Depending on the complexity and criticalness, companies usually refresh their corporate IT systems every 3 to 5 years. If you have an existing Learning Management System (LMS) that you’ve been using for several years now, it may be time to review its effectiveness and, possibly, consider replacement options. However, many key members who selected and implemented your current system may not be around – so how would you go about sidestepping the same errors and omissions made earlier?
Here are some pitfalls that repeat LMS buyers should avoid, and some tips you need to consider when buying that next LMS:
LMS – Second time is the charm!
For repeat LMS buyers, it would be disastrous to repeat the same mistakes that were made during the initial purchase or implementation. However, even if you are the first-time buyer, you’ll find some of these tips extremely helpful:
1. Budget for success
Before asking for quotations or meeting with consultants and LMS vendors, make sure you have realistic expectations about what you are willing to spend on the project. Companies that over-budget usually tend to “spend it all” anyway. On the other hand, those that under-budget, end up cutting corners towards the end of the project.
2. Look to the future
Your LMS is an investment for the long-term, so you should look to the future when making acquisition decisions today – often over a 3 to 5-year horizon. Avoid purchasing bundled add-ons, that you know you’ll never use, even if you buy today at “discounted” prices. There are instances, however, when deferring an add-on that you know you’ll use, may cost you more if you defer the acquisition of that module until next year.
These costs versus benefits decisions need to be taken into considerations by keeping the future in perspective.
3. Embrace newer technologies
The old school use of on-premise desktop or server-based LMS systems is giving way to more popular Software-as-a-Service (or SaaS) solutions. Embracing these newer models of LMS is not only cheaper- in terms of licensing and implementation- but they also relieve companies of the burden of owning expensive in-house hardware and budgeting for their maintenance costs.
4. Agile implementation
Look for a vendor/implementer that will support you with a rapid and efficient implementation. Today, many LMS implementation consultants and product vendors have switched to the agile methodology of implementing LMS projects. Agile produces faster Return on Investment (ROI) by implementing core functionality much earlier than traditional Waterfall approaches.
5. Demand more frequent updates/upgrades
Similarly to agile implementation, look for a vendor who employs an agile development methodology. LMS technologies are evolving quickly, and your LMS vendor should respond to those changes by quicker and more frequent product updates. Be especially discerning and demanding about security patches and upgrades!
6. Stability above all
Your LMS investment decision should be one that doesn’t keep you awake at nights. Choose partners, be they product vendors or implementation consultants that are financially stable, and have a good track record. Avoid partnering with companies who are in the midst of mergers or acquisitions, or who work with critical partners that might be targets of buyouts by other competitors. It just may happen that, once new management takes over, your product may no longer be supported!
Buying and implementing an LMS is an initiative that’s filled with potential pitfalls too. Between lack of intimate knowledge of the product and service you are planning to acquire, and the sometimes misleading information provided during sales pitches, it’s hard to see through the smoke.
Here are some common pitfalls that you should look out for and avoid:
1. Long-term versus Satisfied customers – which is better?
When choosing your LMS partners, be careful not to get trapped in the sales semantics that you may come across. Many vendors will use various measures of “customer satisfaction” to prove their worth.
The two metrics (long-term clients vs satisfied clients) aren’t the same though! Some clients are “stuck” with a vendor they detest, not by choice but by circumstances. They may want to switch, but their content and courses are tied so heavily with proprietary technologies, it becomes cost-prohibitive to dump their existing vendor. Make sure you take a long hard look at what metrics your future LMS vendor is highlighting.
2. Think future…but don’t shoot for the moon!
Earlier in this article you were encouraged to look to the future. However, sometimes, in doing so you may end up paying for features and functionality that might not really suit your company’s needs.
Often, LMS vendors will dazzle you with tempting sales pitches that you could find hard to resist. For instance, while having a Talent Management suite integrated with your LMS may sound great; why would you pay for it if Talent Management is not on the horizon for your company? Don’t overbuy!
3. Consider the vendor relationship
While it may be tempting to go with the cheapest option or the biggest name in the industry– you may want to reconsider. The low-cost options may not provide the level of support you’ll need and the “big guys” may end up treating you like another fish in a big ol’ pond.
Your LMS vendor should align with your own company’s values and be an extension of your business. Essentially, a partner in helping you achieve your training goals.
Hopefully, by the time you buy and implement your next (or first, if this is your initial purchase) LMS, you will be able to make educated decisions. However, it is always a good idea to document everything you learned from your experiences – regardless if this is your first, second or fifth acquisition/implementation.
Some points to address during a formal Lessons Learned session are:
- Were your system requirements and specifications accurate – if not, why not? What should be done to improve them for the next upgrade or update cycle?
- Did you choose the right vendor or implementation partner – if not, what was the reason? What should you do differently the next time around?
- What didn’t you consider when implementing the system?
- Was support adequate, even if it was, what should you do next time to make it even better?
Having a Lessons Learned document in your company’s archives will make it easier for future decision makers; and will also make the acquisition and implementation process more effective and efficient.