Throughout my career I have witnessed SMBs as well as enterprise companies switching LMSes within one year of deployment. This is a common outcome of poor evaluation of an LMS platform based not on ‘must-have’ features but on ‘good-to-have’ ones, which more often than not look good in the deliverable set but do little to add value to the organization. While it could be little easier for SMBs to adapt their learning processes based on their choice of LMS, it is not feasible for enterprises, given their scale of ops and somewhat rigidity of their workflows and processes, and they end up with no other option but to look for another LMS.
On a typical working day, I handle client calls, product demos, requirement discussions, technical evaluations, solution feasibility assessments as well as consulting. On an average, I interact with 7 to 10 clients/ prospects on a daily basis, and each one of them comes with a different set of requirements and expectations. In my experience, organizations often define a wish list more than defining their actual business needs, leaving the vendor in dilemma of whether to engage the prospect and promise to fulfill their wish list with no clarity on their product roadmap and company goals. On the other hand, although the wish list may look unrealistic, it could be a real business need based on the nature of work or future growth plans.
From a vendor’s perspective, it is always advisable to question the demands prior to engagement as it helps both parties in terms of vendor evaluation process as well as maintaining healthy client-vendor relationship. Moreover, it enables the client to revisit the drawing board and chalk-out their realistic business needs. My suggestion to a prospect is to start the evaluation process by listing down the most significant and non-negotiable features that they want in the LMS. This will certainly help cut down the time spent on hunting for an LMS and take you to the most suitable and future-proofed learning platform for your organization.
Today’s market is flooded with hundreds of LMSes offering a range of solutions and citing business benefits. However, there are a couple of critical points to be considered before you choose an LMS that fulfills all your business requirements, right from usability to scalability. So, let me share some tips that will assist you to evaluate the LMS across its length and breadth, in terms of preparing the right set of questions, clearly communicating business needs and identifying the reliable learning partner.
1. Cloud-based LMS or On-premise LMS
The first question that takes you an inch closer to your treasure hunt is ‘Do I need a Cloud-based LMS or on-premise LMS?’ With a cloud based LMS, all technical support is extended by the LMS vendor and you need not worry about any nitty-gritty of managing servers, IT resources and support issues etc. A Cloud-based LMS is highly scalable, flexible and provides the provision to grow your users from 1000 to 100,000 (or more!) effortlessly. A SaaS LMS grows as your business and learning appetite grows, making it a near perfect choice for any organization. For a SaaS LMS, you can ask the vendor about the product roadmap and their product development plans to ensure if the ‘good to have’ features are being covered in their future product releases. Here are 5 things to consider when selecting a SaaS LMS. If you are using an on-premise setup, these key considerations will help you to transition successfully from a Hosted LMS to a SaaS, Cloud-based LMS.
2. UI & UX
Every organization has a mix of learners, ones that are tech savvy and others that are not. To address both these audiences, organizations need to choose an LMS that –
– Has a user friendly interface (great UI & UX) so learners can engage with the platform with less to no training.
– Is Mobile-ready, so the learners can access the content at their own leisure, make it a fun learning experience rather than forced learning.
Here are a few things pertaining to User Experience that you may want to closely consider and tick off while choosing an LMS.
Learner Engagement tools are key ingredients for an LMS, so ensure that the platform has gamification features to motivate and entice learners to get hooked on their elearning and create healthy competition for learners to learn unconditionally. This facilitates increased platform adoption and completion rate amongst other benefits.
4. Multi-tenant System
If you need to train distinct audiences, selecting an LMS with a multi-tenant architecture might be of value as processes to train employees might differ from the ones used to train customers/ partners/ associates. Most SaaS LMSes come with a multi-tenant architecture that enables training companies to accommodate the training needs of several clients on the same setup or instance in a secure, scalable way, all without compromising the competency of the Cloud to offer a great learning experience. Each of these client portals can be configured to have separate branding and access, with the master control being with the Training Company. Moreover, a multi-tenant LMS enables you to amp up the performance of your eLearning programs, along with improved scalability and reduced hosting costs. So it’s essential that you pick a solution which is highly configurable to cover your target audiences’ learning needs.
5. Proof of Concept
Don’t hesitate to demand for a Proof of Concept (PoC). Prepare the flow of use cases from learners’/trainers’/admins’ perspective and ask the LMS vendor presenting the scenarios how the end user/admin can navigate through the system and how easy or cumbersome their journey is. This will also give you the opportunity to identify suitable the LMS is from your real needs. Most of the times LMS vendors check off RFP boxes without having clear understanding on the functionalities as per client business needs. Be candid and ask to map the features with the LMS workflow to avoid any surprises at a later stage. Here are 6 tips to make the most out our your LMS sandbox.
6. Technical Support
Be sure about technical support and training. Even if you procure the most expensive and best available platform in the world, technical support always makes a huge difference and is a key component for the success of your LMS evaluation. Calculate the bandwidth available at your end to support your end users. Make sure LMS vendor stands by you post go-live to address all technical issues instantly as and when needed. Check out vendor support mechanism to make it transparent and flawless and availability of vendor support staff during critical times. Ask vendor about their support hours and response time and have it in black & while to make out if vendor complies with their service level agreements. Also, emphasize on vendor reliability and their experience in the learning domain to support the implementation of your learning strategy. If required, ask the vendor for client references to know about vendor and product reliability. Do ask your LMS vendor about product training, as comprehensive product training will enable you to manage your application independently with minimum dependency. Here are some key areas that form a part of a robust LMS Support and Services system.
Your LMS has to be a perfect blend to your existing IT infrastructure. To this effect, ask the LMS vendor about integration capabilities. Make sure potential LMS architecture allows you to integrate within your existing IT infrastructure seamlessly, which includes employee core data/SSO/and other critical data required to capture user’s learning performance. Here’s everything you need to know about LMS integrations.
Clearly distinguishing between the ‘must-have’ and ‘good-to-have’ features while evaluating the multiple applications remains a focus for most leading organizations. Every organization has a unique way of approaching training and development, and hence evaluation parameters should revolve around those specific needs. Carrying unnecessary baggage in terms of unwanted accessories can distract you from your real needs. If you like something out of your original scope, note it down and analyze if the feature would really catalyze your learning atmosphere, as it may also add to your available budgets.
In conclusion, these above points will certainly help you in filtering out the LMSes that don’t meet your requirements and zero down on a few LMSes for further evaluation, based on your critical business needs.