Organizations worldwide are now opening up to the world of “SaaS LMS”. The reports too are singing the same song with one such from IDC, ‘Worldwide SaaS and Cloud Software 2015–2019 Forecast and 2014 Vendor Shares’, which states that SaaS delivery will significantly outpace traditional software product delivery, growing nearly five times faster than the traditional software market and becoming a significant growth driver to all functional software markets by 2019. And rightly so as SaaS with its inherent advantages of speed, low cost, scalability, easy upgrades, etc. makes it a attractive solution for the customers. However, there are some key considerations for selecting a SaaS LMS that buyers should make a note of.
Let’s look at some Internal and External considerations:
1. Data Security
From a view of an organization that is moving to a Cloud infrastructure, data security is of paramount importance. HR data is not just critical but is also confidential, and the mere idea of the data residing outside their grasp can be nerve wrecking for info security teams. Hence it’s critical to understand the measures taken by the LMS vendor for data leakage protection, data backup and retrieval. This should be viewed from both Cloud/ hosting environment security , as well as LMS application security stand point. Right level of encryption for data at rest, use and transfer, data access control and vulnerability assessment at application level are some of the critical points.
2. Product Roadmap
One of the key advantages of a SaaS platform is the constant feature upgrades that an organization can benefit from. However, these upgrades or feature enhancements will be useless if they are not in line with your organization’s L&D strategy. It’s always advisable to review/discuss product roadmap with the LMS vendor. It not only gives you a sense of direction in terms of how the LMS is going to grow in coming years but it also gives you an opportunity to collaborate with the LMS vendor and insert some of the critical features/functionality for your organization, if they are missing in the roadmap. This way you will be selecting a sustainable learning solution; fit for today and tomorrow.
3. Comprehensive Business & System Requirement Designing
Earlier (in the traditional LMS scenario), one could do a broader assessment of the LMS features during the vendor evaluation/selection phase with the detailed requirements being framed during the implementation stage, where features could be custom developed as and when needed. However, customizations or change request is an alien word in the world of SaaS, which is based on a philosophy of driving “Value” by delivering “out-of-the-box” solutions that meet the requirements of all. This boils down to a crucial point for the customers – analyzing their key requirements from the LMS and creating a comprehensive Business & System requirements document. It’s imperative that all the business stakeholders are involved in the requirement design phase and adequate due diligence is done during vendor evaluation and selection process. If missed, this can lead to a catastrophe.
4. APIs and Integration
We live in an era of connected systems and the LMS is no different. The success of an LMS implementation in an organization depends on its ability to interact and exchange different set of data with other systems. From interacting with an HRMS/ERP to pull user data or pushing training/learning progress data to a Performance Management System or performing security authentication from an Identity Management System, a SaaS LMS has to do it all. The key is to find an LMS with a comprehensive library of APIs that you can leverage for “your” business. So the integration need of an Enterprise might be different to that of a Training company or an SMB, but a good approach would be to select a SaaS LMS that constantly adds new APIs/ connectors with external systems.
Every organization is different from the other and so is its requirement from the LMS. And more often than not, the features/modules actually used by an organization are only a subset of the what the LMS offers. Given that the SaaS LMS is designed on the premise of “One Platform Fits All”, it has to be highly configurable. This shouldn’t mean a “custom” solution that can be isolated from software upgrades, but rather a highly configurable product that can meet the needs of different organizations without tailoring the software itself. The measure of a true SaaS LMS is when all the clients can use the same platform, but differently.
These are some pointers that I would keep in my SaaS LMS checklist. Any other critical consideration you think I may have missed? Do share it in the comment section below.