Top 10 LMS Purchasing Mistakes
(and How to Avoid Them)
are not created equal. A lot of money has been wasted on LMSs
that don't meet a companyís needs or match its business objectives, or never go
live because they don't work within the userís environment. The task of
researching LMS products and companies is daunting, fraught with difficult decisions
and plagued with misinformation. Here's a list of some common mistakes to avoid
when purchasing an LMS.
1. Skirting senior management. If you donít make a persuasive
business case to senior management early, youíll have a hard time
getting their signatures on the purchase order. More important, be sure to present
your case in terms your company leaders can relate to. Learning isnít about
altruism; itís about creating smarter employees and a measurable competitive
advantage for companies.
2. Failing to spell out your needs. If you donít enumerate your needs
from the first conversations with your LMS vendor--and clarify the technical
environment and cultural issues that an LMS must deal with--you're likely to
end up with a product that doesnít do what you need it to.
3. Comparing apples and oranges. Be aware that several tools that
are marketed toward LMS buyers aren't LMSs. For instance,
some HR Information Systems have learning modules, but they donít launch and
track e-learning or manage training budgets, classrooms, instructors, grades,
skills, certifications, and so on. Knowledge management systems may have
features that support learning, but they're a whole other animal as well.
4. Excluding IT from the process. If an LMS doesn't fit into your technical
environment, youíre in trouble. IT generally has the power to quash any new
application anyway, so it's imperative to involve them at the outset. In
addition, the IT team will ask the right questions to help you make
cost-effective decisions. Consequently, donít let IT run the entire show.
5. Focusing more on price than value. Insisting on an excellent
cost/benefit ratio for your LMS investment is wise; trying to measure your best
options merely on purchase price is not. For example, many companies have
bought low-price LMSs for certain divisions only to
face another purchasing decision later on. Your company might need an
enterprise LMS that will consolidate all of its learning initiatives and scale to meet
the needs of large, widely dispersed learner communities.
6. Overlooking scalability. Scalability results primarily from open
multi-tier architecture; Your IT team knows what that is (see Mistake #4).
Basically, itís a system that consists of Web browsers pointing to Web servers
that present data that application servers summon from databases. Companies can
scale their LMSs as needed by adding computing power
at any tier rather than replacing the entire system. Presuming (and you
should!) that your companyís learner population will grow in the future, you need to ensure that your LMS can keep up with growth and change.
7. Ignoring LMS interoperability. Some LMSs
only work with their own embedded authoring tools or content that the LMS vendor offers. Are you willing to
bet that any single vendor will be able to forecast every type and mode of
content, or that every tool you may need to create your own content exists
within the LMS? Make sure the LMS you buy supports the latest versions of e-learning
standards such as SCORM and AICC.
8. Overlooking vendor track records. Donít bet your purchase decision on
a battle of press releases. Whatís more important than reviewing good PR is
finding a vendor with customers that look like your company, have actually
implemented an LMS, are happy with the results, and are willing to talk to you
9. Reinforcing old ways. Too many companies buy LMSs that automate the customerís dated business processes
rather than enabling new ones that significantly improve the way the company
does business. Look for an LMS that can accommodate the former while helping you migrate
quickly toward new processes that grow with your business needs.
10. Selecting customization instead of
Custom code is an enemy of flexibility, scalability, and efficiency. Your LMS should be easily configurable to
your strategic business processes and be able to change with them. Hard-coded,
one-off customizations require extensive programming from ground zero every
time business conditions change.
Published: March 2002