Purchasing a new LMS is a serious undertaking for any organization. There are several steps to be checked, quite a few things to be investigated, numerous stakeholders to be interviewed and not a small amount of negotiation with the vendors. Yet once that long and somewhat tedious process is done and L&D specialists get to see their brand new and shiny LMS in action it is all worthwhile.
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Then, just as it often happens to all of us when we finally purchase the smartphone of our dreams, soon enough there is another one available and it seems better, nicer and definitely more ‘must-have’ than the one in our pockets. If in the case of mobile devices there is always the option of selling or trading one in to get the next one, when it comes to LMSs things stand rather differently.
When it is time to change your business LMS
With what is usually a rather substantial investment of monetary and human resources, such a system is not as easily replaced. It should first prove a decent ROI and do its job for a reasonable period of time.
If you are wondering how you’ll know when it’s the case to consider getting a new one, here are some answers.
When users are starting to complain
Every new LMS comes with the challenge of every stakeholder learning the ropes. It’s probably the most difficult for the L&D team who have to deal and work with on a daily basis but users also have to get accustomed to how it functions. It’s advisable to have a short tutorial available for anyone interested in learning about it before learning from it.
The interface should be rather user-friendly and intuitive. It is best if every user category has a set number of functions available so users don’t get lost in tabs and buttons that do not concern them at all. That being said, user preferences and expectations tend to change rather rapidly and any LMS intended at boosting organizational learning and development needs to keep up with that.
If user feedback is that the system seems old and they don’t really care for how it looks and how it works, it is probably time to either majorly upgrade (if possible) or go for a new one altogether. If it feels obsolete to those who are enrolled in the modules, the experience will not be nearly what it was designed to be, regardless of the quality of the actual learning material.
When compatibility becomes an issue
Everybody in the corporate world has a smartphone. And a tablet, and a laptop, and many even a smart watch. Devices have known an unprecedented evolution and young professionals are the targeted audience for a lot of them.
Learning has already transformed in order to accommodate modern demands (it has moved from the classroom into virtual space and has shrunk from extensive courses to bite-size micro learning units) and it constantly needs to be able to be available to the learner on his preferred device. Keeping in mind that this preference may be subject to change even from one day to another, any corporate LMS has to be versatile enough to be accessible pretty much wherever there is an internet connection and on any piece of equipment that can connect to it.
If there is the issue of confidentiality with some of the material (company policies for example), accessibility to those particular modules can be restricted to company-owned workstations or an intranet connection. Everything else, however, should be at the users’ fingertips all the time. Learning occurs best when the learner initiates and makes time for it.
When it gets too pricey
Ideally, a negotiation of all costs concerning the running and maintenance of the LMS has been done prior to the purchase. Even with systems that seem to be utterly free of charge once they are bought by the company, the situation may not really be so. IT engineers have to constantly keep it running, make adjustments and sometimes even fix errors. Since they are certainly not part of a non-profit organization, somebody is paying for their time and their expertise.
Read more: Hidden costs of an LMS: What to expect
Furthermore, learning materials such as courses, links, podcasts, video presentations and many more have to constantly be added. Today all these are rather easy to come by and have a rather low price but if the LMS is not set in a way that can easily incorporate them it can actually end up costing more – since time and human resources will have to be put into converting everything to accommodate the LMS.
It really should be the other way around so if in the end ‘free’ actually means “as long as you only keep old material, don’t do upgrades and use it only for what it was designed years back”, a new one is highly needed.
Bottom line is that any LMS has a limited life span. It’s important to make an evaluation before discarding it and buying a new one but it’s also highly advisable not to keep an old LMS that drives everybody nuts and mostly fails in doing what it is supposed to do simply because a large sum of money was initially paid for it.
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Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.