Archive for the ‘ Implementation ’ Category

Project Managing your LMS Implementation

PlanIf you are a project manager you might want to skip this one! I am going to assume that anyone who reads this has either a) never had the joy of project managing a project before; or b) has done a little PM work, but nothing on this scale.

EDIT: Fantastic list of Project Management tools on

Any project needs to be managed. This is common sense. Someone needs to control the budget, review the workload and ensure the finished product is delivered on time. There are different established project management methodologies and bodies, e.g. check out the websites for Prince 2 or PMI to access information and some free templates/guides. Check out ProjectSmart for this useful PM Glossary and an excellent guide to PM (pdf). 

Project Management Office
Your first port of call should be your PMO. If you have a preferred (or mandatory) project management methodology in your company, then you should follow it. There’s no point in submitting a project update of your own making if it’s going to be sent back and cause delays. Keep your PMO updated, as required.

Project Plan
Are you building an apartment complex or implementing an LMS? Don’t make your project plan so complex that no-one else in your department can understand it. Microsoft Project is the obvious choice of tool, but there are open source alternatives (see this Wikipedia comparison of tools). And if you don’t have the time/will to learn a new tool, there’s nothing wrong with using Excel or Word. You can find project plan templates for all the Microsoft Office products on their support site.

At a glance, your project plan will probably have, at the very least, sections on the following:

  • Project Initiation
  • Process Mapping
  • Data Migration
  • LMS Review Cycles
  • User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
  • User Interface Design
  • End User Training
  • Project Close

Other Online Resources
There are various project management resources online at the Free Management Library and Business Balls.

Obviously, developing a good project plan is only step one on the project management process. As the project progresses you will have to monitor the plan, make adjustments for early/late milestones, motivate your team, engage your stakeholders, etc. We’ll get there!

Why do you want an LMS?

Why?I don’t think there is one blog about learning technologies that doesn’t have a post on the need for an LMS. The death of the LMS is a topic that you will find many discussions on (don’t get me started!). From my perspective, in order to implement a system that a company wants, I have to understand why they want it in the first place. In doing this, I am often struck by several observations.

1. Who is this LMS for?
You will find the many perceived benefits to having an LMS outlined in any RFT or proposal you pick up. I often feel strongly however, that the benefits are mainly from the L&D side. Day to day “customers” aren’t going to see the reduction in administration for a basic course from 5 hours to 1; they aren’t going to see the compliance reports submitted to the CEO; they usually don’t know about the potential time and cost savings through elearning. In fact, sometimes you are going to be asking them to do more than ever – go online, see for themselves what courses are available and go through a registration process. All this instead of just picking up the phone or sending a quick email, which you will hear over and over is “they way we’ve always done it”. Sometimes your new LMS can be a hard one to sell!

2. We will have plenty of time to file our nails…
Some of L&D team members can be unrealistic in their expectations of what the LMS is going to do. I sat in many meetings where, after a lengthy discussion over a process or a form, someone would turn to me and say “you are our saviour – all of this will be gone once the LMS comes in”. However, as anyone who has ever managed an LMS will know, often it doesn’t reduce the amount of administration you have to do; yes it automates some processes but more often than not it replaces them with new LMS-related administrative tasks.

3. What can this LMS really do?
Several times I was approached with “ideas” and “suggestions” for an LMS, e.g. the inclusion of a “simple career planning tool that would see where you’re at and then generate a training plan for you and monitor it and tell you if you were on track to meet it or not and then do your ironing….”. Clearly these conversations were not with people who had a) understood the concept of an RFT or b) ever been involved in developing technology such as a “simple career planning tool”. Be careful of scope creep, as they call it in project management circles. Sometimes (always!) non-technical people don’t understand the complexities of development. While you are buying an LMS and being given the opportunity to customise it, you can only really switch on or off existing features and change the branding. Anything outside of this requires *customisation (* read: lots of money). So while my L&D colleague walked away wondering why I couldn’t just “make” the LMS have a career planning tool, seen as he can do one up in MS Word in 10 minutes, I walked away wondering what his reaction would be if I asked him to develop a ten week management programme in an afternoon!

To conclude: I guess what I’m really saying is: manage expectations. Manage the outcome expectations with your customers, your colleagues, your boss, etc. But even more importantly, manage your own expectations – don’t assume that anyone else has a clue about what it is that you do (or don’t do!).

First Steps when it’s not your chosen LMS

StepsSometimes the decision to procure an LMS is out of your hands. Maybe your boss has been working on the strategy, but you get to be the implementation monkey. Or you are new into a company and the implementation of a chosen LMS is your first task. Whatever the reason, the decision has already been made.

After all the background work has been done, the scene is set for the implementation manager to take over. Coming into a project like this without the background knowledge can be a difficult task and getting up to speed on both the organisation and the project concurrently can be challenging. Unfortunately, you are probably going to spend your first days reading alot of documentation and asking some really stupid questions. When faced with this situation I like to undertake a number of activities:

  1. Review the RFTs – what were they looking for and why
  2. Review the vendor’s submissions – what are they offering, but more importantly, what are they not!
  3. Review the unsuccessful vendors’ submissions – why were they not chosen
  4. Access the evaluation system and play with it – does it do exactly what it says on the tin? (Hint: No!)
  5. Read the user manuals (or in my case skim them…I’m more of a user manual as a last resort kind of person)
  6. Play at L&D administrator – sit in on meetings and learn the day-to-day tasks of the L&D department to absorb their processes and procedures.  Answer phone queries, help schedule events/pack materials/etc. This will be perhaps the most beneficial part of your “induction”. You need to know first hand the frustrations with and limitations of the existing systems and processes. You need to know where the department is trying to go. And why. While this learning period might not always be possible at the beginning of an implementation, I firmly believe that the knowledge gained in this time will prove to be a huge factor in the (hopefully) successful and smooth implementation of your LMS.