By the title of this post, you might assume that I’m about to make a big revelation about what is the most important feature in an LMS. Knowing this feature might save you a lot of time, money, and trouble when getting a new LMS. The selection process would be easier. There would be no more sleepless nights going through features checklists. Life would be better.

Unfortunately that’s impossible. I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as a feature that is the most important in an LMS or that an LMS should have.

The truth is that the e-learning market is very divided and so are vendors and companies. You will never find two LMS vendors with the same exact features. Similarly, you will never find two companies that want the same features in an LMS.

That being said, an LMS should be considered an ecosystem made out of an array of features, that together form a complete learning and training solution.

When it comes to designing products, most vendors focus on features that are destined to certain markets. For example, there are vendors that sell gamified LMSs, others that concentrate on the user experience, or vendors that target features for the financial market. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. At the moment, there are more than 670 LMSs on the market and each of them is unique in its own way.

What does this mean for businesses?

It means that companies have a better shot now more than ever of finding the perfect LMS for them. But then we go back to the question: what is the most important feature in an LMS that all companies should look for? Well there isn’t one feature, there are multiple features.

The most important features in an LMS are the ones that help a company achieve their goals. I know you were expecting a list like great UI, content authoring, integration with Google apps, and so on. Sorry to disappoint. While these features can be important for some companies, they cannot be applied to all of them.

Each company has individual needs and those needs should be transferred into the LMS features. So first of all, it’s important as a company to know what you’re looking for in an LMS. How do you do this? By settings goals regarding what the LMS should do and what you want to achieve with it. Make sure to make them S.M.A.R.T. goals, which means goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

If you don’t have goals set before going on a hunt for an LMS, you might end up getting the wrong product. Eventually, this will only make you lose money, time, and decrease company profits and employee productivity. And then you have to look for another LMS because you didn’t pick right the first time.

Don’t freak out, setting goals is not a difficult task. You just have to be familiar with your company’s needs. Here are some questions that might help you figure this out:

  1. What do I want to achieve with the LMS? These are your big goals. Do you want to make more profit by selling courses? If you want to make a profit, how much do you want to earn? Do you want to gain clients trust by delivering personalized training programs? Do you want to increase employee productivity? How much do you want employee productivity to increase compared to the last quarter? How many training programs do you want to deliver in the next 6 months? Remember, it’s important to make everything measurable and attainable, so try not to shoot for the stars at first.
  2. What will the LMS be used for? Here you need to lay out the specific tasks, such as: creating courses, managing employee and clients data, e-commerce, internal company communication, and more.
  3. What are the must-have features in the LMS? I know, here we go again with the features, but this time it’s more complex. Based on your goals, you can figure out exactly what are your mandatory requirements. For example, if you want to increase your profit by selling courses, then the LMS definitely needs to have e-commerce functionality. If you want to create courses, then you need an LMS with a content authoring tool. After you establish the big features, you can go into the shades. You will never end up using all the features in an LMS, but now you have room to negotiate. An integration with Shopify might be nice, but will you use it at some point?
  4. Who will be using the LMS? What are the roles of each user? Who is responsible for the LMS administration? Who is in charge of creating content? How many total users will you have?

These questions should be enough to get you started. Keep in mind that your company’s needs always trump features in an LMS. Now just for the fun of it, let me know in the comments section below what you think is the most important feature in an LMS.

Author: Alina T

Alina is an e-learning enthusiast and the Marketing Director for CYPHER LEARNING, a company with two LMS products, NEO and MATRIX.