LMS Tips: Top 10 LMS Purchasing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Top 10 LMS Purchasing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

†††† E-learning software


All LMSs 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 about it.

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 configurability. 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


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