It’s not news that more and more companies across industries are using a learning management system (LMS) to plan, administer and structure learning processes. Each organization has specific and varied needs based on their size, structure, goals and budgets.
According to Forbes magazine, the LMS market is gauged at well over $2.5 billion annually, and Texas-based consulting firm MarketsAndMarkets anticipates that the LMS market will approach becoming an $8 billion industry by 2018. Now, isn’t that an impressive number?
So let’s get down to business.
The task of selecting an LMS solution that fits your company’s needs may seem intimidating, especially when the market is saturated with so many unpredictable variables. Keep in mind that careful planning, research and consideration will result in good return on investment, which in return makes everyone happy. Users will be happy with the easy to use, solid system and upper management will be happy with improved productivity, and of course, that extra cha-ching that comes out of this whole process in the long run.
Be sure to consider:
1) Your company’s needs
Every company has its own needs to meet, and will include, but not be limited to:
- Company size
- Training/learner development needs and goals
- The level of expertise of the LMS administrators
- Time frame
- Tracking/Reporting features needed
- Duration of use and scalability
Perform an LMS needs assessment early on, and be familiar with what those needs are – meeting those needs should be your primary guiding directive as you move toward a final decision.
2) Your company’s budget
A crucial consideration. Can your company work with an out-of-the box software solution that’s compatible with other interfaces you use, or do you need a custom-built system? Can you budget in licensing fees, or should you go with a SaaS (subscription as a service) solution?
3) Your LMS’s Requirements
Now that you know your company’s needs, what is required of your new LMS system? Does your content need to be AICC, SCORM, or Tin Can (xAPI) compliant? (If this doesn’t seem familiar now, it will become clear to you during the process of consideration, trust me.)
4) Needs vs. Wants
Get input from your audience of learners regarding features they “must have” and features that they would “like to see.” A good rule of thumb is an 80/20 ratio of critical features vs. nice-to -have features. Additional features can be added further on down the road, as the need arises.
5) System Functionality
Individual needs of an organization include customization needs (once the software is implemented), security, enhancements, ability to integrate with current interfaces, etc.
- In house solution only? Mobile accessible? Cloud-based?
- To what degree will the LMS need to integrate with other currently used interfaces? Data sharing?
- How important will security/privacy be?
- What about a data backup strategy? (where? how often?)
6) Learning content/courses
Once you’ve implemented your new LMS, you will still need the actual training/learning content to deliver to your learners. This is something that should be figured into the LMS budget, and if not, it will have to be created, especially if your organization has very specialized training needs.
7) Narrowing the Vendor List Down
Do your homework. This can be an expansive task, but you can narrow your list of possibilities down to a manageable number to choose from.
- Does the vendor know your industry? How well?
- Does the vendor offer a free demo/trial period? Never settle on a solution without a free studied test drive
8) Test Driving
Take a week or two to get a feel for a solution’s features and functionality. Get plenty of in-house feedback. Which one best fits your needs? Try to get feedback from all levels of employees.
9) Long-term cost effectiveness
- For the best price you can negotiate, will it fit within your budget?
- What kind of support does the vendor offer? Implement-ability/Upgrade-ability/Integration-ability/Scalability/Custom-ability?
10) Your Organization’s Preparation for Implementation
Plan on spending some time to prepare your team for the new LMS implementation and training.
You want a solution that everyone involved will be happy with, and it is possible to attain such a lofty aspiration with the right planning and due diligence. A more studied approach may seem more trouble than it’s worth, but it will only pay off in the long run.
Are you already looking for a new LMS? Visiting our LMS category page will be a great place to start.
— Jonathan W. Crowell