Now more than ever before, organizations are realizing the true power of an all-in-one online delivery system for training and development. Yet, some of the early adopters who were among the first to implement and use a learning management system (LMS) are finding themselves dissatisfied with their current system and/or vendor.

Recently, I presented a session at the Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, FL on Learning Management Systems (LMS) and how dissatisfied many users are. “Making a Successful LMS Switch” drew a large crowd of conference attendees, all with different reasons for hating their current LMS.

Some attendees were the victims of an LMS that had been acquired from a merger which had affected the product support. Some attendees mentioned that their current LMS vendor was either out of business or ending a product, but others are just simply unhappy with their current platform.

Here’s a recap from the session, including the first of a series of tips on how to make a successful LMS switch.

According to a 2010 eLearning Guild survey, only 62% of respondents said their LMS lived up to vendor promises. Here are the top five reasons people are unhappy with their LMS, as cited by various resource sites, including Bersin & Associates survey (2009), The Elearning Guild – Evolution of the LMS (2009) and Wainhouse Research (2012):


Why are people so unhappy with their LMS?

1. Not user-friendly
2. Lacks key reporting functionality
3. Lacks technical support
4. Unable to scale up and outdated
5. Too costly

Of these dissatisfied users, 13% said they were planning to leave their current LMS, according to the eLearning Guild survey. But with so much dissatisfaction, how can they make sure they choose a better LMS? And how can they make sure the LMS switch is successful? Here are tips on managing a successful LMS switch.


Vendor Selection

The “Dirty Little Secret” About RFPs

Often, organizations choose a vendor by sending out a Request for Proposal (RFP). These are typically sent to a list of popular LMS vendors, which includes a list of features for the LMS.

But where does this “feature list” come from? Often, there are Excel spreadsheets of LMS features floating around the internet, and an organization may be tempted to just copy and paste the feature list, without really understanding what a feature is or why they would need it.

When the vendors receive this RFP, they are expected to “check the box” to indicate if their system provides that feature or not. But the dirty little secret in the industry is that many vendors will often indicate that their system does these things, even when they don’t. The vendors justify this lie by rationalizing that if they admitted their system didn’t have a specific feature, then they would be automatically excluded from the list, and miss an opportunity. If they check the box, and make it to the next round, they can always say that this feature is “on the roadmap” or can be done as a customization.

In actual fact, the feature in question may not even be that important to that organization, so an honest vendor is excluded, and the customer ends up with a platform that doesn’t really do what they were told it did. (There’s that 62% mentioned earlier). Or, a customer may end up paying for features they didn’t really need in the first place.


The use-case analysis

To avoid this, when you select a vendor, it’s a good idea to do a use-case analysis to determine the features you really need. This can reduce your cost and help you avoid ruling out qualified (and honest) LMS vendors that might be the perfect fit for your organization.

A use-case can be as simple as a white board exercise, walking through the steps a learner, administrator and content creator would perform to complete various tasks in the LMS. By following these steps chronologically, you can create a more realistic list of features. You can then prioritized each feature in terms of:

– crucial
– need
– want

It’s a good idea to vet this list by your IT staff, too, so they can spot anything technical that may be missing.

TIP: Brandon-Hall and other organizations provide LMS research sites that can help you filter down the number of qualified vendors. You can enter the specific features you are looking for, and then return results showing which vendors meet those criteria. This can help you arrive at a “short list” of potential systems, much more quickly and easily. But there is a charge to use this service! And be aware that often the systems descriptions are written by the vendors, so you still need proof, which leads to the next task.


Live Demos

Based on the responses to your RFP, you’ll want to contact vendors who made the cut to schedule a live demo of their system. Make sure that you specify exactly what features you want to see during the demo. As mentioned, often a vendor may list features in their marketing materials that aren’t really there, so give them a list of what you expect to see during the demo, so you can see those features in action.

For those who make it past this demo, schedule a follow-up demo with your IT staff, so that the vendor can address specific technical features of the system – things that you might overlook.

Once you’ve made a selection, you’ll want to check references and seal the deal. For more information on those steps and other tips, check out our white paper: “8 Steps to Selecting your Association LMS.” While this is focused on the unique needs of the association market, there are some great practical guidelines that apply to the corporate market, as well.

For more great information, check out our resources page. 

 Visit our LMS page to learn more about the Knowledge Direct Learning Management System.

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