It is exciting and daunting to get approval from your boss to move forward with the search for an LMS. An LMS can vastly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a learning and development program, but it is important to choose a platform that will work best for your organization.
There are the basic question of pricing and features that you will, of course, be asking potential vendors. Be sure to read up on the many great articles and checklists that can help you decide what you are looking for regarding your more straightforward, base needs. However, there are some deeper questions that you should take the time to ask potential LMS vendors to help determine if they will be a good fit for a long term partnership with your business.
Here is a list of 5 critical questions you and your team should ask when talking to LMS vendors.
1. What is on the road map?
An LMS is a long-term, high-value piece of technology, and it will (hopefully) be used across your company for many years.
Because of this, it is important to look for a company that is not only growing, but growing in the same direction as your company.
Go into your search with short-term and long-term training goals and needs to ensure you both match up. You could find the perfect LMS provider for your business now, but you quickly outgrow them. On the other hand, there could be a fantastic LMS company that is lacking a few features you were hoping for, but is quickly growing in the same direction of your training needs.
Going into your search with a plan of what you want out of your LMS in the short term and the long term will help ensure a successful partnership.
2. How do we scale?
Along the same lines as our first point, the right LMS should be able to grow with you in a way that makes financial and strategic sense for your business.
Three areas you could grow in that is good to ask about are:
- Pricing models for more users
- Extended Enterprise for training external stakeholders (customers or contractors)
- eCommerce for charging for content
The four most frequent cost structures you will see from LMS providers are:
Pay per registered user and pay per active user
Pay per registered user: Paying for every customer that has registered and made an account in your LMS. You are not paying based on how many employees you have.
Pay per active user: This structure allows you to only pay for users who utilize your system during that billing cycle. Or, you have the option to pay a one-time fee per user when they first sign up on your system.
Pay a set monthly or annual license fee for the LMS. This includes a predetermined number of users and specified list of features.
Some LMS providers offer the option to buy their product for a flat fee, allowing you to have as many users as you would like.
Freemium: A basic, free version of their services. The users have to start paying when they utilize certain paid features or exceed a certain amount of users.
Open-Source: This option requires a lot of technical knowledge. Open source LMS providers publish their programming online for free and companies can take that programming and configure it the way they would like and use it.
Whichever pricing model an LMS provider uses, be sure to ask them what happens if you exceed the user limit so you can ensure it is possible for you to grow with the platform.
The extended enterprise LMS feature allows a company to create additional, white-labeled LMS sites that can be used to train external stakeholders like customers, distributors and contractors.
The learning management system’s branded look, content and access can be modified to create an separate-feeling, customized experience for learners.
An example of this would be:
Your company manufactures makeup. You bought your LMS to train internal sales representatives. Now you want to expand with an LMS specifically branded for your Nordstrom distributor partner training. You also want to create a separate platform that will be used to train your end users on how to best apply your product.
Extended enterprise would allow this company to create tailored, meaningful content to each external stakeholder with the same LMS.
Be sure to ask potential LMS partners if they have extended enterprise and what the cost is for this feature.
eCommerce is the transaction of products online. Your business’ training courses can be sold to employees, external partners and customers in order to generate revenue from the content you are creating.
If selling courses on your LMS is a possible future need or want for your company, be sure to ask if it is possible to enable eCommerce and how much that will cost.
To learn more about eCommerce and extended enterprise, download the free ebook, Grow Your Business Through External Training.
3. Are there any extra perks with the LMS?
Going through the vendor selection process, you might find that a lot of the providers are very similar in the features they provide. One way a provider can distinguish itself is with the extra tools that come with the LMS.
4. What is support like?
Great support is essential for the initial setup and ongoing use of your LMS.
Here are some questions to ask that will give you an understanding of what a provider’s LMS support will look like.
- Do they have a knowledge base?
- Do they have training videos?
- Is there a limit to support?
- What type of support do they provide? (email, phone, ect.)
- Do you get a Project Manager?
There is no specific right or wrong answer; however, you do want to make sure that it aligns with your expectations and needs.
5. What integrations does the LMS have?
Integrations are important for streamlining the elearning process and tracking the understanding of your training impacts.
Single Sign On (SSO)
SSO gives your audience the ability to use a different software for user authentication and login. Your user therefore does not have to create a whole new account with a unique username and password. They could use their same login from, for example, your HR software which simplifies the learner login process and reduces work for administrators.
xAPI allows for deeper tracking of your training campaign. xAPI goes further than the current standard, SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model), in its capabilities of interacting with elearning content outside of the LMS.
To learn more about xAPI and how Knowledge Anywhere is using it with the new xAPI bookmarklet called Knowledge Mark, watch this video.
Software and Apps You Already Use
When talking with potential vendors, it is important to make sure their product will be able to connect to other software and apps that you currently use or will be using in the future.
You can save your team a lot of time, headaches and money if you know which tools can connect with your LMS and how you should prepare for that.
It is difficult to search for a new, complex piece of software for a business. There are a lot of variables to consider and a lot of expectations to meet.
The questions listed above will allow you to go past the surface questions about features and pricing and try to make sure an LMS vendor will fully fit with your business needs and goals.