Update: Blackboard and Washington Post change the employee count

Well that was a major change. As I noted yesterday, Blackboard described its reorganization efforts to the Washington Post for its Saturday profile of the company and CEO Jay Bhatt.

Blackboard today is completely reorganized, compared with a year ago, a process that required layoffs in some departments and new hires in others, Bhatt said. The company counts roughly 2,200 employees to date.

This was interesting to me, since in Fall 2012 Blackboard gave information to both the Washington Business Journal and the Washington Post stating that the company had 3,000 employees. I noted this in my post yesterday:

That is a significant change, if these stories are accurate, going from 3,000 employees to 2,200 in less than 18 months …

The Washington Post just issued a correction to their story today that changes the numbers significantly:

Blackboard today is completely reorganized, compared with a year ago, a process that required layoffs in some departments and new hires in others, Bhatt said. The company counts roughly 3,000 employees to date.

There is almost no explanation for the change in numbers, other than the following:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Adrenna, the learning management platform. It also incorrectly stated how many people are employed at Blackboard. This version has been corrected.

Blackboard, through a company spokesperson, let me know that part of the change in numbers was that 2012 they had included call center staff in the employee count and this weekend they did not (which I noted in an update to yesterday’s post). They also confirmed that they provided the 2,200 number to the Washington Post. I have requested that Blackboard provide precise numbers and accurate descriptions (number of employees counting or not counting call center staff for both Nov 2012 and today, or total number of staff layoffs over past 18 months), but they have declined to do so.

Nevertheless, the basis of my analysis was public information provided by Blackboard to the Washington Business Journal and Washington Post. These numbers have changed, so my analysis has to change.

I am no longer reporting that Blackboard has dropped 26% of its workforce nor am I reporting that “a large number” have been cut. How much has the workforce changed? According to the new public numbers, not a lot, but the real answer is that we do not know.

Given this significant change, I feel I owe readers some more context, through a timeline, so you can decide how to interpret the multiple posts and updates:

  • Sunday, Jan 26th: Blackboard is profiled by Washington Post, stating it has “roughly 2,200 employees”.
  • Tuesday, Jan 27th (morning): I write a post analyzing the changes, stating that “Blackboard seems to have cut more than 26% of workforce”.
  • Tuesday, Jan 27th (afternoon): After talking to Blackboard spokesperson, I revise my headline to “Blackboard seems to have cut large amount of workforce” and add the update. I ask for precise numbers from Blackboard.
  • Tuesday, Jan 27th (evening): Blackboard talks to the Washington Post and asks them to change the number of employees.
  • Wednesday, Jan 28th (morning): The Washington Post changes its number to “roughly 3,000 employees”.
  • Wednesday, Jan 28th (afternoon): I talk to Blackboard spokesperson again, asking for precise numbers; she cannot provide these, but she shares as much general information as she is allowed.
  • Wednesday, Jan 28th (evening): I write this post.

In my opinion Blackboard is making a mistake here. I understand the argument that they are private and don’t like to share details . . . but they certainly seem to like sharing numbers if no one calls them on it and were in no rush to correct the information from Sunday through Tuesday. Making an exception and being precise this week would answer the question on how much the workforce has changed and put this issue to bed. In the end it is Blackboard’s call on how much information to release, but it is also the general market’s call to figure out how much confidence to assign to that information.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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One Response to Update: Blackboard and Washington Post change the employee count

  1. Pingback: Blackboard seems to have cut large amount of workforce | e-Literatee-Literate

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