20 years or so ago you had loud arguments with Microsoft’s Clippy, and (probably) louder arguments with a coworker who forgot to save some changes to a document and made you lose two hours because you didn’t work on the latest version of the said document.

10 years or so ago you were the most popular guy in the office if you afforded a BlackBerry 8700.

Now, you use OneDrive, which instantly saves any change you or your other 100 coworkers make in a company document, and maybe even use your latest model of iPhone to access it.

If you’re in the training industry, you know that any platform for business learning follows the same pattern: 20 years or so ago, it was all about functionality; 10 years or so ago, it was also about the training courses; now, it simply can’t ignore the learners’ needs any more.

This means change. Sooner or later all business that use a learning management system to train their employees and to support their professional development will need to migrate to a new and improved system. Always new, and always better. But change can be difficult.

Despite all the advantages a top-notch cloud-based LMS brings along, migrating from a legacy LMS to a new one will always be a challenge. LMS migration is a complex process. And as with all complex processes — and keeping in mind Murphy’s laws — a million of things can go wrong during it.

So why are LMS migration and easy in the same place, in the title of this post? Well, the steps are easy. The process of LMS migration is as easy as you make it; it all depends on your company, the legacy LMS, the new LMS, and all the other variables that make your situation unique.

Without further ado, here are the five steps you could follow during an LMS migration:

1. Set the LMS migration team

This is never a one-man job. Never.

You need a team leader, someone who’ll know exactly at what stage the process is, at any time. You need a project manager, someone who’ll know all the stages of the process. You need a course manager, who knows all the available course data like the back of his pockets. You need a training administrator, who knows what the new system must do. You need at least an IT architect, to deal with all those tables of data as flawlessly as possible. Depending on the size of your company and the specifics of both LMSs, you can have a core team of between three and even ten or twelve people.

You could also use the help of an e-learning tech specialist, and one (or more) subject matter expert(s). These guys can bring valuable insights which can save the core team lots of headaches during the whole process.

Also, you’ll need a handful of end-users — instructors and learners alike — to test the new platform before its release. After all, they are the ones for whom you decided it was the right time for a change.

2. Plan. Plan. Plan.

Seriously, plan. Everything. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D. You don’t even have to stop at Plan E.

If it’s the first time you’re involved in an LMS migration process, you need all the help you can get. The e-learning specialist and the subject matter expert can make a huge positive difference at this stage.

You need to plan your budget first. At least the basics. Everyone should be clear on the resources they have, and how much time they have. As a rule of thumb, you can set the release data, and work your way back to the present day. Once you’ll know more on each of the stages of the LMS migration, you can adjust the budget in detail.

Then, you need to plan the entire process.

Start by identifying the big chapters of your journey:

  • What kinds of data you have, and how you’ll sort it;
  • What other system integrations you need (because you’ll need some);
  • How the actual migration of the data will occur.

After you have this sketch, you need to dig into it as deep as possible. Needless to say, team communication and collaboration are crucial at this point. The LMS migration team needs to find answers to at least the following questions, and plan accordingly:

  • What type of user profiles do you now have?
  • What are are the levels of access for each user profile?
  • Who can create a new user — any employee, or only an admin?
  • What’s the procedure for creating a new user?
  • Does each user have a clear history of attended and finished courses?
  • Does each user have a clear status on all courses they are enrolled in?
  • Does the course catalog have a clear structure?
  • Does the course catalog have complete metadata?
  • What types of notifications are now available?
  • What type of reports does the legacy LMS provide now?
  • Are these reports sufficient for your needs?
  • Will the new LMS address only employees and internal stakeholders, or also vendors, customers, and other external ones?
  • Do you need to integrate the new LMS with your already-existent HR or CRM systems?
  • Will you need single sign-on?
  • Do you plan to sell any training courses to external stakeholders? If you do, you must consider an e-commerce integration as well.
  • How will the standard-based (SCORM, LTI, QTI) course data migrate to the new system?
  • Do you really need to migrate ALL the data? (Remember, the higher the amount of data to be migrated, the higher the chances that something will go wrong.)
  • What data can you delete?
  • Can you archive older data and keep it in a separate place?
  • Will the actual data migration happen overnight, during a weekend, or gradually, over a longer period of time, with both systems running simultaneously at some point?

Only 20 questions so far. Well, the next step is to find and answer at least another 40 related questions. Obviously, the LMS migration team have no easy job on their hands.

This planning phase is probably the most elaborate and will take its fare share of time. Don’t rush it. I know it can be hard, but try to think like Einstein:

If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes understanding the problem and only five minutes resolving it.

3. Do what you have planned

If your plan was great, this part can be surprisingly easy. It’s the five minutes after the other painstaking 55.

Inevitably, new problems and unplanned issues will arise at this phase as well. However, they come in significantly lower numbers after a thorough planning phase. And if the LMS migration team did a great job at planning, certainly they’ll find ways to tackle everything else.

4. Test the outcome

As I mentioned before, after all the data migration has occurred, you need a handful of end-users to test the outcome. This step is necessary, as most bugs need to be found and fixed before the official release.

5. Let the world know about your new LMS

This is the day you high-five with everyone in the LMS migration team, (be happy you won’t have to see some of them for a while now), and see the users with a “not bad” expression on their faces. If you have a mic, go ahead and drop it. Enjoy this time while it lasts. The next day will come with a your next challenge.

And those were the five easy steps to follow for a successful LMS migration.

Have something to add to this? Maybe another step, maybe another (or a dozen) question(s) for the planning phase? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Author: Livia M

Livia is the main online voice of MATRIX by CYPHER LEARNING. She writes about workplace learning and L&D strategies for businesses, as well as other training and e-learning related subjects.