You’ve spent months getting your learning management system (LMS) ready for its debut. You compared providers. Prioritized features. Planned courses and learning tracks. Recruited instructors.
You’ve invested months of time getting the system ready. Now you’re eager to show off what you’ve created.
But an LMS launch without proper planning makes for a poor user experience. And if anything that can kill a learning and development program, it’s poor user experience.
How do you make sure that your LMS launch goes smoothly? Make an LMS launch plan. With adequate planning, your users will have a tool that’s easy to use and works great.
Let’s take a look at how to build an action plan to implement your LMS. Every launch is different, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be prepared for a successful deployment.
Here are the seven things you need to do to create an LMS launch plan:
1. Build an LMS Launch Team
Who’s going to put your LMS implementation plan into action? A successful LMS launch requires more than a few HR reps. And understaffing the implementation is a sure way to run into problems.
Every company has its own organizational structure and needs that guide who should be on the launch team. Here are a few roles to consider:
- Team leader / LMS implementation head
- Implementation project manager
- Technical support lead
- Communications lead
- Learning specialist
In smaller organizations, some of these roles may overlap. The team leader might serve as project manager. The technical support lead might also be the communications lead. In a larger organization, there may be more granular roles.
Choosing the right team is easily overlooked, but it’s a crucial part of the LMS rollout plan. Find people who care about learning and development, and make sure they’re willing to be involved in the rest of the planning process.
2. Plan Your LMS Support Structure Ahead of Time
The early days of LMS implementation and onboarding see a lot of support requests. No matter how simple your LMS or how easy it is to use, there will be questions. And someone needs to be ready to answer those questions.
A project plan for successful LMS implementation details who will answer those questions as well as how. To be prepared, consider these issues:
- Who will provide technical and learning support?
- Do you have enough support staff to handle a large volume of requests?
- How will users get in touch with that team?
- Will you provide multiple contact options? Which?
- Is it clear to users how to get in touch with support? Can this information be found in multiple locations?
Your support needs will vary based on the size of your company and the complexity of your LMS. An international enterprise might have an entire team made up of support specialists and engineers that can answer any question via phone, email, or in person. A smaller company, on the other hand, might have a single support person that answers emails when they have time.
No matter your plan, make sure to set it out early and make sure you can execute it. Few things irritate learners more than technical issues getting in their way. This is crucial in providing a positive user experience.
Continue to update your support structure while creating the rest of your LMS rollout plan.
3. Identify Your Goals and Timeframe
Before you plan your LMS rollout, you should have some learning goals and objectives in mind. But now you need another set of goals: those related to the LMS itself.
For example, you might set a goal to have 45% of employees sign on to the system at least once in the first two months after implementation. Or to have 90% of support requests answered within 24 hours.
These goals should focus on creating a better experience for your users. How can you make sure they get the most out of the LMS? Pick reasonable and measurable goals that members of your implementation team can pursue.
Now that you know what you hope to accomplish with your LMS rollout, it’s time to think about how long it will take you to get there.
For example, if you set a goal for quickly responding to support requests, you need a robust support system. That takes time to set up, and if you’re going to meet that goal, you’ll need to prepare for it.
If your goal is related to adoption, completion of courses, or specific learning outcomes, figure out what’s needed from your implementation team to make that happen.
These goals and timeframes form the core of your LMS launch plan. All other elements should support this step.
4. Have a Base of Content Ready at Launch
When you launch your LMS, what will users be able to access? Will there be a single course or an entire library? You can launch an LMS with any amount of content, but knowing which content you’ll have ready at launch is a crucial part of your LMS rollout plan.
There are many factors that influence which content you’ll have ready. If you plan on catering to a single audience, for example, you may have a small amount of content available. If one of your goals is to cater to thousands of employees in different departments, launching with a lot of content will be a higher priority.
On the other hand, don’t delay your launch for months on end to develop more content. You’ll always be developing more trainings and courses that you can add later.
Finding the balance between “enough content to interest people” and “a realistic amount that we can get ready in the next couple months” is a challenge. There’s no rule for how much content is acceptable at the time of your LMS launch. You’ll have to work toward the answer with your implementation team.
Make sure that a content developer or instructor is involved in these conversations! If you haven’t designed course materials before, you might underestimate the amount of time and effort that goes into the process.
5. Use a Soft Launch to Find Problems
When your LMS is ready to rock, you’ll be tempted to throw a party and let everyone know. It’s an exciting time!
But there’s another step to take before going live with your LMS: the soft launch. This is a bit like a beta test. You give access to a small group of people so they can test it and let you know if it needs improvements.
This is where you’ll discover all sorts of small problems that you didn’t expect. Login issues, navigation problems, difficulty accessing materials on mobile devices, integrations not working, and so on.
These are the kinds of problems that deter people from using an LMS. So it’s in your best interest to deal with them as quickly as possible. That’s what a soft launch is for.
Give access to a small group—maybe a single department or a few members of HR (or whichever department handles your learning and development). Ask them to try out as many different functions as they can for a week or two and report back.
You’ll be amazed at how many little things escaped your notice when you were setting up the system. And your users will be appreciative when they don’t have to call support to get those things fixed in the first week.
6. Plan LMS Launch Communications
You’ve been working on this LMS for months. In your mind, it’s the biggest thing happening in your company. It’s easy to forget that few other people actually know about it. And even fewer are excited about it—because they don’t know how great it’s going to be.
So you have to tell them.
A month-long communication plan will help you recruit as many users as possible. You can get creative on this plan—will you have a launch party? An in-person event where you help employees sign up for the courses they’re interested in?
Of course, you’ll also want to stick with more traditional communications, too. Company-wide emails are a good place to start. Get a copywriter from your marketing team to help you craft a great LMS launch email to get people excited. Ask managers to talk to their direct reports about it. Make announcements at staff meetings.
You know your company best. Use the communication methods that will get through to employees and get them excited about this awesome new tool.
7. Plan Your LMS Trainings
No matter how easy it is to use your LMS, run trainings to help people get set up and started. Employees are busy, and they don’t always have time to read through a manual or watch a series of tutorial videos.
Schedule a few trainings where interested employees can drop in and learn the basics of the LMS. Make sure to cover how to
- sign on;
- register for a course;
- view course materials;
- take learning assessments; and
- anything else they might need to know.
Barriers that stand between employees and the LMS reduce adoption. Use these trainings to remove as many of those barriers as possible. Schedule these trainings before the LMS launch and sign up as many people as you can.
Consider running additional trainings for managers if they have access to reporting capabilities. And if anyone else will be using the LMS, make time to run a training for them, too. It’s a lot of work to put these trainings together—but it will save you lots of time in the long run.
Be Flexible With Your LMS Rollout Plan
As with any plan, the one you design for implementing your LMS will run into challenges. A member of the team will leave the company, or an executive will request a change to the content the day before launch.
These things happen. That’s why you have a plan: to guide you through the implementation process and ensure that your LMS launch goes as smoothly as possible. Stick to the plan where possible, and update it when you have to.
Want to find out more about rolling out an LMS? Check out our A–Z guide to successful LMS implementation!