Recently, I was helping a friend of mine with a pretty big decision. He was in the market for a car and was torn between two options. Funnily enough, his dilemma reminded me a lot of the decisions buyers have to make when purchasing a learning management system (LMS) and figuring out their LMS needs. So let me see if explaining my friend’s internal battle (and ultimate car choice) can help make your decision a little bit easier.
I mentioned my friend was in the market for a new car, but here’s why he needed a new one in the first place:
1. His current car was starting to break down and becoming more unreliable.
Sound familiar LMS administrators? Sometimes your current system is acquired by another LMS vendor and is eventually no longer supported so the system starts to get glitchy as new enhancements and bug fixes stop coming.
2. It couldn’t get him from Point A to Point B
Because his car was breaking down, that also means he couldn’t get to the places he needed to be and do the things he needed to do. We hear this from many prospective clients in that they’ve simply outgrown their current LMS, which isn’t getting them where they want or need to be.
3. He was putting time and money into it, but getting nothing but more headaches
Sure, he could continue to fix whatever problem popped up next, but at what point do you stop and say enough is enough? This is true for second, third, and fourth-time LMS buyers too. When you’re putting time and money into a system with little to no return on that investment, it’s time to start looking elsewhere.
4. It was an older model and didn’t have a lot of the features that come standard with newer cars
We’re talking manual windows, a cassette player, and the kind of doors you had to unlock with a key, no key fob here! Not that there’s anything wrong with these kinds of car features, but you have to admit that it’s nice having auto windows and auto locks as well as Bluetooth and back-up cameras. An LMS is very similar. Some systems are more feature-rich and boast learning path functionality, social learning features, multi-day training event capabilities and more, whereas others are very basic and can’t support complex business and LMS needs.
His Needs and Your LMS Needs
So what kind of car was he looking for? Well, he was essentially looking for a new car that could get him from Point A to Point B without breaking down. Not a super tall order so he thought maybe a Prius or similar sedan-style car would work. And, if that’s all he needed it to do then it sure would have worked out perfectly!
However, as we were talking more about what he planned to do with the car he also mentioned he needed to tow his boat every now and then. Needless to say, the Prius option went right out the door.
He started looking at cars with the horsepower he’d need to pull his boat; hence, he came to the decision to buy a truck. It not only met his new car and Point A to Point B requirements, but it would also be able to handle getting his boat around.
This analogy has two main lessons for LMS buyers:
1. Define your requirements
- If you don’t define your requirements up front you may be doomed to fail. You’ll need to figure out if you have simple or complex business and training needs. Simple can be broadly defined as needing a system to distribute online training materials to an internal team, whereas more complex needs can involve multiple user groups and locations, an extended enterprise of channel partners or continuing education offerings, complex learning plans and paths, and more.
2. Choose the solution that fits your needs and requirements
- For those simple, first-time LMS buyer needs, a more simplified system (more often than not these are the LMSs that offer free trials) is probably the way to go. They don’t have as many features as the Tier 1 and Tier 2 systems, but that might be unnecessary for you at this point in your training program’s life cycle.
- For the more complex business and training needs that include things like data migrations, organization and geographical hierarchies, learning paths, robust reporting, etc. (as most second, third, and fourth-time LMS buyers have) you’ll want a more feature-rich system. These are the kinds of LMSs that will grow and adapt to any changing needs in your business instead of stopping you in your tracks- much like you would be if you tried to pull a boat with a Prius.
Is the car analogy making more sense now? Not as out there as when I first started making comparisons, right?
To summarize: if you need to get from Point A to Point B (a.k.a. very simple training needs and most likely a first-time LMS buyer) then a Prius or self-service LMS is probably the way to go. If you need to get from Point A to Point B while also towing a boat (a.k.a. more complex business needs and often a second, third, or fourth-time LMS buyer) then a truck or feature-rich LMS will definitely suit you better and be able to not only handle your current needs but account for future growth as well.