Follow an LMS implementation plan to give your training a strong start

Susan Hurrell
Woman smiling slightly with brown, chin-length hair and glasses.
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You’ve heard the saying, “Start strong, finish stronger?” 

This quote certainly proves true when it comes time to launch your newly purchased learning management system. LMS platforms are generally pretty robust and somewhat complex software. Like any new software tool, it can take a moment to get your arms around all the mandatory components, options, and other elements you need to set up.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. LMS administration is an ongoing priority. Your LMS implementation gives you the strongest start and sets you up for future success and ease of use. You will continuously evaluate your LMS's effectiveness and make improvements as needed over time. This process includes regularly updating training content, monitoring LMS usage, and analyzing training outcomes. Ongoing maintenance is ongoing LMS implementation, but we tend not to think of it that way. No LMS is “set it and forget it.” 

We’ll start with a brief introduction why you should consider an LMS implementation plan. Then, we’ll jump into a step-by-step guideline for LMS implementation, which includes the following steps:

Along with our guidelines for LMS implementation we’ll also cover:

Start strong with an LMS implementation plan

You’ve picked the LMS platform that is right for you. Now it's time to get your roll-out underway. Different vendors have differing levels of support. Some offer onboarding (free or paid), and others offer full paid LMS implementation services, possibly at various tiers of service and pricing. 

My advice is this: if you can afford to pay for LMS implementation assistance, do it. Over the years, I’ve seen well-intentioned clients say, “I know software, I can do it myself.” They fail to launch on time, or their rollout is not as effective as it could have or should have been and causes issues in the future. Your tomorrow self will be grateful for the additional investment you made today. But more on that further down the article. Let me sum it up this way. 

“Give yourself the best start you can afford.”

Having said that, when you start working on your implementation, you must have your plan well in hand. Here are some things you need to have a firm grasp on to get started. If you work with a vendor-led LMS implementation, they will likely have a project plan with milestones and checklists specific to their platform. This article may help you get set up for success by increasing your understanding of what is needed for a successful implementation. 

Five characters sitting around a rectangular table in a boardroom. Most characters have a device in front of them, such as a laptop or tablet. The room has large windows in the background, which show a cityscape. Above them are five icons — from left to right: a bullseye with an arrow, a lightbulb, a cog with two arrows circling it, a small screen with a sidebar, and a circle with smaller circles attached with lines.

Let’s start with the basic building blocks of an LMS implementation plan. 

  • STRATEGY: What are your specific training goals? What are the specific problems you want your LMS to solve? Is it employee engagement? More visible analytics and reporting? Long-term reduction in training costs? You need to keep the end goals firmly in mind, as it will help you when it comes to structuring your data for reporting purposes. 
  • SMART GOALS: How many learners will you enroll? How many courses will you upload? How many items will you have in your knowledge base or document library? What is your drop-dead date for launching your LMS? When will your administrator training be completed? There may be other factors you want to include, depending on your LMS and your company. 
  • STAKEHOLDERS: Consider your stakeholders from your boss to your newest employee. What is your employees’ level of comfort with new-to-them technology? Can they devote time to training as one of their priorities, or are they expected to “fit it in,” – which can lead to confusion about expectations? What results does your boss need to see, and how often do you report on your learning objectives? What are their expectations for the deployment timeline and improved measurable learning metrics? Important to set expectations appropriately. How comfortable is your training management team working in an LMS?
  • CHANGE MANAGEMENT: How will you manage the rollout? Do you know what you need? Are your courses built? Do you have your learners identified for each course or cohort? Did you do a training audit to identify gaps in your training materials and learner knowledge? Who is on your roll-out team? Do you need help from HR, IT, or other departments? 
  • COURSE BUILD AND DEPLOYMENT: Speaking of courses – if they are ready to upload, do you have a transition plan, with quality assurance testing once they are in your new LMS? If they are not yet built, what is the timeline for their completion? Are you planning to launch courses as they are ready, or do you want to launch an entire course catalog at once? Do you have a test group of learners to take your new courses to ensure they address your training needs? This is separate from technical QA testing, making sure that the courses “work as expected” in your LMS platform. 
  • INTEGRATIONS: Do you have a list of all the software integrations you need to enable? Think about things like data transfer with your HRIS. Are you using Single Sign-on functionality? Is there other software your LMS needs to talk to or work with? Prioritizing integrations may add to your timeline, but having them in place at the time of launch will likely contribute to a better learner experience. 

Feels a bit overwhelming, right? I hear you. 

So let’s talk about how to manage a solid LMS implementation. 

A step-by-step guideline for LMS implementation

The first step is establishing a clear LMS implementation plan. The implementation plan should outline the steps required to install, configure, and launch the LMS. It should also identify the roles and responsibilities of the team members involved in the implementation process.

A high-level implementation plan for a mid-level LMS platform should include the following steps:

  • Establish a project team consisting of a project manager, LMS administrator, content manager, and IT support personnel. Titles may be different based on your organization. 
  • Make that team fully aware of any needs analysis or training audit results to ensure you are all working towards the same end goals and training objectives.
  • Identify all the components of your planned LMS implementation, and assign responsibilities and dependencies accordingly. Create a timeline. Preschedule a regular meeting cadence for the duration of the implantation project to ensure that this project has a prioritized place on everyone’s calendar. Meetings are easier to cancel than book as weeks fill up. 

Now, let’s break that down a bit more. 

Who is on your LMS implementation project team?

You will want to involve all your stakeholders in the LMS implementation process. I assume that you are self-implementing and that your vendor is a resource, not an active participant, in your implementation process. Stakeholders include management, training staff, and LMS users. Everyone will have different roles and responsibilities in the implementation process. For example:

  • Project Manager: The project manager oversees the entire LMS implementation project. They ensure the project is completed on time, within budget, and meets the organization's requirements. If you have purchased implementation assistance from your vendor, then your Implementation Manager will be your project manager.
  • LMS Administrator: The administrator configures the LMS settings, creates user accounts, and uploads training content. They ensure that the LMS is set up correctly and functioning properly. Depending on your organization, you may want to appoint a Lead Admin if you have many people in the LMS administration role. 
  • IT Support Personnel: IT support personnel provide technical support throughout the LMS implementation process. They ensure that the LMS is integrated with the organization's IT infrastructure and address any technical issues.
  • Content Team: Your existing and ongoing content team is responsible for developing training content and delivering training to LMS users. They ensure the training content is relevant and effective in meeting the organization's training needs. You will continue to work with them after your implementation is complete as you continue to add courses to your LMS. 
  • LMS Users: LMS users are the employees who take your training through your LMS. They need to be trained on how to use the LMS and access the training content.
  • Management: Management is responsible for overseeing the LMS implementation project and ensuring that it meets the organization's strategic objectives. They provide direction and support to the project team and ensure that the LMS is aligned with the organization's overall training strategy.

Overall, involving all stakeholders in the LMS implementation process is critical to ensuring that the LMS meets the organization's training needs and is successfully implemented. Each stakeholder plays a critical role in the implementation process, and their involvement is essential to the project's success.

Correctly configuring your LMS

A critical implementation component is configuring your LMS settings, creating user accounts, and adding your learners. It is essential to ensure that the LMS is set up correctly to avoid problems later during your years of use. 

While these processes are common to almost all LMS platforms, the specifics are unique to each proprietary platform. Your vendor should be covering this with you during your onboarding process if you haven’t purchased assistance with implementation. In a section further down this article, I’ve detailed what a typical Neovation LMS implementation is like, as an example only – as it is platform specific. 

As you work through your account configuration, remember that this will become the basis of the data reports you need to generate. How you shape your user groups, cohorts, job titles, roles, etc., will be the data your LMS reporting functionality will use to deliver data to you. You don’t want to make it overly complex or too simple. Always keep your reporting goals in mind. 

At this point, you’ll also identify any integrations, historical data uploads, or customizations that are part of your LMS’s ongoing operations and get those components underway. I would also recommend testing on a tablet, laptop, and desktop computer. 

If you have a branded login portal or mobile app, you’ll want to ensure that both work seamlessly. Regarding mobile apps, you will want to do your testing on both an iOS and Android device, as they can behave differently. 

Creating and uploading your course content

Is your course content ready for upload into your LMS platform? At least one course, if not your entire course catalog? Then it's time to perform the upload and assign your course to a test group of users for QA purposes to ensure your course build behaves as expected. This is less about the content of the course than the course mechanics. You want these testers to find anything that doesn’t work as expected, that skips, stalls, glitches, has broken links, or just doesn’t launch properly. QA (quality assurance) allows you to make whatever fixes may be needed before you roll the course out to your entire cohort of assigned learners. 

Testing the configured LMS

Like you test your content build, you’ll also want to test the LMS itself once your data is in and you have uploaded a course. You’ll want to ensure that all aspects of the LMS are working properly to provide a great user experience for your admin team and learners. Again, this gives you a chance to make any fixes you need to make before the full roll-out. 

Your LMS vendor should be able to help with any problems you have related to functionality. The more robust the LMS platform and the more complex your configurations and integrations, the more opportunities for small cracks to appear. These are often easily fixed due to not fully understanding how the LMS works with your live data. 

Rolling your training out to your LMS users

It may sound silly, but you will need to train your learners on how to take their training using your new LMS. Many people have “software anxiety” – they fear doing something wrong and breaking something. You want your learners to approach their new training environment confidently and enthusiastically.

Make sure they know:

  • Where and how to log in, providing them with the link to your branded login portal page
  • If they are using their work or personal email or some other employee ID 
  • If their password is temporary and needs to be changed, and how to do that

Walk them through the user interface or user dashboard to show them where to find the courses they have been assigned. 

Determine their process to get help as needed – do you have a dedicated internal support person on your LMS administration team that handles end-user assistance promptly? Did you purchase extended support from your vendor that included end-user support? 

Now you can launch your new LMS

Let’s see if we’ve covered everything.

A 3x3 grid of boxes, each with an illustration of the same rocket, in varying stages of launch, a number, and a caption. Going left-to-right, starting at the first block: "5... LMS purchased"; The rocket is on the ground with a person walking up a set of stairs going into the rocket. Second block: "4... Implementation project team work completed"; The rocket is still on the ground but the stairs and person from the first block are gone and there is a checkmark in the rocket's main window. Third block: "3... Content created and uploaded"; The rocket has a bit of smoke coming from below and there are up-arrows in the sky. Fourth block: "2... LMS platform configured"; The ground is now hidden by the smoke and there cog icons floating around. Block five: "1... Content and platform tested on all devices"; The smoke now takes up about half of the block, with parts of the rocket obscured. Block 6: "Launch LMS!"; The rocket is now flying through the sky.

FIVE: LMS is purchased, and you/your admin team have taken whatever onboarding training your vendor offered.

FOUR: Your LMS implementation project team has completed their work.

THREE: Content has been created and uploaded. (And there will likely be more content in the future.) 

TWO: Your LMS platform has been configured to meet your internal business needs for deployment and reporting.

ONE: You have tested your content and configured platform on mobile, tablet, and desktop computers. 

Houston – we have lift-off! Time to launch your new LMS into the world. 

Congratulations! Now the ongoing maintenance and administration of your LMS begins.

You will be revisiting aspects of your implementation for the duration of your LMS use. This will involve refining your user groups as your business needs change, you will be uploading and removing users ad your team changes, and you will be building and launching new courses as your learning objectives change. 

A sample LMS implementation timeline

As you may know, Neovation offers an LMS product and paid implementation services for clients seeking assistance with their LMS launch. We typically find that an LMS implementation – managed or not – takes at least twelve weeks to complete. Some take longer and some less. We have launched client LMS projects in five days when the client is an experienced LMS user with simple configuration needs, ready-to-go content, and no integrations or other customizations. 

I offer this 12-week timeline overview as a general guide, and I recognize that “your mileage might vary,” as they say. I’ve adjusted the plan to reflect a self-implementation, not a vendor-managed process, so you can see yourself moving through the steps. 

This timeline is based on scheduling a weekly LMS implementation team meeting to share progress, solve problems and ensure the project is on track. Take notes or use a project management tool or task board to help keep track of the various components. Even a simple Gantt chart can help keep things visually organized for the entire team.

A typical 12-week LMS implementation project plan

Week 0

Post-sale vendor resource gathering

This depends on your vendor and their involvement in your onboarding and LMS implementation. They should be able to explain all the technical steps you need to take to successfully self-implement. Your vendor should have scheduled or delivered any onboarding assistance or vendor-based training content.

You should also have received any job aids or performance supports they have related to implementation and a list of clearly identified help resources and contacts should you need assistance.

Some platforms offer training for all “admin-level” employees, so you need to find out the details of that program, how to assign learners, including yourself, and what is and is not covered by that training.

This will allow you to plan for your first stakeholders' meeting and start putting your project plan outline together.

Week 1

Kick-off planning meeting

Bring your stakeholders together to discuss expectations, answer questions, and begin discussing timelines, constraints, and assumptions.

Each stakeholder should be prepared to discuss their project component or be aware of their future involvement if they have nothing to add to this week’s discussion. Everyone needs to know where the project is at.

You can start mapping out your timeline and determine the dependencies between the stakeholders.

For example, Fred can’t do “X” until Wilma does “Y,” then Barney can work on their component independently but has to integrate his work with Betty’s before the LMS can go live.

Your LMS implementation project clock starts now.

Week 2 & 3

Project planning / administrator certification

Everyone should have built their individual workflow/task list/project plan for their responsibilities and dependencies.

If your vendor offers LMS administrator training, your stakeholders should be fully engaged, as it will help explain how the LMS works. Set a firm deadline for completing any training your team is taking.

Compile all questions and determine how to get answers. You may need to speak with your vendor-side account manager or technical support team.

Week 4 & 5

Planning your configurations

Determine the best configurations for your LMS platform. Different platforms may use other names for these items. Still, generally speaking, you want to determine:

GROUPS: the logical way to group your learners into cohorts based on their shared training objectives. This could be by geography, tenure, job function, skill level, or other descriptive terms.

This is where clients tend to become either too granular or too general. Again, think about how you want to use the data you derive from this information and how you want to manage course assignments over the employee's life cycle.

ROLES: is where you can assign hierarchies within your learner groups for managers, supervisors, team leaders, etc.

PERMISSIONS: this determines who can see what level of information within the LMS. It may also control access to your knowledge base or ILT sessions. You may have administrators at different levels of permission.

Note: You may need to consult with your HR department to ensure that the right people have the correct level of access to other employees' personal information.

Define the LMS features you will use and those you will not need.

If you have course material ready, you can begin course imports. If you have courses in development, get an update from the leader of that group on the progress of the build.

Identify and plan for any software integrations, data imports, or other technical aspects of your implementation, along with any customizations needed for your account.

Week 6 & 7

Testing (pilot) & report building

Start reviewing and testing your configuration settings, making sure that any learner imports are mapped correctly and that roles, permissions, and groups are correct.

Start looking at your report customization to ensure the data is exported based on how you plan to use it to measure your established KPIs.

Tweak and modify, and identify problems. Have each stakeholder update the project team on their progress. Solve problems, and identify any gaps in your knowledge or questions your team may have.

Week 8

User configuration finalized

Focus on completing your user setup, including integrations, imports, or data entry. You should have actively enrolled all the learners that will be part of the system's initial rollout.

Week 9

Course configuration finalized

Ensure that at least one course is ready to be shared with one group of learners and your admin team. Establish firm timelines for outstanding courses to be completed or other users to be added.

Week 10


Perform a full QA review and establish tasks and timelines to fix any issues. Once that is complete, go live with your new training initiative.

Week 11


Time to review and answer questions that have come up after the launch and fine-tune any adjustments. Also, ensure any functionality targeted after the launch is identified and carried forward for completion after the implementation.

Confirm ongoing course builds, and update their timelines as needed.

Week 12

Closing/recap of the project

This final meeting will review any outstanding questions and items you have.

Determine the internal process for ongoing course additions and LMS administration.

Celebrate your successful LMS implementation. Pop that champagne. You’ve earned it.

Your LMS vendor – your best LMS implementation partner 

Here’s the thing. A well-done LMS implementation is a lot of work. Even if you’ve used other LMS platforms, you likely haven’t used “the new one” before – and while I do not doubt that you are more than competent to figure it all out eventually – why struggle? Why risk starting on the less optimal foot? Why not invest in the resources available to assist in implementing your new learning management system? 

While your LMS vendor may provide guidance and support throughout the implementation process, with ongoing technical support and training, they may be able to offer you much more if you engage them in a managed LMS implementation. 

  • Product Expertise: LMS vendors have in-depth knowledge and experience with their products. They can guide you in configuring the LMS to meet your organization's training needs. This can include setting up user accounts, creating training content, and configuring the LMS settings to align with the organization's training strategy.
  • Technical Support: They can help address any technical issues that arise during the configuration and launch of the LMS. This can include assisting with integrations, troubleshooting technical problems, and ensuring the LMS functions properly.
  • Training and Support: LMS vendors can provide training and support to the organization's LMS administrators, training staff, and LMS users. This can include training on using the LMS, creating and uploading training content, generating reports, and analyzing training outcomes. LMS vendors can also provide ongoing support to the organization after launching the LMS.
  • Best Practices: LMS vendors have experience working with various organizations and can share best practices for implementation. This can include guidance on effectively engaging LMS users, evaluating training outcomes, and ensuring that the LMS is aligned with the organization's training strategy.
  • Customization: LMS vendors can provide customization options to meet your organization's needs. This can include custom branding options, custom reporting features, and custom integrations with other systems.

Partnering with your LMS vendor can provide valuable support and guidance throughout the LMS implementation process if they offer that as an additional service.

Not all do. Your vendor’s expertise, technical support, training and support, best practices, and customization options can help ensure a successful LMS implementation that meets the organization's training needs. 

Why the investment in vendor-driven LMS implementation is worth it 

Investing in an implementation package from your LMS vendor can be worth the money for several reasons. They become your invested partner-in-training, ensuring a successful LMS launch. They know the problems to anticipate and have solutions based on expertise. 

The right vendor will be the best project manager you will ever have. They will help you stay on track, maintain your cadence of progress, and help avoid preventable delays. Be prepared to be “held to account,” – as they will challenge you on more than just maintaining your timeline. Your LMS implementation manager will deep-dive into your setup to ensure it will deliver the benefits and results you need in the long term, as they have implemented hundreds of systems every year, and that experience is invaluable. 

They know their platform best and have seen how many diverse companies have used it. Your vendor has expertise in setting up and configuring the LMS to meet the organization's specific needs, which can save time and resources. 

Purchasing an implementation package from the LMS vendor can save money in the short term, especially if they have pre-made resources for implementing their platform. Your vendor can provide preconfigured templates, workflows, and customizable training materials. This can save time and reduce friction while ensuring a successful LMS launch.

While there will still be demands on your team, they will be less than if you were to self-implement. The chances of misunderstandings, missed steps, mistakes being made, or forgotten are significantly reduced with an assisted implementation – because you are partnering with a learning professional who has likely done dozens, if not hundreds, of successful LMS implementations. 

In the long term, investing in an implementation package can save money by ensuring the LMS is set up correctly and functioning properly from the start. This can reduce the need for costly fixes or reconfigurations down the road. Your LMS vendor can provide ongoing support and training to the organization, which can help ensure that the LMS is used effectively and efficiently.

Investing in an implementation package can help organizations avoid common pitfalls during an LMS implementation. For example, the LMS vendor can help ensure that the LMS is integrated with the organization's IT infrastructure, data is migrated correctly, and user accounts are set up properly. This can prevent data loss, user frustration, and other issues that can be costly.

While purchasing an implementation package from an LMS vendor requires an upfront investment, it can save money in the short and long term by reducing the time and resources needed to implement the LMS, ensuring that it is set up correctly, and preventing common implementation pitfalls. Your vendor can provide ongoing support and training to ensure your LMS is used effectively and efficiently, maximizing the organization's return on investment. 

Here’s the bottom line: a vendor-supported LMS implementation generally increases a client’s long-term satisfaction with their LMS because everything is set up correctly at the beginning, and the benefits of that assistance enhance the entire client experience.

Finish stronger with a successful LMS implementation 

Successfully implementing an LMS is critical to the success of an organization's training program. By following the steps outlined above and using corporate training examples for a standard mid-level LMS product, I hope you have some resources to help you succeed in your LMS implementation. 

If you have any questions about LMS implementation, we’d love to hear from you and discuss examples of how we have helped our clients successfully launch their training programs. Please keep exploring our articles in the Learning Hub to learn more about all aspects of corporate online training and the learning systems available to deliver your organization’s training program. 

Woman smiling slightly with brown, chin-length hair and glasses.
Susan Hurrell

With 15+ years of online marketing and online learning experience, Susan loves to share insights about where these two ROI-building practices can intersect and complement each other for your business or organization.

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