Posts Tagged ‘ Selection ’

LMS Selection is like a box of chocolates….

ChocolatesSo, now you know why you want an LMS it’s time to figure out which one you want! One thing that is clear is that there is no such thing as the perfect LMS. Even out of the box solutions that claim to “meet all your learning needs” have shortcomings.

The value of an LMS is relative to you and your company, which is why you won’t find a huge number of articles entitled “this is the best LMS and everyone should buy it”. Unless, of course, you are on a vendor website that is! What you will find is a selection of comparison tables, lists of features and both simple and complex guides on how to write up your “must have” and “nice to have” lists. All of these have been compiled by various contributors all across the online L&D community and I have no desire to replicate them. Instead I will share some of the ones I have found useful. If you found a different resource that you think is good/better please do share it.

Firstly, some of my own thoughts on this process:

Does exactly what it says on the tin

Never believe the vendor’s marketing – request a live demo or, even better, access to an evaluation system. Make sure that the system works with your data, with your user structure, with the types of courses that you run. Essentially, try to break it! Log in as an administrator, a manager and a student to see how the system operates on the various levels. If you see something you don’t like, ask if it can be changed. You might think “oh, I don’t like that they call students ‘users’, we will change that”, but that might not be possible and you don’t want to figure that out after your ink is on the contract.

Processes

Decide early on – will you change your processes to meet the system or will the system have to deliver existing processes. This might seem like a simple one, but there is nothing worse than a project manager telling 10 administrators they now have to address all student correspondence by hand because the new system doesn’t do mail merge! Of course there will be tweaks to existing processes and in some cases you may have to balance the changes required to run the LMS with the benefits gained in another area. Be realistic about what your new system can achieve, but decide at the start what the general rule of thumb is to be.

Customisation

Check the vendor’s responses to your requirements – if they state “customisation required” then find out the cost and time details now, not 3 weeks into the project when you realise half of their system won’t work for you. Also, agree the conditions under which you can reject out of the box solutions & request customisation. It might seem reasonable to you to require customisation because the system default is American style telephone numbers, but the vendor may not be willing/able to customise at this level.

Be wary of “add-ons” or “in development”. If you have an item on your list that requires additional purchases or is scheduled for a future release, be careful: if the vendor has an add-on that does the required task, you won’t get customisation; if it doesn’t transpire in a future release you will be left with no option but potentially costly customisation.

Data, data everywhere & not a byte to click….

Don’t underestimate the impact agreeing to use a “standard data upload template” will have on your ability to upload your existing LMS data/excel spreadsheets/post-its into your new system. Get access to a copy of this template in advance and check that you have someone who can work with transferring a large amount of raw data into the required format. This won’t be a problem if you don’t have/don’t want to upload existing data, or you have very simple existing records, but the more complex your organisation and your L&D offerings are, the more complex the data you are uploading will be.

And now for the promised links:

eLearning Technology has a nice post on the LMS selection process

E-Learning 24/7 has some excellent resources on this topic (as an aside, this is a fantastic site & I encourage you to explore it). Some of the posts relevant to this topic are:

Discovery through eLearning is also an excellent blog and has a very useful post on questioning vendors during a demo

Upside Learning has a post on five things not to do when selecting an LMS and also one on what you might need an LMS for

So – in sum – to select an LMS get to grips with your must-haves and nice-to-haves, write it all down and do your research to find a vendor that meets the best possible combination, at the best price. You should also consider process implications, customisation and data migration. Simples!

Directory: Check out my collection of useful links

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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.