Analyst John Leh says there are 700 LMS vendors in the industry. That means there are a lot of options, with a lot of features, a lot of variations, and a lot of sales teams fighting for your sale. They wouldn’t twist yes or no questions on an RFP to try to find a way to interpret that question so they can say yes, right? I mean, they’ll sell you on it once they get you to the demo stage anyway, right?
Or, maybe they are 100% honest, and they have every feature under the sun, including some you’ve never heard of, because the coolest new thing is necessary to sell the platform. Except that their service, once you have their shiny new LMS, stinks. They don’t get back to you with support issues, the system is buggy, the integrations are expensive, and there’s no one there to walk you through setting up a course because that’s not a technical support issue.
Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely ask for what your organization needs. If your learners need mobile access, they should have it. But instead of simply asking for a “yes” or “no” to a feature list with check boxes, allow vendors to clarify whether a feature is in development, in beta testing (and when it will be available to the public), available now, or not available.
Understand that an RFP, for this example, is used to select a system, a piece of technology. It completely ignores whether or not a vendor is the best choice as a long-term business partner. It is arguably more important that the vendor you choose be responsive to your organization’s needs not just today but into the future, than it is that the LMS have every feature you listed in an RFP.
If you’re looking for an RFP template, one of the best I’ve seen is provided by Blue Streak Learning. In it Jennifer De Vries asks prospective clients to offer their eLearning rationale, and their goals for the eLearning program. This opens a dialogue between the vendor and prospective client to discuss their organization’s needs beyond a feature set to determine if the vendor really “gets it” in terms of the client’s goals. A real partner is worth more than a missing feature, especially if the vendor and client can grow together with new features continuously added to the platform to support the organization’s goals not just today, but tomorrow, and for many years to come. Finding that partner begins with asking the right questions, and the right questions don’t always exist on an RFP spreadsheet.
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