Transcript of "Buyer's Guide: Selecting an LMS for SMB"
Learning Management System for Small and Mid-Size OrganizationsFebruary 2013Chris Osborn, VP of Marketing, BizLibraryJessica Batz, Marketing Specialist, BizLibrary
Business Need STATE OF THE INDUSTRYSmall and mid-size companies have employee training needsthat are every bit as complex and mission critical as large ASTD published an annual State of theorganizations. This makes the delivery of high quality, value- Industry report. This report contains somebased and technology driven learning solutions to this market great information about employee trainingsegment important to their success. The question these and development trends.organizations should ask is how can they acquire a Fortune 500employee training solution on a small company budget? Smallerorganizations can acquire outstanding solutions with creativity,planning and a diligent search for the right partner. This buyer’sguide will offer a roadmap to make finding the right partner alittle bit easier.So, you need a Learning Management System. Or – you’d like toreplace your current Learning Management System (LMS). Howdo you go about actually buying one?The fact of the matter is that while learning technology is nolonger “new”, there are still thousands of smaller organizationsthat for a variety of reasons do not currently use a learningmanagement system. Additionally, there are many organizationsthat make the decision to buy only to become dissatisfied with $1,182the system they selected. The purpose of this guide is to helpdemystify the buying process, clarify some of the confusingterms and acronyms commonly used, and offer some commonsense suggestions for making this important investmentdecision. The average direct expenditure per employee per yearThe most basic and fundamental question to ask yourself is:what is the business need we are trying to meet by acquiring an This is a 4% drop from 2010LMS? If you cannot answer this foundational question, you could ($1,228)end up going down the wrong path towards a solution that willnever satisfy your organization. In fact, there is a lot of dataderived from extensive market research over the last severalyears proving that most organizations are dissatisfied with theircurrent LMS solution and/or vendor. Don’t let your organization employees averagedbecome one of these statistics.More than 80% of our new clients are new to online trainingwhen they implement our solutions, so we’ve learned quite a bitabout what business needs led them to consider and then buyan online employee training program that includes an LMS. About 1 hour less than 2010What follows are summaries of some of the most commonbusiness drivers that led to the decision to purchase an onlinetraining solution and learning management system.
Business Need STATE OF THE INDUSTRYEmployee training in many organizations is delivered throughinstructor or facilitator in a classroom setting. And this remainstrue no matter the size of the organization. According to theAmerican Society of Training and Development’s (ASTD) annualState of the Industry Reports from both 2011 and 2012,instructor-led training (“ILT”) remains the backbone of mostemployee training programs. However, instructor-led training(“ILT”) only programs are more common in smallerorganizations, and in today’s business environment, ILT-only Training delivery and methodsprograms create significant employee training challenges. An 2010 compared to 2011automated solution can address many of these commontraining challenges. 59% 59% 37% Instructor-led classroom 33% 26% 25% Technology-based 25% 20% All online Self-paced 2010 2011 A small company with fewer than 500 employees has an average cost per learning $126 hour used of $126, compared to $82 for a $82 midsize organization, and $51 $51 for a large organization with more than 10,000 employees.* *ASTD State of the Industry Report, 2012
Business Need TRAINING CHALLENGES Scattered workforce Lack of resourcesHaving employees working in multiple locations was Many smaller organizations have HR teams of limitedonce an issue faced only by larger organizations, size with competing demands and priorities,but that is not the case anymore. Technology including payroll, employee relations, benefitsadvances in communications and online connectivity administration, HR administration, and . . . Well – youafford organizations of every size the opportunity to name it! And then there comes employee trainingwork with employees located in various places. and development. When there are only a few, orThere is less and less reliance upon everyone being sometimes even one, HR Professionals trying tolocated in the same physical space. deliver HR support to an organization, employee training is sometimes (usually) not a major priority orThese same opportunities create challenges for area of focus.employee training and development efforts. It’sdifficult (maybe impossible) and sometimes very One of the major stumbling blocks to the delivery ofexpensive for smaller organizations to get every employee training in traditional classroom settings isemployee in the same place at the same time for a the time involved in developing and delivering thetraditional classroom training session. content. Online delivery changes the dynamic so there is far less time involved for the HR team, butOnline training and training technology offer far more training content and value delivered tosolutions for organizations with scattered employees.workforces by allowing employees to access on-demand training content, as needed, at their For instance, the HR team may no longer have toconvenience without the need for every employee to carve out four to five hours developing coursebe in the same physical space for classroom training materials, and another two hours delivering asessions. course on communications skills. Instead, one HR professional can assign a communications course (or courses) to employees who need the training, set Tracking and reporting up e-mail reminders to take the course, and then check in after 30 days to see who has completed theAs smaller organizations face more and more training. These tasks might take less than an hour.complex training challenges, training professionals As for the employees – none of them had to leaveneed access to more reporting and tracking. One productive work to come sit in a classroom, and yousignificant market challenge impacting the need for can ensure everyone took the training – even if theytracking and reporting is the changing regulatory might be out of the office on the day your HRcompliance environment. Depending upon the professional assigned the materials.industry, some organizations face trainingcompliance requirements from a variety of local, Automating the delivery of training content using anstate and federal agencies. On top of governmental LMS represents a great solution allowingcompliance requirements, some employees may organizations to make greater use of scarcehave professional licenses that require ongoing resources and deliver comprehensive employeeeducation and certification tracking, too. In order to development programs all at the same time.prove compliance with these requirements, theability to track and then report on training activitiesis critical. Learning management systems automatethe tracking, record-keeping and even the deliveryof content to support these important businessneeds.
Business Need TRAINING CHALLENGES Cost and benefits Need for speedWe frequently get caught up thinking about what Delivery of Training to Employees More Quickly. Onethings costs our organizations, and costs is a thing we can predict with some degree of certaintylegitimate concern when it comes to investments. But is that the pace of change we are seeing in thiswhen you are looking at investing in learning market will not slow down. This reality forces us totechnology, we think you can make a much better confront the fact that we have to make our employeebusiness case for moving forward by focusing training and development efforts match this pace.instead on the business benefits the proposedsolution can deliver. Our employees need faster access to new information, training and development. TraditionalSenior leadership will want to know how the classroom instruction models will not meet thatinvestment in an LMS will improve business results. need. We must find ways to deliver real timeYou cannot explain improved business benefits if you information to employees when they need it andare caught up in an ROI calculator trying to prove where they need it, so they can apply learning at thethat you will save $75 for every hour of training your moment of need. Technology-based trainingemployees absorb online as opposed to what they solutions represent an important step towardstake in the classroom. So, look to how it will benefit solving this important business problem foryour organization, and focus on the gains you make organizations of all sizes.from the investment. Here are few places you mightlook:• Productivity: HR and training professionals will gain productivity through a reduction in time spent in classroom sessions. Or, alternatively, the classroom session offered can be more specifically targeted to meet clear needs and general training can be delivered online. Employees will be more productive by having less work interrupted by classroom training events.• Compliance: compliance tracking and reporting will improve.• Certifications: you can track the professional certification and continuing education requirements of employees who work in fields “ Only 30% of strategic initiatives where CE is required, and you can deliver content onsite at lower cost and with less disruption. are successfully executed.”There will be other benefits specific to yourorganization. Make sure to think more about benefitsthan costs. Your senior leaders will respond much HBR IdeaCast:more readily to an explanation of what your Executing With Strategic Speedorganization will gain as opposed to what atechnology solution will likely cost.
Business Need LMS SOLUTION BENEFITSDo you need to buy an LMS, or are there alternatives?We get this question from time-to-time from prospectiveclients – usually when they get their IT teams involved in Save time with automated coursethe decision-making process. Sometimes, organizations assignments, registration, trackingthink they can build an LMS on their own. Before you go and reporting.down the path of trying to build instead of buy an LMS,it’s important to understand some basic informationabout what an LMS does and does not do. Once you Save time with automated course Easily monitor compliance traininghave a firm grasp of the core features and functionality assignments, registration, tracking with learning plans, assignments,of an LMS, you can make a more informed choice. If your and reporting. due dates and notifications.organization does not need the functionality of an LMS,and your IT team has the time, resources and expertiseneeded to first build and then maintain and service a Empower and increase the training Easily monitor compliancecontent delivery system, then building an alternative with learning plans, assignments, engagement levels of employees.might be a viable option for your organization. So let’s due dates and notifications.start with the basics – what does an LMS actually do? Deliver all of your training andReduced to the most basic functions, there are three Empower and increase the learning resources from one centralthings every learning management system allows an engagement levels of employees. location.organization to do: Administer training programs. Deliver all of your training and Manage external training events, Deliver training and education courses and classroom events, AICC andone central learning resources from SCORM programs to employees. location. courses and more. Document, track and report on the training activities of employees. Create a custom or brandedevents, Manage external training portalThese three core functions seem pretty straight forward for employees, clients and and SCORM classroom events, AICCon their surface, but that appearance is somewhat distributors. more. courses andmisleading. LMS vendors have built-in expertise incrafting solutions to deliver these core functions andyour IT team likely does not. For example, training Create a custom or branded portalcontent must be developed and delivered in a specific for employees, clients andtype of file format so the your employees’ training distributors.progress is tracked an recorded. Does your internal ITteam have experience with these file types and thesestandards? In other words, a self made system mightseem attractive to start, but by utilizing the expertise of avendor, you can keep your internal IT resources focusedon what they already do best – servicing your clientsand customers on your services and solutions.
Key Stakeholders CONSIDER YOUR COMPANY CULTUREDo you know how your critical stakeholders are? Sometimes, thisquestion seems so obvious it gets overlooked. But don’t make thatmistake with your decision-making process. As you are workingyour way through the business problems, make sure you develop aclear understanding of who is impacted by both the problem andthe potential solution. For each problem and solution, there will bedifferent groups of employees affected by the training initiatives youhelp implement. Who are they, and what will their concerns andobjectives be as you move through the decision making process?Human Resources (HR)Your HR Department may own employee training in your Every organizationorganization. If so, how will they react to a technology-basedsolution? Your HR team will likely have a different set of concerns has its own uniquethat relate to record-keeping, tracking, reporting and compliance.Make sure you are prepared to answer their questions and culture. Are thereaddress those legitimate business concerns with any proposedsolution. other stakeholders inTraining and Development your organization youYour employee training function may or may not be a separategroup or department. In many smaller organizations, employee need to involve ortraining falls under HR. In many organizations employee trainingfalls into the various functional departments like Sales or consider?Operations. Make sure you are adequately addressing everyemployee training need and business challenge no matter who is If you are uncertain, ask! Go to eachresponsible for the over all business function. Remember, yoursales team will likely have very different training and performance department head and ask them ifsupport needs than your HR team. If your chosen solution cannot they see anyone else that needs tomeet both sets of stakeholder needs, you will set the stage for be involved or consulted about thebecoming one of those dissatisfied LMS customer statistics we buying decision.mentioned earlier.CEO – Senior Leadership The last thing you need is to get closeUltimately, senior leadership has to be on board with any employee to finalizing a deal only to learntraining and development program. You will build senior leadership you’ve forgotten to involve ansupport one way – by building an effective business case. You make important stakeholder.a compelling business case NOT with a mathematical ROI calculator,but by meticulously identifying the actual business challenges youare addressing and linking each element of your proposed solutionto pieces of the challenges.Informational Technology (IT)Like any major application purchase, your IT team will want to knowwhat is expected of them. If you are looking at an SaaS or cloud-based solution, you will significantly reduce the burden on yourinternal IT team. However, your IT team will still need to understandthe level of support they might have to provide your employees orthe end users in terms of upgrades or systems.
System Functionality KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS Learning Management System (LMS)Learning management systems have evolved over the last A software application for theseveral years. Many systems have a large number of administration, documentation,features and functions, in fact the sheer volume of options tracking, reporting and delivery ofand choices can get confusing and overwhelming. That’s why education courses or trainingit’s critical to make sure you clearly understand the business programs.problem you are trying to solve. Learning Content Management SystemsOnce you can articulate and explain the business challenges (LCMS)you are facing in your employee training and development A software application that includes the capability to develop content within theefforts, you can begin to make informed choices about the structure of the application.core functionality you need from a learning managementsystem. Within the three core functions of an LMS, here are a The distinctions between LMS andfew features and additional functions you will find, as well as, LCMS was more relevant when thea brief overview of what each function can help you do. content development tools were the sole domain of web developers. WithAdministration the emergence of so many high quality authoring tools that do not require anyOrganize Employees into learning groups. Most systems allow programming or code knowledge, theyou to organize employees into logical groups based upon distinctions between and LMS and LCMS are not as important as theybusiness needs. For instance, your organization might need used to be.employees organized by location or function. Most systemsare flexible enough to allow you to place employees into Authoring Toolmultiple groups if necessary. An application or program that allows the user to generate e-learningAssignment of learning resources based upon employee content. Examples include Lectora,need. Different employees usually need different training Captivate and Articulate.resources. Most systems will allow you to assign specificlearning resources to either groups of employees, or Mobile Learningindividuals as you deem necessary or appropriate. Mobile Learning, sometimes referred to as mLearning, is a form of online training or performance supportClassroom training management is also an important feature delivered to smart phones or tabletof most systems today. While the need for technology-based computers.training solutions meets many business needs, mostorganizations still need to deliver some training content in Single Sign-On (SSO)classroom settings. An effective LMS will allow you to bring all A type of access control of multipleof your training management into one comprehensive system. related, but independent software systems. With this type of access a userIntegration with other systems is now a common function and logs in once and gains access to allfeature of most LMS. With HRIS and payroll systems being systems without being prompted to log in again at each of them.routinely used by organizations of all sizes, most LMS nowintegrate with other HR systems to facilitate a single sign-on Classroom Managementfor employees and administrators alike to reduce “password” This allows you, your employees andburnout and ease the administrative burden of maintaining instructors to register, track andmultiple systems. manage training events.
System Functionality KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)Deliver training and education courses and programs to The standard security technology foremployees establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This linkAn LMS is a specific type of application designed expressly to ensures that all data passed betweendeliver training content to a designated audience, and every the web server and browsers remainsystem on the market accomplishes this purpose. private and integral.AICC or SCORM are acronyms you will see, and these are SCORMterms that describe standards for how content will SCORM is an acronym that stands for “shareable content object referencecommunicate information to your LMS. They allow the LMS to manual.” SCORM is a set of technicalrecord, track and report your employees’ progress through standards for e-learning softwarethe training. It is the LMS’ ability to host, deliver and then track products and serves to make contentthis training data that truly sets it apart from other basic work in multiple platforms.content servers or host environments.Documenting, tracking and reporting AICC AICC is an acronym that stands forEvery LMS on the market will generate some type of “Aviation Industry Computer-Baseddocumentation and reporting about the learning activities of Training Committee.” AICC specifications no longer apply exclusively to aviationyour employees. The real question isn’t whether the LMS you specific content. The standards are noware considering will do that, but whether it will deliver the widely accepted and permit learningreports and documentation your organization needs. technology vendors to host and deliver a wide variety of content without regard toCertification and continuing education tracking is an important who developed the learning materials.feature many organizations need, particularly organizationsin heavily regulated industries. Many LMS on the market offer Tin Canvery good tracking and reporting of your employees’ Tin Can is an API that is not dependentcontinuing education and certifications. upon a constant web connection, but still allows for the complete tracking and reporting of learning on a wide range ofSelf-service reporting is a feature available in most systems devices including mobile platforms. This istoday. Your employees should be able to log in and look at the newest type of LMS standard on thereports about their own progress and – as appropriate – market. It may gain wide acceptance duecertification or continuing education credits. to the difference between it and SCORM and AICC, both of which require continuous web connections to function correctly, and neither of which were developed with mobile technology in mind. HTML5 HTML5 is a type of code for delivery on content to the Internet. The “5” refers to the fifth generation of HTML, but what is most important in this generation is that video in the HTML5 format will play on virtually any device or browser, so you can publish video to both Windows and Mac users such as iPads and iPhones.
System Functionality System AccessLMS Only or Fully Integrated Solution ISO27000 An Information Security ManagementOne of the developments in the market is the availability of Systems (ISMS) standard that providessolutions that include a learning management system, a best practice recommendations on information security management, risksperformance management system, an applicant tracking and controls.system, or other HR-oriented application of some type all inone big package. There is some appeal to these solutions, BizLibrary technology utilizes numerousand these vendors certainly tout them as “easy” and a “one- methods to ensure the highest level ofstop” place for all of the HR technology needs. If only the confidentiality, integrity and availabilityreality were so simple. for our clients data; physical infrastructure designed to keep hackersMost vendors in this space started out offering one solution out, application design using acceptedand added other solutions to their core offering. While this best coding practices, high levelisn’t always the case, most of these vendors maintain their monitoring, redundancy at all points, and ISO27000 series based policies,primary expertise in their first area, and they may or may not standards and procedures.maintain the same commitment to their learning technology.It’s like going to a generalist instead of seeking out a As a system administrator you are ablespecialist. Isn’t it logical that the specialist will have a deeper to easily allow and restrict user andlevel of expertise in his or her area of focus? course data by setting system privileges.Another important factor is the advances in the technology • Each user has a unique usernameitself. For the most part, reputable vendors can integrate their and encrypted password.solution with your current systems – either HRIS, • Assign reports and user groupsperformance or talent management, payroll, etc. Integration controls to specific managers or supervisors.with your current system or systems can facilitate a single • Allow course assignment privileges tosign-on so you and your employees can log-in one time and specific users.access learning resources and other HR orientedinformation, resources or data.In any event, with current technology advances, you nolonger have to buy all of your HR technology solutions fromone vendor. You can select the best solutions for your needs,and bring them together on your terms.Exceptions will usually result with incompatible basicoperating environments, but this evaluation ought to be a partof your due diligence and testing before purchase. Make sureyour internal technical resources are available to ask andanswer questions to ensure you can integrate with yourchosen vendor, and if not, to help you explore acceptablework around solutions.
Software-as-a-Service SCALABILITYTo the cloud?Cloud-based solutions are certainly growing in popularity,and there are many very good reasons for it. When you heara vendor tell you they offer a “cloud-based” solution, whatthey mean is a solution offered on-demand over the Internetusing servers provided by the vendor. In other words, you, as Deliver all of your learningthe customer, don’t have to have any new hardware or resources from one central location,software on your internal systems to take advantage of the whether it’s an employee handbook,services you are buying. SaaS, or “software as a solution” is a custom created e-learning courseanother way of saying exactly the same thing. or off-the-shelf courses and video programs.The advantages of a cloud-based learning managementsystem are pretty significant, especially for smallerorganizations. Get the benefits of live, instructor-led• Accessible over the Internet for anytime, anywhere use sessions without the travel and• Lower costs with no upfront investment in hardware or business disruptions sometimes software infrastructure associated with instructor-led• Upgrades are part of the service and are seamless training. You can host, track,• Saves your internal IT resources for work on your own manage and report on virtual business instructor-led training events directly from the LMS.If you choose to bring an LMS onto your own premises, beaware of the following potential risks:• Maintenance costs of a new system The virtual classroom also allows for• Learning curve for your IT staff to service and support a sessions to be recorded for later new infrastructure playback. Make sure everyone gets• Expensive upgrades and potential for becoming obsolete the same content in real-time – with rapid changes in technology regardless of their location.• Risk of lost time of your IT resources on your core businessOne of the most often cited reasons for keeping an LMS on an Employees and supervisors canorganization’s own servers is security. With the advances in easily monitor the training activitycyber security, cloud-based systems are as secure as any associated with regulatoryother web-connected systems. Further, the type ofinformation contained in your LMS is not confidential nor can compliance, CEU’s or internalit be used for identity theft. An employee’s learning history will learning plans.not (or should not) contain any personal identificationinformation like a social security number. Usually clients use a Each employee has a uniquework e-mail address, and most systems allow employees to username and encrypted password.set their own passwords. While we certainly recognize theimportance of security and confidentiality, a learning Assign reports and user groupmanagement system is not usually a point of entry of controls to specific managers orsomeone with malicious intent. If security is a concern, make supervisors.sure to cover this point during your due diligence process.
Courses and ContentContent Matters The biggest issues with video production are instructional design and the technical expertise toWhile this is a guide about selecting a technology shoot and edit the video files. We have severalplatform, don’t lose sight of the fact that the platform clients who are making great use of their own videois exactly that – a platform that you will use to deliver content to supplement their off-the-shelf content ortraining content to your employees. Make sure you to provide quick release content through our LMS.consider carefully how you will provide the contentyou are going to deliver. You may also have existing classroom content that can be converted to online training. Many of ourYou might be surprised to find out how many clients use their existing content as a starting point,organizations go into this process without but it is important to objectively evaluate yourunderstanding that the LMS is only one part of the current to content to ensure that it will translate intoonline employee training system. You still need to an effective online learning experience for yourhave training resources to deliver. So – what are employees.you planning to do about content? You have twochoices – buy it or build it. So for many prospective LMS buyers it’s less of an either/or choice, and more of a can I do both – buy content AND use our own? Build itOnline training content might be easy to “construct,” Buy itbut it’s a real challenge to build an effective onlinelearning experience. What the marketing materialscompletely fail to explain when they tout the ease of Today’s off-the-shelf content is a lot different thanuse of their respective tools, is that none of the tools the content you might have seen 10, or even five,come equipped with instructional design expertise, years ago.graphics design expertise, user interface expertiseor development expertise. Admittedly, the tools First, streaming video is moving to the forefront of(nearly all of them, anyway) do a decent job of online training. Organizations are demandingdiminishing the need for a developer. But, you still training content that looks and feels more like theneed to develop content using and applying sound content their employees absorb away from workinstructional design principles, quality graphic when they look up information on the Internet. Theydesign concepts and best practices in user interface are not watching three hour slide shows withdesign. There are not many HR teams with the interactive buttons. They largely watch videos, andresident expertise in all of these areas. If your they usually watch fairly short videos. In fact,organization is lucky enough to be one of them, and everything we do seems to be coming in shorter andthey do exist, the next issue is usually time. Does your faster bursts of highly concentrated information andteam have the time needed to design, build and then data. Our employee training needs to keep pace tomaintain your own content? remain relevant. Many online training vendors are catching on, so there is a rapidly emerging marketWith the rapid advances in video technology, many for high quality (HD) employee training video that isorganizations can quickly shoot, edit and publish engaging and effective. It’s hard to reproduce thetheir own short video courses. This is the most likely production values and quality you can find in someway organizations will be developing their own of this online content on your own.custom content in the future.
Courses and Content Topic AreasE-Learning is a common term associated with online trainingcontent. This refers to a type of content that resembles slideshows that include some sort of interactivity built into thecontent. Many of the newer courses now include videoelements, too. There are also simulations that are very goodlearning experiences for your employees. As a general rule,while e-Learning courses have traditionally been longer,current best practices in design are making these courses It’s critical to deliver training contentshorter, more direct and adding a variety or more engaging to your employees on topics that areelements. important to them and to the successAs you explore potential LMS partners, therefore, it’s going to of your business. As you considerbe crucial to keep in mind how you will access or add content building content or buying content,to the LMS you are looking to buy. make sure to evaluate all of the topics you will need to offer for aAdditionally, the off-the-shelf content is usually produced by comprehensive employee trainingtrue subject matter experts. So rather than building your own program. The most common trainingsales training, you can get online sales training from the topics offered include:world’s leading sales trainers delivered right to youremployees. And this is true for virtually any subject or topic Complianceyou need for your employee training program. Workplace Safety Management Supervisor Blend it Leadership Development Communications Desktop Computer SkillsSome of the most successful employee training programs our Performance Appraisalsclients implement use a bit of both – custom built content and Diversity and Inclusionoff-the-shelf content. The usual determining factor is the Sales Skillsaccessibility of subject matter expertise and the need forimmediate distribution. For instance, if you have some time,you may be able to search through a catalog of courses andbuild an effective blended curriculum of leadership What topic areas aredevelopment courses from leading experts and your ownclassroom materials to emphasize the unique values and you targeting?cultural anchors your employees can best learn from eachother or in a classroom setting. On the other hand, you mayneed to get a new product to market rapidly, and the onlyway to get training to your field sales team is to make a seriesof short videos explaining the new product, its features andhow to sell it. Then provide classroom or a virtual classroomsession to reinforce the lessons offered in the rapidlydeveloped video sessions you prepared.
Vendor Selection Strategy & ImplementationWhat’s Next? Questions You Should AskSo – we’ve established our business need. We understand Are you rolling out e-learning to your entirethe issues we face, and we know why we need an automated organization?learning solution for our employee training program. It’s If so, you have a wide audience base with areally important here to bear in mind that you do NOT have to variety of needs.have every single question answered about what you want orneed a system to do before you move forward. You don’t Do you have a key training initiative that targets a select group within your employeeeven have to know for sure whether you need a cloud-based population?solution or not. If you can tell someone the basic business The needs of this group would be morechallenges you are facing, and why you are interested in focused. For example, engineers might needlearning more about a technology solution, you are ready to project management training to meetstart looking at potential vendors. But this is where things can ongoing certification requirements.get a bit slippery, and this is where you can get all sorts of“unusual” or even just flat out bad advice. Is my e-learning program tied into this audience’s strategic initiatives?In the interest of full and complete disclosure, remember that If not, you may have difficulty getting thewe here at BizLibrary ARE an LMS vendor. However, we hope level of participation you need.you find this next section to be reasonably neutral in tone and Is the e-learning offered to each grouphelpful in terms of advice and content. We would be very linked clearly to their day-to-dayhappy to be included in your selection process, but it’s more performance and job role?important to us that you more forward with some sound Adults learn best when they see a clear andadvice and solid information in your hands as you make this direct link between training and jobvery important decision for your company. performance.There are hundreds of LMS vendors on the market today, so Are there varying degrees of comfort withyou will have plenty of choices and options. That’s not really technology among groups of employees orthe problem. The problem is narrowing down this vast and departments? E-learning and online training represents asometimes confusing market to a manageable number of significant change in the way they are usedvendors – a short list – from which you can make a final to learning. Make sure that you are clearlydecision. We believe there are five key factors you should use and consistently communicating the benefitsto narrow down your list of potential vendors. Here they are: of this change and share success stories as employees make progress.• Free trial and system demo Have we communicated the benefits of our e-• Familiarity with your market by learning program to various groups of • Company size employees or departments? • Level of experience with e-learning/online training People really need to know the benefits to embrace any kind of change • Familiar with your business challenges • Industry experience Are there any specific areas of resistance to e-learning among groups of employees or• Industry recognition departments we need to address? This is 100% normal. Just prepare for it and• Client testimonials/recommendations plan to engage the key stakeholders with clear and repeated value statements about• Case studies/use cases how the training will benefit them.
System Demo and Trial Should I Hire a Consultant? Essentially, you have two choices as youAlways get a one-on-one system demo and free 30-day trial navigate the buying process: go throughof the LMS before you buy it. A free trial should be easy to the process on your own, or hire aarrange, simple to set-up and quick to get started. The free consultant to help you.trial will be a great test for you to learn – first hand – how the Using a Consultant – From a Consultantvendor will behave in the event you choose to buy their There are two major advantages of usingsolution. Also – make sure the trial you get is of the ACTUAL an outside consultant: experience andsolution, not some watered down version or demo version. knowledge. Here is a very good summary ofSee the actual product you are going to buy. Here are things the benefits of using a consultant from theyou want to look for during your trial: blog – Elearning 24/7Ease of use for your employees: • Knowledge and expertise already exists.• How easy is the system to start (log in)? Many consultants, know the market and• Is the interface intuitive? thus are able to jump right in and move• Can employees quickly see the courses they need to take? at a quicker pace than say someone who is new or in the process of looking around.Technical support: • Looking for a system or authoring tool• If an employee needs help, can they get it quickly? can be overwhelming. With over 550• Is the technical advice/solution easy to follow and LMSs on the market and more than 156 implement? authoring tools finding the right one can• Are there going to be technical support fees? be an exercise in pain and confusion. A consultant will handle it for you and thusTechnical requirements: enable you to do other things.• Do the computers at workstations need anything special? • Eliminates creating RFPs, shooting them• Will the content work well on multiple devices? out everywhere and waiting for a response. Plus it eliminates the sales people following up with you and forEase of use for administrators (you): many people they do not want to deal• How easy are reports to access? with that.• Is the administrative interface easy to use? • Time equals money and if you can lower the time spent, the cost for hiring someHow easy was the trial to implement? consultants will be well spent.• If the trial is hard to implement, what do think that tells you about the ease of implementing the solution itself? Craig Weiss is the author of E-Learning 24/7 Blog and is a leading consultant in the field.• What implementation support will you get?• Are there separate implementation fees? On Your Own – It Can be Done! You don’t have to hire a consultant. WhileCan the system be used without a lot of training? this process can be intimidating, there are• If not, can you access the training? vendors in the market who are helpful and• Is there a fee for the training? will work with in a consultative capacity as you make your selection. The key to makingWhat service and support does the vendor provide? a successful choice – even if you work with a• Will we have an account representative to call? consultant, is to have a plan, understand• Are they easy to reach? your business challenges and be willing to ask questions. These three key tips will help• Will there be help getting the program started? you maintain a focus on your organization’s• Do we have regular program reviews? needs and goals, and will serve as excellent guidelines for your decision-making process.
Market FamiliarityThere are several different ways to think about your Familiar with your businessmarket, and each carries a different set ofchallenges. When choosing an LMS vendor and challengesonline training partner it’s important that in additionto having a good understanding of your business There are a myriad of business challenges that anneeds, they also are familiar with your automated, web-based training solution canorganization’s market. Some market consider- address. The variety of systems and system designsations are: also means that not every system treats every business problems the same way. For instance, Company size some systems do a great job of helping organizations manage things like classroom and virtual classroom training sessions, or employeeSmall and mid-size companies are different than certifications. Other systems may not have beenlarge, enterprise organizations and are in many designed with those specific functions as a centralcases an underserved market. Many vendors part of the offering. So make sure your selectedchoose to focus on new customers in the large vendor has previous experience helpingcompany market space. Contracts with really large organizations solve the business problems you arecompanies with tens of thousands of employees are trying to solve. Look for case studies and ask forsimply worth more than contracts with smaller client referrals!organizations. Experience with e-learning andMany vendors with a large company - enterprisefocus have a “light” or “SMB” version of their online trainingsolution for smaller organizations- fewer featuresand functions. This type of offering reflects a Organizations usually fall into three very broadfundamental misunderstanding of the employee categories in terms of their experience level withtraining challenges faced by small and growing online training: experienced and looking for acompanies. It’s not that the employee development change, experienced and are now very resistant tochallenges are less complicated. In fact, smaller trying it again, or have never tried it before. Whenorganizations frequently face employee training and you are introducing an online training solution todevelopment challenges more complex and employees who have never used it before, there willchallenging than their FORTUNE 1000 peers. It’s be challenges that are unique and different thanimportant to find a vendor that can help craft a those faced by organizations simply making atechnology solution built upon the experience of change or those organizations that have had badworking in the fluid and innovative cultures that exist past experiences.more frequently in smaller organizations. When online training is new, you need to work Industry experience through a series of communications, change management and marketing challenges that areThere are specific challenges in different industries. unique to your situation. Make sure your chosenRegulatory challenges loom large in banking, vendor has experience with these implementationfinance and healthcare. Retail organizations are and program launch challenges. Likewise, if you’veusually widely scattered and experience high rates had bad past experiences, make sure you workof turnover. If your chosen vendor is not closely with a vendor who can provide a clearaccustomed to helping organizations with the types marketing message to your skeptical employeesof routine business challenges faced by about the quality and value of the solutionorganizations in your industry, do you want to be the you’ve chosen.organization educating them?
To RFP? Or not RFP? System ChecklistRFP or the dreaded “request for proposal” is a commonelement of software and systems purchases for enterprise-sized organizations. But is an RFP appropriate or helpful forsmaller organizations? Quite a few small and mid-sizecompanies use the RFP process, and they are usuallymodeled on one or two templates found online. The problemwith these templates is that they are built by vendorsprimarily serving the enterprise market, and these templatescan serve to add needless layers of complexity to theprocess. Import / Export User DataThe RFP process can be helpful when an organization needs Access to the Branded Siteto consider a wide variety of features and functions or to Wizardserve the needs of multiple stakeholders within anorganization such as multiple departments, divisions, User and User Grouplocations, or even multiple training teams or groups. The vast Administrationmajority of smaller organizations can state their businessproblems more clearly and have far fewer stakeholders Resource and Resource Groupinvolved in the decision-making process. Furthermore, the AdministrationRFP templates are exactly that – a template. These are reallynothing more than checklists of features that may havenothing to do with the actual business challenges facing your Import Existing Training Materialsorganization. Therefore, the RFP only adds confusion to the as Resources (PDF, PPT,process where clarity is of primary importance. DOC…more)The other big drawback to using an RFP for smaller Test and Survey Engineorganizations is that many high quality vendors will simply notparticipate in the RFP process. The vendors that are set up to Custom Content Management -respond to RFPs tend to be larger vendors, and that’s Import AICC and SCORM Contentprobably why they built the templates that are so easy to find.Vendors that focus on smaller organizations are likely not Certification Management andinterested in responding to complex RFP’s because they canspend their time actually talking to prospects and clients Learning Plansrather than working through a complicated series of checklistitems that probably don’t reflect the actual business needs or Classroom/Virtual Classroomrequirements of the company submitting the RPF in the first Managementplace. User Progress and CourseThis checklist approach to a feature set reflected in the vast Activity Reportsmajority of RFP’s also completely misses the chance formeaningful conversations with engaged vendors or Email Messages and Notificationsconsultants who might be able to uncover additional businessissues or help you develop a different take on your solution.By limiting your vendor choices to vendors who reply to a listof available features, you lose the chance to talk to peoplewho might have a superior solution because you have notthought of your problems in the same ways in which thevendor has developed their solutions.
System ChecklistEmployees want learning to be easy to complete, relevantto their goals and performance, and available anytime andanywhere. BizLibrary’s Learning Management Solution isbuilt to meet the needs of today’s learners.BizLibrary makes online employee training easy.Whether you’re deploying formal training, criticalcompliance training or providing performance support, Import / Export User DataBizLibrary’s award-winning Learning Management Systemis a complete learning platform. Access to the Branded Site Wizard User and User Group Administration BizLibrary’s LMS has all this Resource and Resource Group and more! Administration Import Existing Training Materials as Resources (PDF, PPT,To get started, take advantage of DOC…more)our No-Cost 30-Day Trial. Check out Test and Survey Engineour Learning Management System, Custom Content Management -preview our courses and work Import AICC and SCORM Contentone-on-one with a dedicated Certification Management andtraining consultant. Learning Plans Classroom/Virtual Classroom Management User Progress and Course Activity Reports Email Messages and Notifications