Intrepid Selectinglms 414


Published on

Published in: Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Intrepid Selectinglms 414

  1. 1. Ten Steps to Selecting a Learning Management System An Intrepid Publication Prepared exclusively for Intrepid by Charlene Zeiberg Edited by Guenther Weydauer and Intrepid Team Intrepid Learning Solutions, 411 First Avenue South Suite 300 Seattle, WA 98104 206-381-3779 Copyright 2001-2004
  2. 2. Table of Contents Introduction: Selecting an LMS: Get Ready for a Bumpy Ride . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Step One: Conducting an LMS Needs Assessment . . . . . . . 3 Step Two: Researching LMS Vendors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Step Three: Conducting Vendor Demonstrations. . . . . . . . . 8 Step Four: Narrowing Your List of Vendors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Step Five: Developing and Distributing the Request for Proposal (RFP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Step Six: Preparing Your Company for Change . . . . . . . . . . 11 Step Seven: Evaluating Proposals and Short-Listing Vendors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Step Eight: Conducting Final Vendor Presentations and Selecting a Vendor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Step Nine: Negotiating the LMS Licensing and Service Level Agreements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Step Ten: Getting Ready for Immplementation. . . . . . . . . . 15 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 2
  3. 3. Introduction: Selecting an LMS: Get Ready for a Bumpy Ride The typical Learning Management System (LMS) used to be a license and deploy. The LMS purchase may also be the most visi- mere training registration system. Not any more. Over the past ble decision you’ll ever make. few years, LMSs have become full-scale enterprise software. This step-by-step explanation of how best to select an LMS Today’s LMS launches e-learning courses and provides registra- assumes that you are about to embark on the selection process. tion capabilities, automated course catalogs, competency man- Even if you are in the midst of making your selection, there will be agement, assessment, resource management, tracking, and tips that can help you midstream. We’ll walk through 10 steps in reporting. These systems have become popular because they can selecting an LMS: serve as the backbone of a company’s learning and e-learning strategy. 1. Conducting an LMS Needs Assessment 2. Researching LMS Vendors As LMS functionality has grown, so has the marketplace. With 3. Conducting Vendor Demonstrations more than one hundred LMSs available, it has become increasing- 4. Narrowing Your List of Vendors ly difficult to distinguish between products and separate the reali- 5. Developing and Distributing the RFP ty from the hype. There are full-blown enterprise LMSs, externally 6. Preparing your Company for Change hosted LMSs, portals with embedded LMSs, LMSs with external 7. Evaluating Proposals and Short-listing Vendors content, and smaller-scale LMS-like systems. Confusion reigns. 8. Conducting Final Vendor Presentations and Selecting a Fasten your seatbelts, and get ready for a long, frustrating, and Vendor bumpy ride! Selecting an LMS is a huge and challenging decision; 9. Negotiating the LMS Contract and Service Level Agreements perhaps the biggest decision you will ever make as a learning 10. Getting Ready for Implementation professional. LMSs are large, complex software programs that are So take a deep breath, and get ready to learn how to make the changing rapidly, and they can cost a million dollars or more to best selection possible. Step One: Conducting an LMS Needs Assessment What is an LMS needs assessment? No matter how the assessment is conducted, you also need to An LMS needs assessment is a data collection and analysis involve the right people from your company. Be sure to include: process that aims to surface the specific LMS requirements for a successful implementation in your organization. Determining • The project sponsor your LMS business requirements sets the broad parameters for • The project sponsor’s manager your project, but the LMS needs assessment goes to a more • The LMS selection team detailed, practical level. The result is a document that outlines the • Selected members of the training/learning function (includ- functional and technical requirements for your LMS and the ing administrators) implementation barriers your organization could face. • Selected representative from all business units In order to design an LMS solution that will meet your business • IT department needs, your assessment should include data collection in the fol- • Finance, Legal and Procurement lowing areas: When should you conduct an LMS needs assessment? • Organizational Culture and Business Requirements In our experience, the most successful LMS implementations are • Training and Learning Practices/Culture those that conducted their assessment before the RFP process. • Business Rules and Processes The data provided during this assessment helps to refine the • System Integration Requirements identified business requirements and further ensures that the • Technical Requirements right LMS product is chosen. • Functional Requirements 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 3
  4. 4. Who should help you conduct an LMS needs cost. An assessment can help to identify all the factors that assessment? will impact your LMS investment. This will help you deter- You can conduct the assessment yourself with input from ven- mine if tradeoffs need to be made or if your estimated budg- dors under consideration. (Have the vendors under consideration et is realistic given your requirements. submit the questions they would ask if they were conducting the • Determining internal vs. external hosting assessment). Your organization conducts the interviews and pro- The assessment can gather the appropriate information to vides the raw data to vendors during the RFP process. Be sure to determine the advantages and disadvantages of external vs. tape record and transcribe the interviews for the best success internal hosting arrangements. with this option. However, if you don’t have the time or resources • Increasing stakeholder involvement and commitment to do this, consider getting some help. There are a number of The assessment provides stakeholders the opportunity to options: look into the future and provide their perspective and con- cerns about the project. The data gathered not only informs • Have one of the vendors under consideration conduct the the selection process, but provides value during implementa- assessment. Consider paying the vendor so you own the tion. One of the greatest benefits your organization can rights to the assessment and you can share the findings in derive from an LMS Needs Assessment is ensuring that all your RFP. stakeholder views and concerns are represented and • Have all the vendors under consideration conduct an assess- addressed. ment. (This is not recommended as it is repetitive and time consuming for your stakeholders.) • Evaluating vendor approach and deliverables • Hire an independent consultant to conduct assessment (This There are a number of options for who conducts the needs approach provides a third-party, independent view.) assessment, which will be outlined later. Should you decide If you’re considering hiring a consultant to help with the needs to conduct the assessment with one or more of the vendors assessment, keep in mind that different vendors have different under consideration; the LMS Needs Assessment can provide terminology and use different methodologies for conducting an your selection team the opportunity to evaluate the quality assessment. Some vendors conduct a ìservice estimateî as part of of the vendor’s deliverables. Better to learn the quality of their the business development process to help assess the needs and work now, than later on in the project. cost of the LMS, while others conduct an assessment after they • Basis for the RFP have been selected as the vendor to further define what is Once you have the results of the needs assessments, we rec- required. ommend including them as part of the RFP. This will provide vendors with very rich data about your organization which One potential drawback to hiring a vendor to do the needs will hopefully lead to more targeted responses. assessment is that many LMS vendors tend to focus their assess- ments only on technical specifications and issues. Because the What are the questions to be answered as part of the success of an LMS implementation rests on many other influenc- needs assessment? ing factors, technical data provides only a small snapshot of LMS To complete the needs analysis, you’ll need to answer the follow- needs and requirements. If this should occur with the consultant ing 12 questions: or vendor you select to conduct the assessment, you should con- 1. What is the business need for the LMS? sider this a red flag and an indication of how they will lead the LMS implementation. If you’re considering an LMS, you probably have some business challenges you hope the LMS can fix. Take some time to solidify What are the benefits of an LMS needs assessment? and formalize your sense of these challenges. Businesses often An assessment can benefit your LMS selection team in a number look to an LMS to solve challenges such as: of ways. • Deploying learning enterprise-wide. • Establish priorities • Automating training administration processes. There are many, oftentimes competing, critical success factors • Centralizing organizational learning while providing local in a project of this kind. Stakeholders don’t always agree on ownership. the relative importance of these factors. The assessment can • Providing self-service learning for employees, third-party ven- be used to identify critical success factors and ask stakehold- dors, or customers. ers to rank order their importance. • Deploying learning resources and training programs more • Estimating costs quickly. One of the greatest variables during the selection process is 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 4
  5. 5. • Integrating incompatible systems for learning management. 7. What are your functional and non-functional require- • Serving underserved learners. ments for the LMS? This is the most time-consuming component of the LMS business 2. How will you measure success? requirements analysis. You need to determine the specific func- Without metrics, you will not be able to determine your return on tional and non-functional features your organization needs in an investment (and an LMS is quite an investment!). Consider what LMS. Like every other part of the LMS process, the functional and you will measure and how you will measure it. Your metrics non-functional requirements should grow out of your assessment should be determined by your business challenges—if your main of your business challenges. business challenge is to serve underserved learners, you need to Getting a good sense of your requirements will help you deter- figure out how to measure that. Avoid the temptation of choos- mine whether you will need an LMS or an Integrated Learning ing simple metrics that don’t connect with your business chal- System (ILS). An ILS is a LMS with additional functionality typically lenges. not found in a basic LMS, such as authoring tools, virtual class- 3. What is your potential Return on Investment? room tools, content management, and knowledge management. By using the metrics above to calculate your potential ROI early You shouldn’t schedule vendor demonstrations until you’ve solid- on, you create a real business case for the LMS purchase. Many ified these requirements. Otherwise, you may schedule obviously organizations find that a case for ROI provides justification for unsuitable vendors, wasting their time and yours. Work with your additional funding. identified stakeholders to determine what you need in each of the following categories: 4. Who is the target audience? Functional Requirements Determine who will use the LMS, the total number of users, and • Course and curriculum management their locations. Once again, these answers should grow out of • Registration your business challenges. • Class scheduling 5. What initial pilot groups can provide an early win? • Course delivery • Competency management In our experience, the most successful strategy for implementing • Assessment, testing, and evaluation an LMS is through a series of carefully planned pilots. Determine • Compliance, certification, and accreditation which users or business group(s) would make for an ideal pilot. • Resource management When designing pilot projects, choose users who can provide an • Finance administration early win for the project. These users often have the following • Content authoring characteristics: • Content management • Immediate business need for the LMS or e-learning delivered • System administration via the new learning platform • Reporting • A variety of ways to access the LMS • Ability to define user roles within the LMS • A work environment that is conducive to learning • Ability to define user profiles • Management or organizational policies supporting learning • Ability to customize learning home pages at work Non-Functional Requirements: 6. Who are your project stakeholders and what are their • Performance requirements expectations? Who will be the key sponsor of this project? • User interface considerations Identify who in the organization has a key stake in the LMS selec- • Business domains tion and implementation. Don’t forget to identify your • Global access and functionality Information Technology (IT) stakeholders—they are critical to • Application and database management both the selection and implementation process. Find out at this • User and system documentation and training point what your stakeholders need and expect. Determine who • Security and audit functions will be the overall project sponsor. Ideally this should be a senior • Flexibility and scalability manager who has influence with the stakeholders and the organ- ization as a whole. 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 5
  6. 6. 8. What are the key user roles and their functional Systems Integration Requirements requirements? • Needed integration with HRIS/HRMS, finance systems, e-mail systems, and other third-party systems. One of the key features of the LMS is the ability to delegate roles to individuals throughout the firm while still retaining security Security Requirements and data integrity. This sophisticated authorization capability • Security standards for work and remote use. allows the individuals closest to the business or learning pro- 10. Who manages the LMS within your organization? gram/material to maintain that environment. Determine these roles within your organization and what functionality each role Determine whether the LMS will be managed: through central needs to have (note that one individual can play multiple roles in and local co-ownership by the training function(s). the learning administration process): • Centrally by training function • Catalog Administrator • Centrally by the Information Technology department • Course Scheduler • By another method • Registrar 11. What are the phases for LMS implementation? • Systems Administrator • Finance Administrator You should consider phased implementation for users and LMS • Instructor or Facilitator functionality. Especially if your organization is new to self-service • Competency Specialist learning or e-learning, a phased implementation is recommend- • Accreditation and Certification Administrator ed. This allows users to gradually get accustomed to the function- • Inventory and Distribution Specialist ality the LMS can provide. • Learner Determining implementation phases up front is also critical to • Manager, Coach, or Mentor the LMS selection. You may find an LMS product you particularly • Instructional Designer like, but it may be lacking some of the functionality you require. • Content Author Knowing how you will phase in functionality for learners, man- • Content Manager agers and administrators will help you prioritize your immediate 9. What are your technical requirements? needs and allow time for customization of the application. Work with your IT partner to define the technical requirements. 12. Who will be on your LMS Selection Project Team? Technical requirements typically include: If you don’t yet have a selection team in place, put one in place Architecture and System Requirements now. Be sure that team members understand their roles and • Scalability requirements responsibilities in the selection process. Consider having a meet- • Networking, hardware, software and operating systems the ing to officially launch the project and initiate the steps in the LMS needs to support selection process. Members of your team should include: • Client workstation specifications • The project sponsor (involved at a high level) • Ability to support plug-ins, applets, or additional software on • Key stakeholders across the business units implementing the client workstation. the LMS Interoperability Requirements • IT partners • Needed compliance with SCORM (Shareable Courseware • Members from all training functions implementing the LMS Object Reference Model), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Conducting a thorough needs assessment can take a few weeks Electronics Engineering Learning Technology Standards to a few months. It provides motivation, obtains commitment, Committee) AICC (Aviation Industry CBT Committee), IMS and validates the direction of the initiative. Take the time your (Instructional Management System Global Learning organization needs to do it right. It will pay off in the long run! Consortium) standards. • Needed MAPI, OLE, TCP/IP, and ODBC functionality. Your IT partner will need to assess these requirements. 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 6
  7. 7. Step Two: Researching LMS Vendors Once you’ve determined your business requirements, you’re meet all your screening criteria. Not to worry. This is very typical. It ready to research LMS vendors. is nearly inevitable that you will either compromise and give up functionality or customize the application. Determining functional criteria First, review your functional and non-functional requirements and Your LMS Product Screening Matrix should look something determine what high-level functionality you need. These high- like this: level functionalities will become your initial criteria for screening LMSs. Try not to get lost in the details of the functionality during Vendors Criterion 1 Criterion 2 Criterion 3 Criterion... this process. You want to develop a relatively concise list of broad Vendor 1 notes notes notes notes functional criteria, not a long list of detailed concerns. For exam- ple, a high-level functionality would be ìCompetency Vendor 2 notes notes notes notes Management,” not ìthe ability to import existing job roles, job Vendor 3 notes notes notes notes families and competency from HRIS system.î You will have the opportunity later in the selection process to get into the details. ... notes notes notes notes The criteria you identify should be the LMS features that are not typical to all LMSs. For example, all LMSs have registration func- You can get started on LMS research in a number of ways: tionality but not all have competency management. Most LMSs • Read industry publications and online newsletters support e-learning course delivery and tracking but not all sup- • Attend industry conferences port both e-learning and Instructor-Led Training (ILT). Typical • Purchase industry research reports screening criteria often include: • Call friends and colleagues in the industry • Competency and skills management • Talk to a knowledgeable consultant familiar with • Certification and accreditation management industry players • Support of both ILT and e-learning course delivery Vendors’ marketing materials are notoriously difficult to under- and tracking stand. To distinguish between reality and hype you will need to • Built-in assessment and testing tools contact the vendor. When you talk to the vendor, it can be diffi- • Built-in content authoring tools cult to remain focused on your criteria—it’s easy to get distracted • Content management by the vendor’s sales pitch. Following a few simple guidelines can • Global access and functionality (multiple languages, time help you retain control of the process: zones, and currencies) • Support of third-party collaboration learning tools • Find out who your Account Executive (AE) is and contact that • Multiple business domains that allow for custom views and individual. At some point you may want to further investigate business rules for different populations their product, so it’s a good idea to start the relationship with • Scalability your AE now. • Various kinds of standards compliance • Tell the AE that you are in the exploratory phase of the selec- • Connectivity with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems tion process and you need some additional information • Company viability and other business concerns about their product. • Ask the AE if their LMS product, out-of the-box, has the top Organizing your research line functionality you identified as your screening criteria. Next, create a simple LMS Product Screening Matrix. This may Most vendors will say that their product can do almost any- seem obvious, but you’ll be bringing in a lot of information about thing, but many times that means with customization. Ask vendors, and the matrix will both help you focus on your criteria direct questions and expect direct answers. and help you keep track of the data. You’ll also use the matrix • The AE will probably offer to come into your organization for later to determine the match between your needs and vendor a demonstration. Since it is too early to determine if they are products. As you research products, fill in the matrix by checking a viable contender, graciously decline and let the Account off the screening criteria the LMS product supports. At this point Executive know that you will contact him should a demon- your matrix could include 15 or more vendor products. And here’s stration be needed. a little secret— you probably won’t find an LMS product that will 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 7
  8. 8. Narrowing the field uct that is favored by your organization that you will want to Once your LMS Product Screening Matrix is complete, review the investigate, at least for political reasons. Your ERP (Enterprise results and remove unsuitable vendors from consideration now. Resource Planning) vendor might fall into this category. Or you The vendors that have the most criteria checked off are obviously may have vendors that meet all of your most important criteria, those that you should bring in for demonstrations, but there are but don’t meet some less critical criteria—you may be able to get some exceptions to this rule. For example, there may be a prod- third-party vendors to solve those problems. Step Three: Conducting Vendor Demonstrations Now that you have determined which Learning Management to refrain from their standard dog and pony shows. You can read System (LMS) vendors to bring into your organization for product their marketing materials or visit their website on your own—a demonstrations, it’s time to schedule them. Unfortunately, sched- marketing presentation is not a good use of your team’s time. Let uling vendor demonstrations isn’t as simple as whipping out your the vendors know that you want the meeting to focus on the datebook and penciling them in. To get the information you need demonstration. from vendor demonstrations, you’ll need to do some planning. Also find out if there is an online demo site your selection team Here are some steps to follow: can visit before the demonstration. If your team can look at the 1. Decide who will attend the product demonstrations marketing materials and the demonstration site before the ven- Ideally, everyone who will be involved in the selection process dor’s presentation, they’ll be prepared to ask the right questions should be involved. This will allow everyone on the selection and get the information they need. team to have the same foundation of knowledge about the ven- 5. Conduct the product demonstrations dors. If you don’t get everyone to come to the demonstrations, Be sure that the vendor demonstrates the functionality of both you may find yourself bringing in one or more vendors multiple the Learner and Administrator views of the system. To avoid a times. standard pitch that doesn’t respond to your requirements, you Be sure to have an IT partner present at all vendor product should walk through the functional and non-functional require- demonstrations. This may be a big commitment for one individ- ments with the vendor. At the same time, have a member of your ual, so you may want to have two or more members of your IT team documenting the out-of-the-box functionality of the ven- Department share in the responsibility. dor’s product. 2. Set expectations with the selection team on the Some additional areas to explore with the vendor are: time commitment required for this step in the process You should plan for each demonstration to be approximately two • Interoperability. What is the product’s current level of compli- hours. That includes 1 1/2 hours for the vendor demonstration ance with SCORM, IEEE, AICC and IMS standards? and half an hour for the selection team to debrief. • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) integration experience. Can the LMS import HR data from ERPs and other databases? Depending on your target selection date, you will need to decide Can vendor supply examples? how aggressive your product demonstration schedule needs to • Vendor support with integration and customization. What be. If you are considering 6 or more vendors, this step in the level of support does the vendor provide for integrating selection process can realistically take two months due to your third-party courseware and customizing the application? selection team’s other work commitments. • Implementation experience. What is the number of full-scale 3. Schedule the product demonstrations implementations to date? Contact each of the vendors under consideration and schedule • Strategic partnerships. Who are the vendor’s strategic part- the demonstration. When scheduling gets difficult, you may want ners? Can the vendor provide some specific examples of to consider virtual demonstrations. how these partners have provided value-added services for their customers? 4. Prepare for the product demonstrations • Approximate investment. What is the vendor’s licensing and Before the meeting, give the vendor your functional and non- pricing model? functional requirements so they have a clear understanding of your needs. Also ask each vendor to give your selection team End the demonstration by setting the vendor’s expectations. Tell marketing materials well before the meeting, and ask the vendors the vendor how you will proceed and when you will contact them. 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 8
  9. 9. 6. Conduct a debriefing after each demonstration tional and non-functional requirements and determine the over- Don’t count on your team’s memory to recall each product weeks all strengths and weaknesses of the product. Document your or months after the demonstration. After the vendor leaves, take observations. Also document any other questions or concerns 15 - 30 minutes to discuss your observations. Review the func- you may have—you can get the vendor to answer them later. Step Four: Narrowing Your List of Vendors It is very common for organizations to start the LMS selection target budget range, don’t eliminate them yet. There is a lot to be process by looking at a large number of vendors, but at some said for negotiation and many vendors have pricing flexibility. If point, you must narrow the list. Chances are, after many LMS prod- many of the vendors are far outside your range, it may be uct demonstrations, there are a smaller number of vendors under because you have truly underestimated the investment required true consideration. Before you send out and process RFPs, it makes for your project. You may need to obtain additional budget or cut sense to eliminate vendors who clearly don’t fit your criteria. back on your functional specifications. After the product demonstrations, it’s time to return to your func- Keep your ERP vendor under consideration tional and business requirements and narrow the vendor list. Should you have one, it is a professional courtesy to keep your ERP vendor (such as Peoplesoft, SAP, or Oracle) under considera- Determine which vendors meet the majority of your tion throughout the entire selection process. It shows stakehold- functional and non-functional requirements ers in your organization that you have kept your mind open to As a result of your vendor demonstrations and any follow-up the ERP vendor’s solution and are performing your due diligence. phone calls to vendors, you should have a pretty good sense of If the ERP vendor cannot meet your needs they will either with- how each vendor can or cannot meet your functional/non-func- draw from the RFP process or it will be apparent in their RFP tional requirements. Keep in mind that it is highly uncommon for response. any one vendor to meet all your needs out-of the-box. Compromise and some level of customization are inevitable. Consider your team’s overall feelings and gut reaction Create a list of vendors that appear to have met most of your Don’t underestimate your selection team’s instincts and reactions needs. (Add your ERP vendor to this list even if their product may to particular vendors. Vendors are on their best behavior during be inadequate for your needs; see below.) the business development process—if they’re not easy to work with during the demo, they certainly won’t be easy to work with From that list, assess technical fit with your needs and technical environment later. Don’t expect behavior or attitudes to change once you sign Don’t be surprised if the vendor product that appears to meet a contract. If the vendor was unwilling or unable to answer ques- the majority of your needs is not a suitable fit in your technical tions or provide information to members of your team, that’s a environment. You may also find that some vendors do not have red flag. For an LMS implementation to be successful, the vendor’s the level of integration experience required for your project. It’s organization will need to work very closely with yours. If you difficult to get around ìtechnical fitî. Vendors can promise that believe that a partnership may not be positive, you need to factor they can do anything to make their LMS fit in your technical envi- that in now before you move to the RFP process. ronment, but remember; this may mean that your organization Narrowing down your vendor list can provide your selection becomes their guinea pig. If it appears that none of the vendors team with a sense of progress and accomplishment. It will also are a technical fit, you may need to change your expectations allow your team to become more focused for the remaining regarding functionality. steps in the selection process. Only eliminate vendors whose cost is completely out- Stakeholders may be interested in working with an ERP vendor side the ball park only because it would eliminate integration costs associated with It can be very tempting to shorten your list by eliminating the an LMS vendor. higher cost vendor(s). Unless the vendor is completely out of your 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 9
  10. 10. Step Five: Developing and Distributing the Request for Proposal (RFP) Putting together an RFP can be a daunting task. The RFP needs to 5. Technology be carefully developed to insure that you will receive all the infor- This section asks the vendor to provide information in four main mation you need from prospective vendors. The key is to start categories: Architecture and System Requirements, developing the RFP early in the selection process and to make it Interoperability, Systems Integration, and Security. Sample ques- a dynamic, living document that is refined as the selection tions might include: process unfolds. You should start the RFP right after Step One: • Architecture and System Requirements: Describe your overall Determining your LMS Business Requirements, system architecture. Please include a visual that includes each This section focuses on the content of the RFP. Even if your organ- component of your system. Describe all the networking, ization already has a formal RFP process, the information here will hardware, software, and operating systems your product sup- ensure that you get quality responses. If you don’t have a formal ports. Be very specific and include version numbers. process in place, remember that you need to be fair, impartial, and • Interoperability: Describe the current level of compliancy for consistent. SCORM, IEEE, AICC and IMS standards. What outside organiza- tion, if any, has assessed this compliance? What should be included in the RFP? Below is a sample Table of • Systems Integration: Describe the APIs that exist in your prod- Contents for an LMS RFP, with a description of the RFP and some uct that facilitate integration with other systems such as HRIS, sample questions: financials, e-mail, etc. 1. Introduction • Security: Describe how security is handled, both across the In this section, you provide the vendor with the background firewall and with users outside the firewall. information required to help them understand the needs of the 6. Implementation project, including: This section asks the vendor to provide you with information in • Company Background three main categories: Implementation Experience, Project • Purpose Management, and Application Service Provider vs. Internal • Implementation Hosting. Sample questions might include: • Background Information • Implementation Experience: What is the number of full-scale • Assumptions implementations of your product to date? • Constraints and Relevant Facts • Project Management: What project team resources are 2. General Proposal Conditions expected from our company? This section outlines your proposal conditions and information • Hosting: Based on your knowledge of our company and our on the selection process, including: needs, what are both the advantages and disadvantages of internal vs. external vs. ASP? • Mandatory Qualifications • Preparation Costs 7. Customization and Professional Services • Timetable This section asks the vendor to provide information in three main • Confidentiality and Publicity categories: Customization, Training, Ongoing Technical Support • Return Address and Maintenance, and Professional Services and Strategic • Questions Alliances. Sample questions might include: • Selection Process • Customization: Describe your philosophy around product • Proposal Rating customization. • Reference Check • Training, Ongoing Technical Support, and Maintenance: What 3. Proposal Response Format training does your company provide for the project team, Here you give the vendor directions on formatting of proposals administrative users of the system, other users of the system, and delivery format. and our Information Technology resources? Describe the 4. Functional and Non-Functional Requirements types of service level agreements that you have undertaken This section provides the vendor with a complete list of your pri- with other organizations for both the ASP and internal host- oritized functional and non-functional requirements. ing models. 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 10
  11. 11. • Professional Services and Strategic Alliances: In addition to 9. Investment implementation support, what consulting services do you This section includes one main category: Pricing. A sample ques- provide (without added cost to the project)? Provide a list of tion might be: What is your company’s licensing and pricing your company’s strategic partners and specific examples of model? Please be specific. how these partners have provided value-added services to You may also want to use the assessment results from the LMS your customer projects. Needs Assessment you conducted in Step 5 to provide vendors 8. Value Proposition with additional information that will impact their response. Here you ask the vendor to provide information including: vendor financials, competitive analysis, and overall value. Sample ques- Once the RFP is complete, be sure to have it reviewed internally tions might include: (by the project sponsor or key stakeholders) to insure that it accu- rately reflects the needs of the project. This is also a good time to • Your Company: Is your firm publicly traded? (List date, symbol, inform vendors when the RFP will be distributed and when their and exchange). What is the percentage of stock owned by proposals are expected (a two-three week timeframe is usually insiders? If private, describe your financial resources. fair). • Competitive Analysis: Who do you consider your top com- petitors? Provide a competitive analysis comparing both your Once the RFP is approved, distribute the RFP to the narrowed product and services to your top competitors. down list of potential vendors you determined in Step 4. Again, • Value: Why should we work with your company? What unique be sure to manage the RFP process in a way that is fair and con- value will your company provide? sistent for all vendors. Step Six: Preparing Your Company for Change You may be asking yourself,“why is Learning Past Learning Future ‘preparing your company for change’ an action step in selecting Company- or manager-directed Self-service with accountability a Learning Management System?” One size fits all Personalized curricula based on competencies The answer is simple: if you don’t Waiting for scheduled training events On-demand learning; just when I need it start now, all your selection efforts could go to waste. Access by some Access by all Slow response to market/business Proactive and rapid response to business Implementing an LMS is unlike implementing other types of com- Changes environment pany system applications. The LMS’s Learning is an HR tool Learning as a competitive advantage added functionality and innovation Learning content is static Learning content is changing as quickly as provide you and your organization products and services with the unique opportunity to Little accountability for training investment Demand for greater ROI look toward the future and embrace new learning strategies. Little training variety Diverse learning resources Since an opportunity like this does- n’t come along too often, it’s one you want to capitalize on. Factors to Consider If your LMS project is to be successful, the project scope must Let’s start by taking a look at learning past and future. LMS tech- include change management. When embedding an LMS into nology can help facilitate these cultural changes as long as your your business, you must consider: business environment supports the transition. • The Learning Culture: Assess your learning culture to So, why change management? An LMS puts the power of learn- determine appropriate strategies to get from the current to ing at the learner’s fingertips, but it doesn’t ensure that learners the future state of learning. Consider whether your employ- will use the LMS. You have to do that. ees have the appropriate learning environment, the policies 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 11
  12. 12. needed to support continuous learning, and the incentives - What aspects of your current learning culture do you want to learn online. to change? • Business Processes: Your organization’s business practices • Assess the gap between your current learning state and must be aligned, created, or revised to support the LMS. The your business’s desired learning state LMS implementation impacts the roles of the learner, manag- Create a “Learning Past/Learning Future” table for your busi- er, and all learning professionals in your organization. ness. Consider conducting a learning assessment through • Learning Content: Your learning offerings must be migrat- focus groups and other data collection methods to clearly ed, converted, or created and mapped to organizational understand your current learning culture. and/or job competencies. For managers, employees, and the • Discover what will stand in the way of creating the organization to consider the LMS a valuable learning desired learning culture resource, it must have a full variety of quality learning content Create a force-field analysis diagram, which identifies the relevant to all roles in the organization. restraining forces or barriers and the driving forces for Starting the Change Process change. Here are some ways to start the change process: • Determine what will drive change in your business Given the restraining forces identified, what will you need to • Adapt a clear, purposeful vision for your learning do to drive change in your business? Consider the changes culture that will be required in processes, procedures, roles and the Determine how the LMS can activate this vision. Ensure that environment to drive LMS/E-learning success. the vision is compelling enough to increase stakeholder • Keep senior management on board openness to change. Consider: The support of senior managers is essential for change in - What type of learning culture do you want to create in your your organization’s learning culture. Senior executives must business? see that e-learning is a way to meet corporate objectives and - What aspects of your current learning culture do you want close business critical skill gaps. to keep? Step Seven: Evaluating Proposals and Short-Listing Vendors You’ve sent the Learning Management System (LMS) RFP to ven- time to expect and budget for the proposal review and scor- dors, and you’re waiting for them to respond. How can you use ing process. The average proposal is at least 50 pages and this time to gear up for evaluating the proposals? could be as long as 200. Plan for each proposal to take approximately 2 hours for review. Here are the next steps to consider: • Establish an evaluation team and process During this meeting, the evaluation team should also create If you already have an LMS selection team in place, then you evaluation criteria and weighting for each criterion. Because are well on your way to having an evaluation team. But con- evaluation criteria will not be considered equally in the evalu- sider whether your selection team has the authority to make ation process, you need to figure out how to weight criteria the final LMS decision in your organization. If your organiza- to reflect your priorities. For example, if the ability for the ven- tion is like most, you will need a higher-level approval. It is dor to meet your functional/non-functional requirements is usually the project sponsor and other executive stakeholders most critical, you may want to apply a higher weighting to that will ultimately approve or veto the evaluation team’s this criterion. short-list selection. Make sure you’re clear on the decision process, and set up the lines of communication now. Here is a list of some typical criteria: • Schedule an evaluation team meeting to discuss your - Functional/non-functional requirements evaluation process and schedule - Implementation experience The evaluation team needs to establish a clear process and - Pricing schedule for proposal evaluation. During this time, you - Vendor value proposition (e.g., company stability) should set expectations about the appropriate amount of - Customization and professional services - Technical fit 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 12
  13. 13. Once the categories and weighting are determined, a member of sheets prior to a team meeting. The project leader should com- the team should create a spreadsheet with criteria, ratings, and pile the scores to determine a ranking of vendors, noting any weightings. Evaluators can use the spreadsheet as they review major areas of disagreement between evaluators. The meeting each proposal. The spreadsheet will also help you translate your time can then be used to further discuss proposals, iron out con- qualitative review into a quantitative vendor score that can be tradictions, and confirm the short list. compared with others. Pass the recommendations on to executive evaluators Provide the executive evaluators with your schedule for approval or veto and an overview of the shortlisting process Now that the evaluation team has determined the short list, the Once the evaluation team determines its process and schedule, Project Leader should bring the team’s recommendations to executive evaluators need to be informed. This is also an opportu- executive evaluators for approval. Be prepared to share detailed nity for the executive evaluators to review and revise the weight- vendor scores with executive evaluators. Having a visual presenta- ings given to the evaluation criteria identified. Executive evalua- tion summarizing the scoring data would also be helpful. tors will also need to know how much time they will need to Notify short-listed vendors of next steps devote to the evaluation process. Once the short list has been approved or revised, vendors should Distribute the proposals and the scoring spreadsheet be notified to either inform them that they did not make it to the to the evaluation team next step in the process or if they did, to inform them of the next By the time you’ve set up the evaluation criteria and schedule, the steps. proposals should be back from the vendors. Distribute the vendor The Next Step: Final Vendor Presentations proposals and score sheets to the selection team. Provide an Finally, you may be asking “do we need to short-list or can we just online copy of the score sheet for automatic scoring. Also, if pric- make a selection now?” If only one vendor appears to meet your ing is not one of the three highest weighted criteria, consider needs, then there may not be a need to move forward with this removing the pricing information from the proposals before you step. But chances are you have more than one vendor still under distribute them. This will ensure that the vendor is truly evaluated consideration. Having a final vendor presentation provides you on their solution and not the cost of the solution. Remember, with the opportunity to: price can always be negotiated. • Ask the vendor the questions they did not respond to in their The evaluation team reviews the proposal proposal (and this will happen!) The evaluation team now reviews the proposals based on the • Provide the vendor with a case study (representing a real agreed-upon schedule. LMS issue your team is grappling with) to respond to in the The evaluation team meets to share their evaluations presentation. and create a short list • Further test your chemistry with the vendor. Probably the most efficient method of sharing evaluations and • Perform a final comparison of vendors. creating a short list is to have team members submit their score Step Eight: Conducting Final Vendor Presentations and Selecting a Vendor You have now short-listed your vendor candidates and you are able to bring your entire selection team to an off-site presenta- ready to move forward in selecting your LMS partner. Vendor pre- tion, a presentation at the vendor’s site allows you to: sentations at this step in the selection process allow you to learn • Get a better feel for the vendor’s organizational culture. more about the vendors under consideration and be sure that • Meet additional vendor resources that you could potentially you learn everything you need to know in order to make an edu- work with. cated decision. It is critical that the entire LMS selection team is • Tour the vendor facility to view key functions that you would present for these presentations. interact with during Conducting Vendor Presentations implementation. Because you are going to have different issues, questions and concerns for each vendor, the format of each vendor presentation Be sure to evaluate or debrief each vendor presentation as quick- should be customized to ensure that your issues are appropriate- ly as possible after the vendor presentation, while thoughts are ly addressed. Many organizations conduct these presentations at fresh in the minds of selection team members. You may want to the vendor’s site instead of their own. Although you may not be use an evaluation form to help you gather consistent feedback. 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 13
  14. 14. Checking Vendor References • Did you use the vendor’s professional services or any other After the vendor presentations, but before meeting with the consultants in your implementation process? selection team to select your LMS partner, you should conduct • What was the biggest surprise you encountered during the vendor reference checks. It is advantageous to check these refer- implementation? ences prior to making your selection, but you may meet with • Which implementation task did you underestimate in terms some resistance. Many LMS vendors are reluctant to provide of time and resources? client references before they have secured your business. It is • If you were to do this all over again, would you select a differ- important that you hold your ground here and let the vendor ent vendor? Why? know that you cannot make a selection without checking refer- • If you were to provide one piece of advice in working with ences. The reference-checking process also is a great opportunity this vendor, what would it be? for you to collect some implementation best practices that will Making your Final Selection help you down the road. At this point you should feel that you have thoroughly investigat- You should check at least two client references for each of the ed all of your short-listed vendors and are prepared to make your short-listed vendors. Here are some questions to consider asking: selection. You should remind your selection team and other com- pany decision-makers to take the following criteria into account: • Which LMS vendors made it to your short-list during your LMS selection process? Why? Why did you ultimately select • The overall match between the vendor products and your this vendor? business requirements • Please describe your implementation. Was it local, regional, • The technical fit of each LMS product global? How many users were there? • The quality of the vendor proposals • In your initial project plan, how much time did you allow for • The investment required your full implementation? How much time did the imple- • The ability of vendors to meet your implementation schedule mentation actually take? • The quality of the vendor resources and strategic alliances • Did implementing the LMS cause you to change how you • The chemistry between your organization and the vendors’ conduct your business? How flexible were the LMS’s business organization rules? • How did you roll out your LMS? Full implementation of all Many organizations select two vendors, a first choice and runner- functionality? Phased implementation of functionality? Full up, just in case you and the preferred vendor cannot reach an implementation to all users? Phased implementation to agreement during contract negotiation. some users? Step Nine: Negotiating the LMS Licensing and Service Level Agreements With all the effort and due diligence you and the selection team • Delivery and License (delivery, data conversion, grant of put into making a selection, you would think that the contract license, limitations of license, source code escrow) negotiation and signing process would be relatively straightfor- • Disaster Recovery (alternative sites, disaster recovery sites ward and painless. Guess again! This is where the fun truly begins. and procedures) • Documentation It can take anywhere from three weeks to two months to effec- • Training (product training, supplemental training) tively negotiate an LMS contract. Why so long? An LMS is a signifi- • Term and Limited Warranties (warranty of title, warranty cant software investment that almost always requires some level against infringement or encumbrances, current version, con- of customization, and like any big project, there will be intricacies formance to documentation, warranty against disablement, that need to be ironed out in the contract. exclusions) What the Contract Typically Contains • Software Maintenance (term, renewal, services to be provid- Typically, you can expect the LMS contract to be between 25 and ed, response priorities) 35 pages. Below is an example of the terms you should except to • Indemnification (intellectual property indemnification, see outlined in the contract: indemnification against personal injury and property damage) • Limitation of Liability (limitation of liability, exceptions from liability) 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 14
  15. 15. • Payment (payment, taxes, continued performance, audits, out If your organization selects an external hosting option, be of pocket expenses) sure that the contract clearly specifies who is ultimately • Confidential Information (treatment of confidential infor- responsible for hosting, because many LMS vendors use mation, exclusions) third-party hosting services. You should determine if it is nec- • Proprietary Rights (ownership of products, copyright essary to enter into a separate contract with the hosting notices) service provider. • Modifications to Product made by Client Organization • Additional Professional Services (right to modify source code, assignment of rights) If the LMS vendor has agreed to provide you with consulting • Termination (default, election of remedies, survival of provi- services, (for example, business analysis, marketing, or change sions, vendor default) management), be sure that the scope of the integration • Insurance work, the vendor resources provided, and the associated • Miscellaneous Provisions (notices, bankruptcy rights, rela- costs are clearly outlined in the contract. tionship of the parties, non-exclusivity, successors and • Handling of press releases and industry announcements assigns, severability, publicity, compliance with government This can be a sticky situation. Vendors typically want to regulations) announce their new relationship with your organization and • Statement of Work (description of planned implementation, use your company name on their client list. If your organiza- systems integration, pilot strategies, consulting services) tion has policies around this sort of promotion, be sure that they are clearly expressed in the contract. Contracting Best Practices • Service Level Agreements Now a few words of wisdom. Most standard LMS contracts are Once the product is up and running your relationship with not specific enough to ensure that you will get the product and the vendor does not end. There will be regular product service you need. When negotiating your contract, be sure it upgrades and maintenance releases. During normal use you includes specifics in the following areas: may even uncover some product defects. Your agreements • Functionality requiring customization with and with the vendor should govern the relationship between you without cost and the vendor after the product has been installed. How the Be sure that the contract specifies which functionalities will vendor responds to future problems should all be spelled be customized without cost to your organization. If some of out in the appropriate service level agreements. the customization will carry an additional cost, the contract Contract negotiation can be a trying period given the need to should include an estimated cost range. move forward with implementation. If you set expectations and • Hosting Arrangements plan accordingly, you won’t be disappointed. Step Ten: Getting Ready for Implementation While your LMS contract is in negotiation you can already start ect, working in collaboration with the vendor’s project man- getting your organization ready for implementation. That way you ager, and overseeing the work of all project team members. can hit the ground running when the contract is signed. The Project Manager also has overall accountability for man- aging LMS vendor. Establish an LMS Project Team • LMS Business Process Specialist Many organizations underestimate the resources required to suc- Provides direction to the LMS initiative related to linking for- cessfully pull off the implementation plan they have developed. mal/informal training and other business processes to LMS They also tend to underestimate the type of resources required, functionality. Facilitates decision-making across the organiza- focusing primarily on the required technical resources. tion to determine consistent philosophy and approach. Re Each implementation is different and there is not one standard engineers processes where needed and translates “paper- project team configuration that is appropriate for every organiza- based” processes into LMS functionality. tion. Keeping that in mind, here are some general recommenda- • Change Management Specialist tions for key roles on the project team. Assesses and identifies cultural implications of LMS initiative. Recommends and develops interventions to ensure success- • Project Manager ful implementation with all levels of employees and stake- Accountable for leading the daily activities of the LMS proj- holders. Works with businesses to develop policies and 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 15
  16. 16. processes that support the new learning process and Begin Change Management Activities with address cultural barriers. Pilot Groups • Communications and Marketing Specialist Provided that your pilot group(s) have been identified, this is a Provides targeted marketing and communications strategies good time to begin preparing those parts of your organization to support the promotion of the LMS to employees and for change. Consider working with those business units or depart- stakeholders. Develops communication strategies to keep ments to: stakeholders and the organization up to date on the status of • Assess the current learning culture. the LMS initiative. • Determine the gap between the current culture and the cul- • Technical Specialist ture you want to create, using the LMS as a tool to get you Responsible for managing the technical aspects of the proj- there. ect as well as the determination of business requirements. • Develop the environment, processes, and policies needed to Serves as the liaison between the Information Technology support the new learning culture. Department and LMS vendor for all technical aspects of design, development and implementation of the Learning Start to Develop the Marketing Strategy Management System. Now that you have selected an LMS, you need to educate your organization on what is to come and how it will affect and bene- Begin to Map out Business Processes fit them. Marketing and Communication goals should include: This is a good time to start your organization thinking about how they currently conduct their learning activities. It’s also a good • Setting and managing expectations for managers and time to start mapping the process that learning activities typically employees regarding capabilities of the LMS. follow in each business. Once the mapping is done, you can com- • Preparing employees for the changes that are occurring in pare learning activities across businesses to uncover similarities the culture. and differences and find common ground to create a consistent You should define your audiences (senior management, middle learning approach across your organization. management, employees), tailor messages, and determine pre- ferred communication vehicles. If everyone affected by the LMS implementation is not on board, your returns will not reach your expectations, even if you have followed faithfully the ten steps to successfully selecting a Learning Management System. Good luck on your LMS acquisition journey, and remember the Ten Steps to success! Ten Steps to Selecting a Learning Management System is an Intrepid publication. Copyright 2004. Contact us at or call 206-381-3779. 411 First Avenue South • Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98104 Tel: 206-381-3779 • Fax: 206-381-8790 • 16