Before you Compare Learning Management System Vendors, Consider These 7 Questions

October 13, 2016


LMS vendors

How important is a learning management system (LMS) to the growth of your organization? Very. So evaluating the right learning management system vendors is crucial.

You are selecting an LMS to serve some of your most valuable assets — your employees, channel partners and customers. Without a solid elearning program, or one that fits your current and growing learning and development (L&D) demands, you risk eroding the value of those assets — for example by seeing your workforce fall short of upholding your brand values or falling behind in critical skills. Further, an inefficient LMS severely hampers your ability to capture and onboard new partners and customers.

Perhaps you’ve decided to start shopping for a new LMS to improve your L&D program. You’ve sketched a preliminary budget and rough timeline. Now, you’re about to meet with several LMS vendors.

 Before the meeting, you need to ask yourself a number of important questions. Knowing where you stand on each of these will make the selection process smoother and ensure you pick the right LMS for your organization.

1. Why do I need an LMS?

Your LMS will serve a specific purpose to help you attain an organizational goal. Therefore, prior to purchase, detail the objective you aim to accomplish. Be solution focused and precise about your needs by asking yourself:

  • What is the business challenge my organization faces, and how will an LMS solve it?
  • Is the goal to onboard and train my workforce with content easily accessed anytime, any place? Does my workforce need training on a specific product, such as Zendesk or SalesForce?
  • Am I looking to attract new leads or retain customers by widely distributing new product knowledge and/or industry-wide expertise?
  • Do I want to ensure my channel partners are well-versed in my policies and procedures through a training program?

Once you answer those questions, you can narrow down the capabilities to look for in an LMS.

2. Where in the user lifecycle will the LMS/training make the most impact?

Know your target audience and where they stand in the sales funnel or user lifecycle. Consider these questions:

  • Am I trying to build awareness of my product and services to boost the number of applicants? Do I want to use training as a vehicle to appeal to better quality leads and partners?
  • Is training a way to speed up the onboarding process? Will this shorten time-to-value for new employees, channel partners and customers?
  • Do I envision training as a retention tool whereby we continually train employees, customers and partners to boost customer lifetime value, reduce churn and improve satisfaction and NPS?

Your goal may be one of those or a combination of the three. Whatever the ultimate aim, the LMS must guide your audience at some point along their lifecycle.

3. What success metrics do I want to measure through the LMS?

After deciding who you want to train and for what purpose, pinpoint the metrics that will indicate you are reaching those targets.

Related reading: The Four Kinds of LMS Reports That Help You Monitor Business Results

  • More applicants: Will you see an increase in the number of applicants through the LMS?
  • Quicker onboarding: Will applicants move through the onboarding process quicker than prior to instituting the LMS?
  • Better retention: Will customers and partners utilize the training more frequently and, consequently, continue to stay with our platform and not churn?
  • Higher revenues: Will my channel partners, customers and employees book higher revenues after going through a training program?

True LMS success metrics calculate much more than how many learners have completed the LMS program or their scores. The most important LMS metric evaluates whether the program has impacted a defined business goal.

4. What features do I really need?

Every LMS offers a host of features. Some will be nice to have; others stand out as must haves. Choose your LMS on the must-have features for your organization’s specific purposes. Not sure what those might be? A few more questions to consider:

  • What are my absolute must-have features? These could be robust reporting and tracking resources, a single login, IP controlled access, social learning, and mobile access, to name just a few.
  • Can the LMS incorporate many media formats? Today’s LMS can handle a variety of learning media formats, from PDFs and videos to SCORM files and slide decks.
  • Do I want to sell my courses? Pick an LMS with an ecommerce function.
  • Does the LMS work with my other software programs? Organizations today utilize many SaaS products, such as marketing automation, onboarding and CRM software. Make sure the LMS integrates with those products so data can pass appropriately between them.
  • Is the LMS compliant with industry standards? Many standards now exist to ensure the LMS can work with course creation software. Those standards include SCORM, Tin Can or Experience API. Ask which one the LMS supports.

Again, the features you ultimately pick must be rooted in how they solve specific business challenges, such as training a great many customers in remote locations (mobile capability) or the ability to integrate with all software programs. Focus on those points and build your feature checklist from there.

5. What is the skill level of my LMS administrators?

Before choosing an LMS, assess the technical expertise of the internal staff overseeing the LMS. Factors to consider include:

  • How tech savvy are the LMS administrators?
  • If they’re not particularly savvy, is the LMS intuitive enough for them to easily upload content and run reports?
  • Does the LMS have a robust and easily accessible support center I can call on when needed?

Experts advise having at least one point-person within the organization dedicated and knowledgeable about the system.

If the LMS vendors offer a demonstration or free trial period, by all means take advantage of it. Many LMS vendors tout their product as user friendly, but a test drive ensures your staff members possess the capability to oversee the LMS.

6. How will I measure ROI?

With LMS tracking and reporting tools, organizations gain a window into how the L&D program dispensed through the LMS actually impacts the bottom line and, as a result, ROI.

  • More efficient employees, customers and partners. Highly trained partners, customers and partners simply do their jobs/assignments better and act as valuable brand ambassadors. Trained and competent partners also reduce turnover costs.
  • Better operations. Users access and complete the program quicker, leading to increased productivity at a faster pace.
  • Reduced support costs. When partners, employees and customers are trained well, they have less need to file support tickets, meaning fewer dollars spent on a customer support center.
  • Higher revenues. Training correlates to higher revenues as your users see higher earnings, which funnels to your bottom line.

Related reading: Focus on These 5 Areas to Show the ROI of Online Training

7. Can I afford it?

Of course, the most practical question to consider is cost. The good news is that cloud-based elearning software, when priced flexibly with your organizational needs, reduces the risk to the buyer.

Armed with the answers to the above questions, your organization will find the right LMS vendor for your needs.



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