You and your organization is looking for learning management system for your organization’s learning needs and not sure what to look for? Relax! You are not alone. Many organizations struggle with similar challenges and not sure how to begin and what to look for? Understanding and knowing exactly what you need would be of great help. Here are some of the considerations, which may help guide you with your selection.
How big is your organization and who is your target training audience? Are you looking for solution for your internal employee’s training needs or is it for training your customers and partners? Is it for internal compliance training or for selling training to your customers and partners?
If it is for employee training then most probably training would be free and it would be within your firewall. But if it is for your customers or partners then you would have to look for e-commerce solution, something you can make available outside firewall.
Another consideration with respect to the audience and their needs is how they are going to consume the training and what tools would they be using. Are the target users in the office and in-front of computers most of the time or are they mobile and travelling most of the time or are they usually in areas where they do not have access to internet at all. That would help you decide to pick up training solution which can support desktops, mobile devices and/or offline learning.
Organization’s training needs: Present and Future
It is also important to know what your current training requirements are today and how you foresee them evolving in future. You need to be well aware of what you need today in order to train your target audience effectively and get them up and running quickly. Also it’s important to understand what your organizations future direction is and how the training needs would grow in order to meet those needs. Learning system solution needs to meet current and future requirements.
When evaluating learning systems it’s important to know if the need you are trying to fulfill is departmental or organization wide. Sometimes a department may have specialized needs which are traditionally not met by corporate wide training system solutions and there is no need to implement such solution at corporate level. In that case it’s better to go for specific solution and/or vendor meeting those specialized departmental needs while making sure that the solution can be integrated with bigger corporate system solution. Smaller departmental needs can sometimes be met with open-source solutions as well, but if the solution is needed corporate wide and need to be integrated with other systems, it is usually better to go with commercial systems.
Usability and Learner experience is a key when either picking third party solution or building your own. Success of the learning environment is dependent on how easy and intuitive it is to use the solution and how easily accessible training it would make. Also if it takes less effort to manage the training development and delivery, it helps the organization by giving high return on investment.
Integration with other systems
Effective training solution is the one which can easily integrate and interact with other systems in the organization. Learning system needs to be able to get data from HR and other corporate systems to get relevant data in order to be able to support the target audience. Similarly it needs to be able to pass on the training consumption and commercial transactions to ERP and Business Analytics systems. This helps the entire order management cycle to function and feeding to BI systems help executive management to keep abreast on the health of the training organization and business.
How scalable the learning system is? If the training needs grow or the training audience changes or the training content technology changes would the learning system solution we are acquiring or building would be able to scale to that? It’s an important consideration and needs to be thought through.
Maintenance and support
Decisions regarding Learning system solution selection doesn’t end with acquisition and implementation of the solution. An important factor to consider is who is going to maintain and support it going forward after the sales process is over and solution is implemented? What kind of manpower is needed? Does the organization has resources to maintain and support the system or would need external help?
Also another important consideration is how much the solution is meeting the needs out of the box with some configuration changes or would it need custom work (and therefore associated time and cost) to tailor the exact need of the organization in terms of functionality and UI. More customization would mean more ongoing maintenance and support cost.
Internally hosted or SaaS/Cloud hosting
Does the organization have resources to host and maintain the solution or want to be in business of doing it? How well equipped is organization in terms of IT and infrastructure resources to be able to host and manage the systems? Should the organization be looking for in-house hosting, installation and support or go for SaaS solution? How cost-effective will be external or cloud hosting if the organization should consider it for long term management and to make the solution available globally? These are all important considerations for your return on investment.
Training Content: Sourcing and standards
Where are you going to get the content from? Does it need to be developed due to specific training needs if the organization has its own products or are you going to use third party content (e.g. for soft skills or standard technologies training such as Microsoft products, etc.)? Do you have internal resources to author and develop the training content or are you going to hire 3rd–party content vendor who specializes in it? May be you have training authors and editors, but only need technology help to develop the content?
Another important part when thinking about the content is the technological aspect. What training standards and specifications are needed to build your training? For example: based on your training needs and what you want your learners to experience are you going to use standards like SCORM or Common Cartridge? Or does your content has more of testing structure and you need to consider test Interoperability specification (QTI)?
Organization’s training budget and how much an organization can afford to spend on systems and solutions is another important factor in deciding what solution to implement and how to implement. It is also an important consideration, if an organization should do everything in single step or do a phased implementation where they can see their training investment in works.
Author: Praveen Khurana
Praveen Khurana is a learning technology specialist and specializes in learning management and human capital systems. He has 12+ years of experience in this industry and has consulted with and has implemented LMS and LCMS systems for many fortune 500 companies.