The marketplace for Learning Management Systems (LMS) is complex, crowded and sometimes confusing for potential buyers to navigate. Choosing an LMS is a strategic decision for any organization, and the wrong choice can prove to be very expensive in terms of the time spent and the budget allocated.
Organizations that follow LMS selection criteria, rank LMS functionality as the top priority (53%), followed by LMS price (32%). A research from Capterra also proved that 69% of respondents took up to 6 months to decide on the LMS that they wanted to purchase. If you are involved in your organization’s LMS selection process, there are a couple of smart strategies that you could follow to arrive at the right decision.
Organization Goals and Expectations
Your LMS needs should be aligned with organizational goals. The organizational goals may be improving learning programs, ensuring better ROI on training, or accelerating learning performance.
The first step towards this is to follow a training needs analysis process.
- Identify goals of each department in the organization
- List the tasks to complete in order to achieve those goals
- Identify the skills and knowledge required to complete those tasks
For example, if the business goal is to increase revenue by 20%, you need to understand what could cause the revenue to increase and what could prevent the revenue from increasing.
Let’s consider a scenario where your organization understands that training sales people and equipping them with performance aids and resources, will help them generate more sales. If there is no LMS currently, and your organization is looking at training sales people located in virtual offices across the globe, then this gives you a strong business case to invest in an LMS.
Highlight the fact that the instructor-led training (ILT) format may not be feasible always, and investing in an LMS will address the business need, along with cutting costs.
Check with the IT department on data security regulations that it must meet to train learners in specific countries.
Now, let us look at another scenario where your organization has already invested in an LMS. If implementing mobile learning is a strategic priority of your organization, chances are that your current LMS may not meet your needs. According to the 2016 Brandon Hall Group HCM Outlook survey, mobile learning is one of the top three learning priorities for companies.
Current and Future Training Needs
Be clear about your organization’s training needs. Are you looking at department-specific training or do you plan to roll out training programs that need to be taken by all employees in the organization?
Is your organization looking at moving from ILT to e-learning or do you plan to introduce blended learning? In case you do, you need to invest in an LMS that supports different forms of training delivery.
If your organization plans to introduce collaborative learning in future, it is better to invest in an LMS that supports different media tools like instant messaging, message boards, video conferencing and shared workspaces, than looking for a replacement in future.
Essential LMS Features
Make a list of LMS features that are essential to your organization. You could prioritize features required on your LMS into three categories.
- Needs – These are essential features (high priority)
- Wants – Features that may be essential in future (medium priority)
- Wishes – Features that are nice to have (low priority)
Some of the important features are listed below.
- A user-interface that is easy for learners, managers and administrators to navigate.
- Effective management of courses, learners, user roles and reports.
- Real-time tracking and reporting of courses to assess learner progress and course completion rates.
- Automation of tasks. For example, emailing users the status on course completion or reminders to begin training should be automatic, to save administrator’s time.
In addition to this, if your organization needs to implement mobile learning, collaborative learning, or blended learning, look for an LMS that has the requisite features.
There is no specific list of features that are applicable to all organizations. Make your choice of LMS depending on your organization’s needs and not because your competitor owns one.
Research LMS Vendors
When you buy an LMS, you will need a vendor who will guide you to get the best out of your new LMS, plus, walk you through support issues. Take time to research LMS vendors. Narrow down the list after a thorough review. Send out request for proposals (RFPs) and ask for demos, and references.
Cost of the LMS
It is essential to have a budget in mind before you purchase the LMS, as you need to account for all the support and maintenance issues that may arise during and after LMS implementation.
Depending on whether your LMS is hosted on the internal network or on a cloud service, you will pay a one-time, monthly, or annual subscription fee. Consider all these factors before you arrive at the cost of purchasing an LMS.
There is no magic strategy for LMS selection that applies to all organizations. What you can try instead, is a smart strategy depending on your organization’s needs.
If you would like to add to the list of LMS selection criteria, do share your comments.