SaaS is here and now! Today, almost every software there is, is available as a ‘service’, including the LMS, which is more prevalent in its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) avatar. Justifying this is Forrester’s Global Business Technographics Software Survey that reveals significant adoption of SaaS across a wide variety of application areas as application buyers demand business agility, with even the poorest SaaS segment seeing a CAGR of 19.7% through 2019 (source: Gartner).
However, not all SaaS LMSs are the same. The length and breadth of functionalities vary from one LMS to the other considerably. But there are 6 key features that every SaaS LMS MUST HAVE.
1. APIs and Integrations
An Application Programming Interface (API), in context of a Learning Management System, helps organizations in seamlessly integrating the LMS with enterprise applications and managing various functions with ease. A SaaS LMS must have a decent set of APIs (at least the popular ones) readily available without any additional cost for integration efforts/ customizations. Even if these APIs are not needed immediately by the company, having them is validation that the LMS vendor has a user-first mindset.
2. Business Intelligence
Reporting isn’t, or rather shouldn’t be, just a data dump. It should be able to translate the learning management data into meaningful information for devising better L&D strategies and improving processes. Business Intelligence (BI) tools help in doing just this. A SaaS LMS with an embedded BI tool, will go a long way in helping an organization to make informed decisions and maintain its competitive advantage. I had written about the importance of BI tool for L&D professionals in an earlier blog post, Why L&D professionals need Business Intelligence?
3. Single Sign-On (SSO)
The number of times you need to provide your credentials to access various software applications and services such as your favorite social networking sites, your company’s network, your webmail, etc. is far too many to qualify for a productive usage of time. A SaaS LMS with Single Sign-On capabilities counters this very problem. By allowing you to provide your username and password a single time to the Identity Provider, it enables you to gain access to various applications and services without the need for re-authenticating. From improving productivity to reducing IT costs (owing to fewer help-desk requests for password resets), the advantages of SSO in a SaaS LMS are plenty.
4. Configurable Organization Structure/ Hierarchy
Does your organization follow a traditional top-down hierarchy? Or are you a flat organization, with no job titles, seniority, managers, or executives? Whichever the case, what you need is a SaaS Learning Management System that can fit your users into a structure that corresponds with your organization’s hierarchy. From the simplest to the most complex, the SaaS LMS should be able define, map and manage your organization hierarchy. Another good-to-have feature linked with this is the ability to define access controls for training content with the access for content creation, delivery and reporting being mapped to the hierarchy.
5. Social Learning & Knowledge Collaboration
In today’s hyper-connected world, where life is chronicled on timelines and status updates, why should learning be any different? Social learning and Knowledge Collaboration has become one of the crucial components of the learning mix providing a unique way for people to learn from one another. It helps capture various types of knowledge that are prevalent in the enterprise, going beyond the conventional view of courseware, assignments and assessment. When on the lookout for a SaaS LMS, selecting one with Social tools (how many and what all tools depends upon the makeup of the company’s user audiences) can help in taking the learning initiative a notch higher.
6. 24×7 Technical Support
A SaaS LMS, with its inherent benefits of fast implementation, scalability, innovation, hassle-free upgrades, lower TCO and higher ROI, may sometimes lack Technical Support. For an organization with or without an IT team, a free round-the-clock Technical Support provides a sense of security that as and when an issue or question arises, the vendor’s support personnel can be contacted for just-in-time resolution or guidance.
Any other feature(s) you believe that a SaaS LMS must have? Do share your thoughts below.