it?

Eric: As regards timeframes, with MTM Connect IN, we’ve been working on this since January, in parallel with the Ready Report changes that were released in May.

You could understand this as a bridge between a company’s learning management system (LMS), where the activities are carried out, and MTM, where the activities are measured. But this is a far more flexible, automated, frequent, and secure way of transferring information between MTM and that system.

We have FTP integrations with LMSs today which many clients use to import data during fixed Import Windows. Alternatively, if you opted not to use an integration, every time you create a class in your LMS, you would then need to log into MTM, create the class in MTM, upload the list of students to survey, and add all the details needed for reporting.

MTM Connect IN is a far more complete process, which we hope will encourage users to go for this API solution and move on from the FTP service. The transfer can be triggered up as often as hourly, 24 times a day.

Q. It seems this really delivers a better service that requires a lot less manual effort on the client side.

Eric: That’s right. There is a little developer work required on the client side, so they can pass us the right information. It’s not quite ‘flick a switch’, but we’ve made a number of sample schemas, definitions and technical documents available ahead of time, and once it’s set up – it’s done, and you can send the data multiple times a day. We could strongly suggest you reach out to your account manager if you’re interested in adding-on MTM Connect IN or OUT.

Q. What kind of users do you see these features really appealing to?

Eric: MTM Connect OUT has been especially popular with users with very robust analytics teams. However, most clients need an automated way of getting data from their LMS to MTM and MTM Connect IN is by far the best tool we offer for doing so.

There are lots of other benefits – for example, you can leverage the Conference Homepage Experience, enroll students using EmployeeID, give your class a custom name, assign default business units to a class, and take advantage of the greater security that comes with server-to-server transfers.

A lot of people helped ensure that we delivered MTM 8.2.1 and 8.2.2 successfully; I’d especially like to thank:

  • UX Design – Arnaud Friedel
  • MTM DevOps – Abdul Rahman, Arun Murali, Dinesh Balaji, Jai Surya Senthilkumar, Jayaram Seetharaman, Kesavan Rajendran, Nithya Sabapathy, Neelakantan Narayanan, Paseer Moorthy, Pugal Selvaraj, Ravishankar Rajappa, Satheesh Ramani, Shriram Shankararaman, Sriram Gunasingh, Swetha Manickavasagam, Thangadurai Subramani
  • DIS and Cloud Ops/Security – Georges Geha, Ismail Shariff, Majid Karimpour, Vlad Kirov
  • Product Ops – Gwen Tracy
  • Professional Services & Sales Ops – Alan Kully, Tyrel Anderson.

For a comprehensive breakdown on the differences between the existing Legacy FTP integration, and the new MTM connect IN API, please see the comparative chart below. 

Comparative Breakdown

  Legacy FTP integration MTM Connect IN API
Scheduling Data transfer schedule is controlled by Explorance. Data transfer schedule is set by the client, based on their unique needs.
Frequency Data can only be transformed and imported once a day. Data can be imported multiple times a day. Best practice is to send deltas hourly.
Security File is deposited onto and retrieved from an encrypted FTP site, which is less secure than server-to-server transfers. Server-to-server transfer is more secure than other methods.
Format Files must be in CSV or XML format. Files must be in JSON or XML format.
Troubleshooting If a file fails or is missed, the client must wait for Explorance to re-run the failed or missing file. If a request fails, the client can troubleshoot and re-push the data without relying on Explorance customer support.
Multiple system support The combined size of files from multiple LMS systems must be less than MTM’s file size limit. Each LMS system pushes independently, allowing for more data from each system to be passed throughout the day.
Types of student identifiers Requires students to have a valid email. Students who use EmployeeID as their identifier cannot be enrolled via the integration. In addition to those with an email, students without emails can be enrolled in classes and conferences using EmployeeID as their identifier.
Conference experience Conference homepage experience is not supported. Conferences can be created using either the Homepage or Single Survey experience.
Client email domain association For those using the Client feature, email domains cannot be associated to the Client via the Integration; they must be associated manually after import. For those using the Client feature, email domains can automatically be associated to Clients via the API.
Class default business unit A default Business Unit cannot be assigned to a class or conference via the Integration. It must be assigned at the student level or manually after import. A default Business Unit can be assigned to a class or conference via the API.
Certified location association Certification Name and ID cannot be associated to locations via the integration; they must be associated manually after import. Certification Name and ID can be associated to locations via the API.
Email form language versioning Only a subset of languages supported on the Student Site is supported via the integration. All languages supported on the Student Site are supported via the API.
Learning method support Only a subset of learning methods available in the MTM Platform can be applied to a class via the integration. All learning methods available in the MTM Platform can be applied to a class, including Virtual Conference.
Customize class name Classes names are generally required to use MTM’s standard “Course Name + End Date” naming convention. Custom values for Class Name can be passed via the API instead using of MTM’s standard naming convention.
Future enhancements No future enhancements will be made. MTM Connect uses an iterative development model. 

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