Learning Managment System Selection



Seven Steps to Selecting a LMS

Selecting the appropriate Learning Management System (LMS) and/or Learning Content Management System (LCMS) for your organization starts with identifying your learning strategy and requirements. It is important to prioritize your requirements in order to find the right LMS that will meet your core requirements initially, and grow to meet your subsequent requirements in the future.

Partial RFP Project Plan from the  E-Learning Engineering LMS RFP Toolkit

There are over 70 major LMS providers and each one has a different business model. Selecting an LMS and/or LCMS provider for your enterprise-wide or department-wide training management, consider these areas of focus:

Functional Requirements

  • Skill Assessment
  • Content Access
  • Enrollment and Tracking
  • Learning Evaluation
  • Marketing Communications
  • Content Development

Business Relationship Requirements

  • Financial Stability
  • Account Management and Support
  • Pricing


Step 1: Determine Your Strategy

Corporate Learning Strategy document. View a sample Table of Contents for a Corporate Learning StrategyAs a learning organization you should already have a clear learning strategy in place. If not, now is the time to develop one, preferrably documented in a formal Corporate Learning Strategy document. In developing a strategy you should consider who your audience is, what their learning preferences are, where they are located, what resources are available to them to attend your learning programs, etc. You will also need to define your corporate goals and objectives, budget constraints, potential realized benefits, and return on investment.

Your learning strategy should reflect how you plan on delivering learning programs to the people who need it to accomplish your business goals.


Step 2: Document Your Requirements

You should define specific LMS Business Requirements that are needed in each of the above areas. One of the key factors in finding the right LMS for your organization is matching an LMS to your requirements, not the other way around. You should define exactly what you expect to accomplish with the LMS and how the LMS should be implemented. Each requirement should be prioritized in order to evaluate vendors based on your priorities.

LMS Business Requirements from the LMS RFP Toolkit. View a sample Table of Contents for a LMS Business Requirements documentConsider hosted vs. installed systems, for example. Hosted systems are maintained by the LMS provider who acts as an Application Service Provider (ASP). The LMS provider typically grants access to users of the LMS and provides support for the system should problems arise. Modifications or customizations beyond what the application supports in configuration screens may need to be done by the ASP. Installed solutions on the other hand are systems that are installed within your company's network. The support of the hardware and applications would most likely fall on your IT organization, but you would have more control over customizations.

You should also consider compatibility to standards such as ADL SCORM and AICC.


Step 3: Research LMS Companies

In order to make the most appropriate decision you will need to research profiles of each potential LMS and/or LCMS company. Information is readily available on their web sites, or you can use research and comparison reports such as those available from Brandon Hall and Bersin & Associates.

You should focus on key areas surrounding your core or highest priority requirements. LMS companies will usually work with a client to meet lower priority requirements through partnerships, customization, or future releases. From these reports you should produce a manageable list of companies you can send Request For Proposals (RFP) to.


Step 4: Prepare the Request For Proposal (RFP)

You should prepare your RFP based upon your requirements. It is not necessary to indicate priorities of requirements, nor list them in any specific order, in the RFP itself so that each requirement is responded to equally. You should try to be as specific as possible about each requirement so that the LMS company can respond directly to your requirement rather than provide a general response.

You should also include scenarios in your RFP. Describe very specific situations that you would envision the LMS/LCMS to accomodate. This will give you a clear indication as to how the LMS company can meet your needs.

You also will need to request a proposed project plan for implementation based upon your criteria. The project plan must include timelines relative between the start and the end of the project. This will provide you with an estimate as to how long they perceive implementation to take, responsibility ownership for each task, and the details of the tasks themselves.

Finally, provide a short response time for the RFP. This will give you an indication as to how hard a company will work for your business and can be a strong indicator as to how they will perform in a business relationship. It should not be the sole indicator however, there are other opportunities to establish this type of estimate.


Step 5: Review the Proposals

You should provide yourself and your review team a LMS Reviewer Notebook that contains each requirement a rating matrix for the business requirements and sufficient time to review the proposals and establish a rating system that all can agree upon. Each rating should also include comments for both positive and negative impressions. In this manner you are not just going by a quantitative measure of the ratings, but also subjective impressions of each criteria.

Read the article at Chief Learning Officer Magazine web site.Once again you will need to focus on the core or highest priority requirements. These are usually the requirements that have to be there in order to consider the system. If even one of the core requirements cannot be immediately met by the LMS, then you should eliminate it from the list. For this reason you should choose core requirements that truly represent imperative functionality.

The result of your review should lead you to a short list.


Step 6: Schedule Meetings and Demos

After your proposal review is complete, you will need to schedule meetings and demos so that the vendors can answer specific questions and demonstrate their claims on the proposal. They should also be required to demonstrate the scenarios you have provided. This is key in determining how compatible or flexible their environment is. It is also important to make clear what part of the functionality is included out-of-box with minor configuration changes and what part required customization beyond the quoted price.

If any of your review team needs to attend virtually, it would be good opportunity to utilize a vendor's distance learning solution. This will provide you the capability to experience part of the environment as your learning audience would.

Be sure to question any part of the functionality or implementation that you do not understand. It is important that your account representative can explain functionality clearly and without ambiguity. Additionally, you will want to test the flexibility of the project plan. You should not be required to adhere to processes that conflict with your internal process.


Step 7: Make Your Selection

Finally, you can make your selection after carefully reviewing and internally discussing the impressions made by each vendor during each meeting. This is a serious and long-term investment so it is important to have complete co-operation among the review team.

Copyright ©2006 E-Learning Engineering
Last modified: July 16, 2006
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