It doesn’t matter what you are buying; when you get overwhelmed with options and a lack of information, sometimes the easiest decision is not to decide. How can you tell what’s good or bad, what will work for you or not, what is worth the price, or is a good deal, or worse, a bad choice? Online review sites may be helpful, but there are so many of THOSE as well that you can double down on the overwhelm and feel even more paralyzed. The bigger the price tag, the worse the analysis paralysis.
This applies to our professional purchases as much or more than it does to our personal ones. It’s much harder to get out of a contract for services than it is to return an ill-fitting shirt to an online retailer. So we all want to know what to look for – and how to evaluate what’s good.
So, what do you look for in a good learning management system (LMS)? There are hundreds of learning management and online training platforms on the market. Some names are more familiar than others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better – they may just have larger marketing budgets. Some may be scrappy new upstarts – can you rely on them to deliver what you need and be around for the long haul?
When you start your research into buying a new LMS, you will likely be researching which LMS service you want to subscribe to versus buying a piece of software that comes in a shrink-wrapped box, like a video game. Most LMS platforms are SAAS – Software as a Service – hosted online, where you gain access to your unique corporate portal account via secure logins. Nothing is installed, downloaded, or accessed from your own computer or network. It’s a tried-and-true software model – many of the platforms and services you use online are delivered this way.
So, you go online, start doing online searches, and find out there are hundreds – HUNDREDS! – of eLearning service providers. How do you know who to choose?
Here’s the answer.
You choose the one that meets your specific needs the best – that can help you deliver your corporate training strategy in a way that engages learners and changes learner behavior through measurable knowledge retention.
It’s not so much about finding a “good” LMS as it is about finding the “right” LMS for you. Before choosing a new LMS, and a new LMS vendor, be sure to find out the answers to these questions – before you buy. The list is a good starting place to begin determining what you need to look for as you begin your investigation into the right LMS for you. Use this list to start planning your online training strategy and software selection – the two go hand in hand. You should also be able to answer these questions if the LMS vendor flips them around to find out what you need.
Keep your LMS search focused on your actual needs, your company’s training strategy and desired training outcomes, your internal workflows, your overall training environment, and any changes you want to make. Your goal is to have your learners and training team succeed. Have you thought about:
Ask your shortlist of LMS vendors about these features.
Your company’s needs are unique, as are the needs of your learners. Are the needs of your workforce being met? Will your learners be able to easily and enjoyably:
Will your LMS provide learners with customized home pages designed to suit your learners in your environment following your workflows? Ask LMS vendors how they customize their LMS for your learners — and hopefully, they'll go far beyond just sticking your logo in the corner and adding your corporate colors.
Better yet – ask them why your learners will love their platform, and then ask them to show you.
So many questions, like:
Your employees share their personal data with you based on the implicit understanding that their personal information is safe. Every software vendor you consider – LMS or otherwise, needs to be able to talk about and document their data security protocols. At the same time, your management team needs to be able to access and assess learner data easily to track learner progress. Data security should be intelligent, not onerous, invisible, and not a barrier to being used to measure results.
You’ll want to ask about:
Intelligent training automation can reduce the burden of training administration on your Learning and Development team. Can your LMS:
Companies grow, downsize, merge and acquire or get acquired. You may have seasonal surges in employee counts, depending on your industry. Here are some considerations that may affect pricing:
Your LMS exists to show you that learners are making progress. You may also need to show regulators or auditors that your learners have completed the compliance training required to maintain their certification standing. You’ll want to ask about:
Good support is crucial to your success – you are buying a complicated piece of software, and you will have people with various levels of comfort and experience using it. The need for support is a given. Make sure to ask these questions:
Ask why not if the vendor doesn’t deliver training to their own team using their platform. That could be a huge red flag!
Your LMS may need to “talk” to other software that you use – and have other best practices and ease of use features to improve the user experience – for admins and learners alike. Does the platform:
Ask vendors about integrations with all the elements of your training and talent management ecosystem.
This is the beginning of a long-term relationship. In the same way that your company’s needs will shift over time, so will the standards of eLearning technology. Future-proof yourself against potential issues by asking:
We have many supporting articles to support you in your search for the right LMS – everything from preparing for your first conversation with a sales representative to assessing a product demo and many more. View the other articles in our online training platforms guide, which is an ever-expanding resource covering the options in the market that are available to you. Our learning hub can also help you understand the other parts of your eLearning ecosystem, such as eLearning authoring tools, microlearning, gamification, learning analytics suites, or how to create custom eLearning courses.
Buying an LMS is a big decision with a hefty annual price tag and will affect every level of your company. Take your time making the decision, and dig in as deeply as you need to – with your internal team to ensure you understand your needs (“Helloooo, Training Audit”) and with your vendor candidates as you interview them. Having a set of empirical criteria and a method to evaluate and measure how many boxes each prospective provider checks off will guide you to the right decision. Time to leave analysis paralysis behind and make a strong, informed decision! Well done!