Top 6 Things LMS Buyers Need To Know

Top 6 Things LMS Buyers Need To Know

Every organisation has its specific LMS requirement. Purchasing a new Learning Management System (LMS) to manage your organisational learning initiatives, or replacing your existing one, both require considerable amount of considerations.

It is preeminent that an organisation purchase an LMS based on the requisites. However, the common practice is to mirror what other companies have used or mimic the plan to purchase. This approach provides an initially easy but eventually unsatisfying solution to many organisations, as the requirement of one tends to be quite different from that of the other. Choosing vendors can also be a tough task if you are following a vendor first approach. With the growing number of devices, new compliance standards, data analysis strategies, scalability and customisation options, choosing the right LMS that suits your particular needs is possible only if you yourself are clear about the expected impact on the business, the level of executive support and the state of the budget. To make the selection process simpler, here are the 6 top things that you have to consider in order to buy the right LMS.

1. Do you need to buy an LMS, or are there alternatives?

It's important to have some basic understanding about what an LMS does and does not do. Once you have a firm grasp of the core features and functionality of an LMS, you can make a more informed choice. So let's start with the fundamentals - what does an LMS actually do?

There are three basic things that every Learning Management System allows an organisation to do:

  1. Administer training programs.
  2. Deliver training and education courses and programs to employees.
  3. Document, track and report on the training activities of employees.

If your organisation does not need the functionality of an LMS, and if your IT team has the time, resource and expertise needed to first build and then maintain and service a content delivery system, then the viable option for your organisation will be to build a content delivery platform. If this is not the case then, it is best to begin by designating a selection committee involving the critical stakeholders of your organisation which will probably include the Human Resources (HR), Training and Development department, Senior Leadership, and Informational Technology (IT).

2. What is your business need?

The 2015 Learning Management Systems User View, a report by Software Advice, says that amongst all functionalities that an LMS offers, trainee testing, training administration and record-keeping are the most used at 73 percent, 68 percent and 53 percent respectively.

Most Used LMS Software Functionality
Most Used LMS Software Functionality

It is essential to define LMS requirements through the lens of one's own business rather than just quickly reusing somebody else's requirement list. So, ask yourself or the selection committee about the training needs of the company and devise an eLearning strategy. It is easier if you identify the target audience that will be using the LMS, and comprehend what exactly the requirement is.

Once the requirements are categorised as 'Critical' and 'Good to have', the traditional rule of thumb is that the LMS must meet a minimum of 80% of the 'Good to have' functionality and almost all of the 'critical' functionality.

You can always get the additional features as and when required even if you might need to pay a little extra, but that will be an investment based on the actual need.

3. Define System Functionality

An LMS is just a type of application designed specifically to deliver training content to a selected audience, and every system in the market accomplishes this purpose. Technical requirements center on operation models, integration ability, customisation strategy, feature development, enhancements, and security.

Here's a quick questionnaire that can be of help.

  1. Do you need an on-premise solution, cloud-based or shared hosting?
  2. Is data security and privacy an issue of concern?
  3. What is the application backup strategy? How often? What is the backup location?
  4. What integrations will be needed? Is Data sharing required?
  5. Do you have content compliance standards requirements like SCORM, AICC, xAPI (Tin Can)?

The data from the Software Advice's survey clearly depicts that only 32% of LMS users find integration of an LMS with other systems to be a challenge and only 3% users report security/privacy issue as a LMS software challenge.

Top LMS Software Challenges
Top LMS Software Challenges

Based on this report, it is advisable to prepare your specifications carefully considering the functionalities that truly stand to enhance the organisational training needs.

4. Decide on the content and courses

While LMS is a technology platform, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is after all just a software that is used to deliver training content to your employees. It is therefore essential to carefully consider how the content will be delivered. Many a times organisations get into this process without understanding that the LMS is only one part of the online employee training system. You still require the training resources/ content to deliver. So - where does this content come from? There are usually two ways - buy it or build it.

When you consider building content or buying content, it is essential to evaluate all of the topics required to create an all-inclusive employee training program. Many organisations have legacy content that can be used directly or modified for use. LMS providers usually have their own set of catalogue courses that can be used directly for certain topics. For special training needs, learning resources have to be custom-made or purchased.

5. Vendor Selection

According to Steve Foreman, president of InfoMedia Designs, "There are three categories of LMS products that all call themselves LMSs, but they are very different types of products; they have different features and are oriented toward different customers," he says. "This includes corporate LMSs, academic LMSs, and learning content management system (LCMS)/LMS combination products.

"Foreman goes on to explain that there are also vendors that specialise in different market sizes and cater their products to suit the needs of those businesses, be it small and midsize businesses (SMBs) or larger corporations. The market is packed with LMS vendors, so you have plenty of choices and options. But the real problem is narrowing down this vast and sometimes confusing market to a manageable number of vendors, from which a final decision can be made. Vendor research is an extensive task; you can narrow down the search by considering the following aspects:

  1. Free trial and system demo
  2. Familiarity with your market
  3. Company size
  4. Level of experience with e-learning/online training
  5. Industry experience and recognition
  6. Testimonials/recommendations
  7. Case studies/use cases
  8. Support provisions (Onsite implementation support, active online support etc.)
  9. Upgrade facility
  10. Custom integration services

6. Long term cost- effectiveness

It is essential to have an initial project budget in mind, your business can stay within reason, yet still adjust and adapt when necessary without spending too much money. Long term cost- effectiveness is as important as the purchase and implementation, because you need to account for the cost of maintenance, ownership, licensing and support along with other issues that might arise over the course of your ownership of the product.

Today, the LMS market stands at over $2 billion, according to Forbes, and is continuing to grow. MarketsAndMarkets predicts it to reach near $8 billion by 2018, with North America leading the marketplace in terms of revenue contribution. The Software Advice survey reports that 45 percent of the surveyed are expected to moderately or significantly increase in investment in 2015 while another 45 percent say their investment will stay the same. Only 10 percent say they plan to decrease investment.

Expected 2015 Investment in LMS Software
Expected 2015 Investment in LMS Software

The majority of users surveyed by Software Advice said that, their LMS software had a "positive" or "very positive" impact on training operations. The organisation of training content, and efficiency in content delivery received the highest ratings, with 99 percent of respondents saying that each of them was positively impacted.

Overall, organisations using an LMS have witnessed a positive impact so as to increase their level of LMS investment in 2015. For potential buyers, this suggests that the purchase of an LMS solution has the potential to be a worthwhile investment that yields positive results. Bear in mind - Good investment is a result of careful consideration and research. We would like to hear your thoughts and views.

What according to you is the most essential aspect while considering an LMS purchase?