Given the fact there are more than 600 learning management systems on the market today, finding the best fit for your company training needs and budget feels like finding a needle in a haystack. There are dozens of factors to take into account when researching the options, and reaching the final decision can take several months or even a year. Even when you think you’ve done the right choice, you might end up with something, that doesn’t quite bring the expected ROI.
To ensure you pick the eLearning platform that will make your organization successful and enjoy a good night sleep, once you have defined your internal needs (by answering questions such as: What are our eLearning objectives? What type of trainings do we plan to use the LMS for? Who are our learners and what are their needs? What are the talents of our eLearning/Training team? etc.), focus your attention on the following LMS attributes and make sure your short-listed vendors support them:
1. Easy deployment – The ability to quickly start using the learning system is a critical factor for overall success. It doesn’t depend only on the LMS vendor, however: your organization’s internal processes and the overall complexity of the integration with existing systems play a role too. Be open with your selected vendor and share your internal deadlines. Together you can create an action plan and set milestones to ensure the implementation timeframe is met. Be sure to ask for a demo and a trial which will give you a real feel for the system and its capabilities.
2. Easy to use UI – Simplicity should not be underestimated. There should be no need for an initial training on how to use the new learning system. Double-check if the system requires involvement from your own technical staff. A heavy and difficult to use system will jeopardize your deadlines and might generate unexpected cost, as well as complaints and resistance from internal stakeholders.
3. Quick and painless configuration and customizability – the eLearning system doesn’t necessarily need to be feature-rich and a corporate one to be extensible and easy to customize. On the contrary, the simpler the solution, the easier to configure and extend it. Make a list of the functionalities your new LMS should offer and ask the vendor to confirm which features are included in the bundled offer, and what can be achieved with some extra configuration work.
4. Fancy extras that you don’t need – in short, don’t pay for something you know you will not use; ask yourself which functionalities are most important to your organization. Not only is the rest a waste of money, but an overly-complicated system would respectively require more training for the users. Hence, the implementation timeframe will have to be extended and the user experience - compromised.
5. Native user experience (UX) – Intuitive user experience goes well beyond giving customers what they say they need. Your LMS must overdeliver on user expectations when it comes to usability and navigation. Along with ease of use and intuitiveness, it should also provide accessibility features, as well as enjoyable experience when interacting with the system. To get internal feedback and buy-in, include as many internal stakeholders as possible into the initial training platform evaluation. Don’t rely on your perception only as it might be biased and not reflecting real users’ opinion.
6. Integration capabilities - the ability to leverage the platform APIs or ready-made plugins to integrate the eLearning system with third-party applications and further customize the learning platform to match your specific organization needs. Plus, using SSO will give your trainees the freedom to access the platform with the same credentials they use for other platforms and apps – it’s a proven way to improve onboarding and trainee stickiness with the platform.
7. Customer support - no matter how easy it is to administer the platform, you are likely to have questions and need help in the course of action. Be smart and choose a partner rather than yet another software service supplier. Your vendor should be aware how critical the eLearning platform is to the overall success of your organization. A quick tip: check if the offered support extends to cover content too and ask for a SLA. That might protect your budget from unexpected costs later on.
8. Security – Your vendor’s approach to data privacy and protection against data loss will determine whether you can trust them to handle and store your data and protect your business reputation. You have to be extra vigilant if you’ve decided to adopt a SaaS plan as it’s all in the hands of your LMS supplier. Before closing the deal, be sure to check the vendor compliance with GDPR - a comprehensive regulation with a very broad territorial scope that will directly apply in all EU member states, starting May 25, 2018. Non-compliance will lead to severe consequences (fines may amount from 4% of annual turnover up to 20M EUR).
9. Product roadmap – Business dynamics and environment change daily, and the eLearning industry should be able to evolve rapidly around the new business requirements too. A readily available product roadmap by the LMS vendor would mean the vendor is forward-thinking and has a vision how to further enhance and develop the platform. Be sure to check, however, if there is an additional cost associated with these future upgrades. Ask yourself (and your internal technical staff) what could be the downtime during upgrades and try to evaluate its business impact.
10. Pricing – “Active users”, “Registered users” or “Pay-per-real-use” – the options are more than enough to confuse you but at the same time they can be clearly distinguished. Check twice for hidden costs around implementation & set up fees, customizations, testing and bug fixing, data migration, admin training, hosting, upgrades and support. All these might cost you more than the initial down payment for the platform!
11. Reporting – Agree with your internal stakeholders what you all expect out of the system in terms of processes such as reporting, key metrics, live feeds, etc. Match your organization’s objectives with the platform’s built-in reports and ask for customized ones if needed. Clear and easy to access reporting is a powerful tool to identify trainees’ knowledge gaps, track employee participation rates and progress, performance and assessment results.
12. Customer references – ask your vendor for industry-specific customer references and success stories. These are good to check and read through as they will provide you with additional insights into your vendor capabilities to deliver a good solution for your specific training needs.
Ready to start evaluating eLearning platforms? Why don’t you check out how Melon LMS would score against this requirement set? Sign up for a free demo to get started.