Have you ever booked a complex vacation? It sounded like an easy way to save money versus using a travel agent. But once you went on that vacation, you realized you didn’t take into account your cousin joining you during the second half, unaccounted for fees, and an inflexible plan leaving little room for sightseeing. Well searching for your first LMS is a lot like this experience. The second time, replacing an LMS should be an easier process.
Chances are you fell into an LMS because you knew your company needed one. But you may not have known what features you really needed nor a plan that was able to grow with your organization. If you’re thinking of replacing your LMS, where do you begin? How much time will it take? What will it cost? And now that you know you need a new one, how do you ensure you won’t have to go through this process again?
Reasons for an LMS switch
First of all, know that you are not alone. According to Brandon Hall Group’s most recent Learning Technology Trends Survey, 44 percent of companies with LMS’s are looking for a replacement within the next two years. Why this need for a new system? Eighty-seven percent said they needed a better user experience.
Other reasons to replace an LMS include:
- Scalability: Every company starts off small and the goal it to keep growing year after year. If you started out as a small company, you may have invested in an LMS to match. The issue is, a few years later, you’ve grown significantly and as a result, outgrown your LMS partner. Choose a company who can scale with you.
- Outdated product: Your current LMS may not be “keeping up with the times.” You want to look for a company who will continually evolve their product offerings. There are always industry advancements and you want to make sure you get the most for your money.
- Bad partnership: You are paying for an LMS that is supposed to work for you. For this reason, you need a company who understands your needs and can tailor an LMS to fit within your culture. You also need to be able to communicate new needs and technical questions to this vendor. This should not feel like a one-sided relationship.
- Cost: Budget is always going to be a factor in selecting an LMS. But you’ve heard the phrase, “you get what you pay for.” Going with the cheapest option is not always the best solution. While it may work in the beginning, you may find you are missing key features, access to help, and paying for upgrades you didn’t know you needed. This is especially true as you grow.
Avoid pitfalls the second time around – LMS questions to ask yourself
Once you’ve determined you need to switch LMS’s, you want to make the process as seamless as possible. You also don’t want to repeat your same decision-making process as the first go-around. So before you focus on the details, think big picture. Here are some questions to ask yourself before replacing your current LMS.
- What are your company goals? The first time around, you put together a list of LMS vendors based on your “current” needs. This time, focus three to five years out. What are your future company goals? If you see adding to staff or your learning needs shifting over time, choose an LMS vendor with this in mind.
- What do you want your employees to learn? This sounds like a simple one, but it depends on your company. If you have a large company, each department may need specialized learning tools. Or maybe you have a small team where the learning development goals are to all grow in the same direction. Either way, a winning LMS can translate into a more productive company. Make sure you take this into account this time.
- How did your course administrators do? The first go-around, selecting an LMS may have been based solely on immediate company learning needs. You may not have considered how well the person or persons rolling out this program were going to be at implementing it. This time, make sure you involve and train this team or individual on this new LMS. Even though they may not be providing LMS maintenance, you still want a point person whom your employees can see for questions. This team or person also needs to feel proficient in replacing this LMS and should be involved in the new LMS vendor decision making process.
- How is the new LMS vendor’s reputation? There are a sea of LMS providers to choose from. Since you don’t want to overhaul your LMS vendor again in the near future, select one based on their ability to always stay relevant and up on the latest technology. Plus, you want one that is responsive when you have questions both I.T. and platform related.
- Is SaaS a better option this time? Many times companies choose an LMS that they install themselves. This may be more cost-effective in the beginning, but is not the best option overall and can actually be more costly in the end. You really want to opt for a SaaS version this time. SaaS will get you a dedicated LMS maintenance team and a company to house it all for you. Plus, set up will be a lot faster. And after all, time is money.
- Do they offer a free trial or a demo? Gathering a short list of LMS vendors is great and so is hearing about all their features. But in the end, it’s really about how well your company works with their product. That’s why it’s vital to take this process for a test drive. Choose a company who offers either a free trial period or one with a demo so you can get a good idea if this is a good vendor for you.
44% of companies with LMS’s are looking for a replacement within the next two years.
LMS requirements checklist – key features
There are several LMS vendors and all offer different features. You may not know what you needed with the first vendor, and when you figured out what you needed, you realized they could not provide it. Here are a few key features worth considering during your LMS vendor search.
- Course building: Every LMS vendor varies when it comes to course creation. Some require you to build your own content and videos. To save time, look for a vendor who helps you create these learning tools. For example, Continu offers Learning Tracks which works with you to create courses, quizzes, and on-boarding flows in minutes.
- Analytics/Tracking: It’s important to know what your employees are learning, how their progress is going, and what courses they are completing. A nice added feature to consider is external tracking. It’s great to know how your employees are doing, but a nice bonus is how the cost of learning compares with your industry.
- On-the-go Learning: If you have employees who travel or work on the road, you want to replace your LMS with one that’s mobile-friendly. Look for features like a responsive design, downloadable apps, and a system that is flexible enough to work on devices your employees’ already own.
- Reports: Most LMS vendors will offer some sort of reporting capabilities and chances are your current system offers this. But when replacing your LMS, choose a system that has lots of options and offers real-time data. You want to give your managers the tools to be successful. This includes the ability to increase engagement, downloading/sharing reports, and knowing who still needs to complete which training activities.
- Integrations: Another important feature is integrations. The cost of LMS maintenance is high if you don’t plan ahead. This is why organizations find themselves replacing their current LMS. Look at what your company already uses and what you think you may implement in the future. Chances are you utilize outside programs like:
- Workforce management
- Time management
- Project management
If so, look for a LMS that easily integrates with all or most of these programs.
- Flexibility: Probably the most important feature is one that is easy to use for your employees and is scalable with your growth. You can plan for the future and have goals, but as you know, objectives can shift both short and long-term. Your replacement LMS should be customizable from branding the physical look of it to the way your learning tools are displayed to your employees. Plus, choosing a vendor who will work with your changes, will give you less of an LMS maintenance headache.
There are several features to compare and contrast when replacing your LMS. Focus on which features you feel are missing in your current system. Talk to your employees and managers too. Then armed with your LMS requirements checklist and your answers to your LMS questions, you can put together a short list of new vendors.
What will this LMS maintenance cost me?
Most companies start with a budget in mind for their LMS before doing their research. If this was your mistake the first time around, try the opposite with this LMS replacement. First, compile all your research on your LMS needs and then look for a vendor who can fulfill this. Obviously, no company has an unlimited budget, but this will show you a short-list of vendors and what their costs will be. Then you can compare and (adjust if need be) your LMS budget.
This logic may seem foreign, but LMS costs range so widely that it’s hard to compare apples to apples. With that said, there are usually three pricing options to choose from:
- Pay-Per-Learner: One fee per learner and usually a setup cost. Prices range from 50 cents to around $5 per user per month,
- Pay-Per-Use: This is a little less cut and dry, so make sure if the vendor charges this way, you clarify exactly what your cost of learning is. Basically, you are charged for the materials delivered on a course or for the number of employees who attend a course. Prices range from .50 to around $10.
- License Fee: This pricing model charges a one-time fee to access their software. There may also be a fee for software support. Pricing plans can be monthly, yearly or even a one-time lifetime subscription. Prices range from less than $500 to more than $20,000.
When you are ready to replace your LMS, again go back to your initial research and figure out how many employees will utilize this software and how often they will be accessing it. Then you can choose the most cost-effective pricing model that still gets you the features you are missing with your current system.
How long will this LMS replacement take?
The short answer is it can vary depending on your LMS vendor, how much data you need to migrate, and how complex your platform is. The good news is, you can cut down on the time it takes with a few simple steps:
- Choose a provider who will do it for you: You want a vendor who will make your LMS replacement seem effortless. This company should be willing to migrate your course and user data quickly. And ask each LMS vendor the time they think it will take to make this LMS switch.
- Have an in-house team in place: Make sure every employee knows their role in the migration process and you have a point person communicating constantly with the new LMS vendor. Communication will cut down on the amount of time.
- Data in the same format: It’s easier to navigate this LMS replacement if you use a format like CSV in your current data and migrate in the same format. This way you will cut down on lost or distorted data.
- Test: You’ll also want to have a small panel of employees test the new system once you have made the LMS switch. Uncovering bugs at this stage is easier and less time consuming than once the program is rolled out companywide.
With all this planning involved, even with the best LMS vendors out there, you will need to plan time to rebuild some functions. For example, some physical files may be lost in this migration or certain files missing data. Sitting down with your in-house team and preparing as much as possible for these possible setbacks ahead of your LMS switch will cut down on the time it takes.
Are you prepared for an LMS replacement?
There are a lot of factors involved in switching LMS vendors. In order to cut down on LMS maintenance down the line, you want to prepare as much as you can. A simple lms requirements checklist, knowing what to look for in your next LMS, and finding an LMS vendor who will scale with you, will be the keys to your success.
Are you in the market to replace your LMS? Or have you recently switched? What is your advice and feedback? Please comment below and let us know your thoughts.