Top 10 questions you need to ask before purchasing a Learning Management System.

Purchasing a Learning Management System or LMS can be a large investment in time, resources and energy. It is critical to any organisation making this investment that they get it right first time.

At My Learning Cloud we are big believers in the value of a Learning Management System and below are (in our opinion) the top 10 questions you need to ask yourself and your organisation before purchasing a Learning Management System.

If you answer all of these questions and involve the provider you will purchase the right LMS for your organisation with amazing results.

10: Will your IT infrastructure will support an LMS?

This may seem a simple point to make but modern Learning Management Systems do not run on old systems. If you are still operating on Internet Explorer 9 for example, your LMS may well not work the best it could.

If you are looking to make the investment on a new system it is important that all elements will work. Ensure your IT systems can run videos, play audio and that your browser is the latest version. It will be extremely worthwhile to involve your IT team in the buying process to ensure that if updates are required they are undertaken prior to your new system going live.

So my number 10 tip is to check what your IT systems can handle and make sure that it will support your investment. If you are unable to upgrade or maximise your investment, maybe it’s not the right time to purchase an LMS.

09: Generic or Sector Specific?

This is a fundamental question you need to ask yourself. Do you purchase a generic LMS or an LMS designed for the sector in which you work?

We pride ourselves at My Learning Cloud in only working in the Health and Social Care space, we have used our years of experience and understanding to develop a product that reflects the needs of our customers. So our product is perfect for those that work in Health and Social Care. However, if you work in construction it may not deliver the results you want and need!

Why is that? well, it may have the reporting you need but the courses themselves may not hit the mark.

There are 100’s of online learning providers just in the UK, it is important that you work with an organisation that gets you and your needs. It is important that you consider the nuances of your sector, the reporting required and the elearning content itself if you are to get the best results.

08: Can the LMS support a fully blended learning approach?

The way in which people learn has moved on, I know some people may not wish to admit it but technology is facilitating a revolution in the way people learn.

More and more learners now have an expectation that they will have a web -based system to undertake and manage their development and organisations need to ensure that if they wish to attract and retain the best then they will need to facilitate this need.

A blended learning approach to development should be the norm, people learn in such a variety of ways and you will need to have an LMS that can track, record, monitor and support this variety. Ask the right questions at the procurement stage: if you need the system to support policies, documents or videos…make sure you ask for it.

Getting a system that only does one thing maybe all you need right now, but you may want to work with an organisation that allows you to expand your offering as your business grows without the need to find a new supplier.

So whilst you may not need a blended approach today, trust me…you will need it tomorrow so make it a consideration.

07: What outcome do you wish to achieve?

This is such an important point to consider…what do you want to achieve by introducing an LMS into your organisation? what are the outputs? what is the primary reason?….what’s the WHY?

Be honest, if it is to reduce the admin within your Learning and Development department, great. If it is to save money, that’s fantastic. If it is to empower your learners and allow them to develop in a way that suits them, perfect!

Write yourself a quick list of main outcomes, make sure they align to your vision around learning and development as the LMS you are going to invest in and use everyday will need to be able to deliver it!

06: Do you want to involve your staff in the decision making process?

Personally I really do hope the answer to this question is yes.

Why?, well in my experience those organisations that have involved their staff have the best results, the best uptake and the best long term benefits. Who better to explain what they need and what their technical ability is other than the staff themselves?

If you are looking to get great results consider and involve them at all levels of the procurement process, allow them to inform your decision as you may think that a particular solution is a perfect fit - your staff may not agree.

05: How long is too long?

What I am talking about here is a requirements list or wish list of ‘must haves’. I know everyone has a list, but do you really need a whole sweet shop of features to deliver what you need to deliver? Too much can be as big a problem as not enough!

Be realistic with yourselves and the organisation, will you use this feature in the next 6 or 12 months? if the answer is not sure or no, strike it off the list as you will not need it.

Consider honing down your list of requirements to a key set of no more than 30 things. List everything out on post it’s if need be and walk through each one. Be really clear about what features and functions you need to deliver your strategy and find a provider that can help you deliver it.

04: Do you see an LMS as a Cost or Investment?

This consideration point is all about being realistic. Do you or your organisation see learning and development as a cost or an investment? Far too often the cost has been the primary motive of making a decision.

An LMS system maybe perfect, it may be able to deliver amazing results but if the numbers don’t stack you may end up purchasing something that fits your budget but is not quite right in terms of functionality or reporting.

I understand that organisations need to ensure that the numbers work for them.

My Point of consideration here is not about the numbers working (I totally understand how important this is), it is more about how influential price has become. I have seen tenders whereby price has a weighting of over 50% to the overall scoring.

It is important to consider the budget from the outset, but, price should not be the start and end all of the decision.

It is about what difference the LMS will bring to your learners, how it will deliver your strategy. Price plays a part, but should be viewed within the total picture of benefits.

Purchasing an LMS should be seen as an investment.

03: Consider the learning needs and skills of your learners?

Learning Management Systems can do amazing things, have amazing features and work on a variety of devices. It is an important consideration to understand the skill set of your workforce when selecting the right LMS for your organisation.

Most typically we hear that learners have low or no IT skills, that organisations want as simple a system as possible to allow their staff to use it well.

The important point here is about undertaking a skills assessment of your workforce, ascertain what development is required if any before you invest. I think you might be surprised at how easily staff understand technology now, more and more of a carers job is undertaken using digital platforms, from recording visits or medication.

We believe that any LMS should be well designed and needs to have considered the skill set and abilities of the end user at every stage of the development process.

02: Have you planned 100% of the journey?

This was very nearly number one on the list as it such an important consideration. Have you planned the entire LMS journey? Too many people plan the purchase and configuration of an LMS but fail to consider the roll out, ongoing support, on-boarding of staff and celebrating the successes. What I call the hidden 25% of the journey.

You need to plan and budget for post go-live, think about how you are going to create and maintain momentum for the new system. Think about how you are going to provide support, create awareness, do you need additional resources to deliver this?

The journey of purchasing and introducing and embedding a Learning Management System all go hand-in-hand and if you wish to make the this a really successful journey you do need to plan and consider the hidden 25% of the journey.

01: What are your Pain Points?

So here it is, the number one question you need to ask and answer before purchasing a Learning Management System…What are your organisational Pain Points?

There must be a number of reasons why you are in the market for a Learning Management System, what are they?

Once you are clear on the reasons, you also need to be clear and understand if a LMS will resolve those pain points.

So often an LMS has been put in place to solve the wrong problem - e.g. improve attendance to workshops - it may have a positive influence on attendance but ultimately that is a cultural thing.

Understand what your pain points are - ask yourself and your business what’s not working in your current Learning and Development that’s driving the decisions to buy an LMS. Understand which ones the LMS can solve and what other things you’ll need to put in place to solve the other problems.

By Steven Embleton, Chief Cloud, My Learning Cloud

Released 02nd April 2019