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How to make sure your LMS provider delivers what you need

The learning management system (LMS) market has greatly evolved recently. Any organization looking to upgrade to an existing LMS or acquire a new one will find many offers. Specialized providers all pride themselves on having the best, state-of-the-art products (and it’s quite possible that they actually do).

Ideally, any company has a well-trained L&D team who can figure out what type of system works best and do so within a reasonable budget. Ultimately, any investment in organizational learning will pay itself off over time.

Know what you need

I won’t sugarcoat this: coming up with the best LMS solution for your company can be quite a hassle. Many items need to be factored in, and all stakeholders should give their opinions.

It’s tempting to look at the very appealing vendor catalog and pick one of the LMS versions they feature. The thing is, as is the case with cable subscriptions, just because lots and lots of channels sound good in the commercial, it doesn’t mean you’ll actually watch them all. Or even half. It’s the same with LMSs offering many features. Not only is it is unlikely you’ll use all of them, but they will also get in the way when employees start using them.

Start with what’s missing

No L&D department will start the process of finding a new LMS if the current solution is working flawlessly. In my professional corporate experience, this acquisition begins a little too late, when the old system can no longer be updated or fixed, and it’s threatening to just crash.

Consequently, the first order of business is to list all the things that the old system couldn't provide. If those features were needed in the past, they'd most likely be handy in the future.

Ask across the organization

L&D specialists surely know what they need from an LMS, and it’s a good idea to start with them, as it’s their bread and butter. However, you can also ask the learners. There may be issues that they had and can be easily addressed with a new learning system.

Having everyone’s input will be of great help when there’s time to adopt the new LMS. People are generally reluctant to change, even if it’s for the better. An old system may come across as “the devil you know,” so it’s best for employees to feel that the change was their project as well.

Read more: 4 Steps for implementing a new LMS

Salespeople will close the deal

Good salespeople sell. And they do so by making a product seem amazingly beneficial to the buyer. As individuals, we may buy a pair of shoes because some prestigious orthopedic specialists developed the soles. Still, no ad or sales representative will give us the full extent of the research. That would be boring.

It works the same for LMSs: salespeople will dazzle the buyer with all the things their products can do and the customizations their development team can offer. However, once the seller’s job is done, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to make sure they truly get what they need.

Be very specific in the requirements sent to the developers

This part may be a bit tedious, but it’s tremendously important in the grand scheme of things. After you have all your requirements down, take a look at each of them and make sure it’s as specific as you can make it. Some issues may be tweaked after the product is ready, but some can’t, so it’s best to start with what's essential. If it can’t be done, you'll know right away.

For example, if you need an LMS to send different types of notifications, you’ll also have to specify the number of notifications and the number of users to reach per day, hour, or week. If you need to be able to upload various media files, specify all of them. There needs to be no room for interpretation regarding what you want the new LMS to do.

Closing thoughts

The right LMS is essential in deploying the training programs your organization needs. To make sure you get just that, it’s important to figure out all the requirements and then pass them on to the vendor in a way that cannot be interpreted.