7 questions to consider when deciding on an LMS provider
When it comes to choosing a learning platform vendor, there are key strengths that will set apart the top players. Here are the questions to consider when making a decision between them…
1. Is it cloud-based?
There aren’t yet as many learning providers using the cloud as you’d think. The biggest benefit of the cloud is that it allows for virtually limitless scalability, as well as freeing your organisation of the risks and costs associated with self-hosting. Infrastructure is entirely managed by a provider – which means that if you’re not using it, it scales down, and if you grow, it expands with you, whether you have 1,000 users or 100,000.
Transferring upkeep to a cloud provider means a significant cost and time saving. There is no redundant hardware to deal with and no servers to regularly upgrade and replace. A cloud-based solution rolls all of these costs into one line-item at the end of the year.
There is also security. If data sovereignty is an issue for your organisation, be sure to ask about jurisdictions. Some hosting providers offer you little control over where servers are located around the world. A cloud provider such as Microsoft Azure hosts entirely within Australia. Microsoft also owns the upgrade and security risk and carries out any patches by default.
2. How easily can we integrate with your system?
Knowing how seamlessly your organisation’s existing systems can perform side-by-side with a new platform should be top of your list of questions. This is especially true when you need more extensive access to and manipulation of raw data than most vendors offer.
For instance, your learning reports may need to integrate with data from HR, payroll and finance systems, or a CRM. Look for a vendor that offers extensive API options so that your information can be easily centralised into your data warehouse to support an advanced reporting tool.
APIs and single-sign-on (SSO) streamline all your third-party products. Data can be made available to your systems via a web service, within minutes. Automatically push important events, such as your learners’ training history, to third-party applications such as your HR system. You can create users, add them to groups or enrol them in courses and extract user and course completion data back to the third-party system.
Meanwhile, single-sign-on (SSO) frees you from having to create new user accounts, and lets you use existing HR data and structures. It goes without saying how much of a cost and time saving this represents.
3. How customisable is your system?
If you’re like most organisations, your marketing and HR departments will want to be able to brand and tailor a learning platform without calling in a developer or getting IT involved each time a change is needed. To enable this, you need a platform that is designed by configuration – which means that you can make it look however you want, with your own branding and terminology, without needing to be an IT expert.
4. What ongoing services are offered?
Most providers do offer training and implementation. However what will stand head and shoulders above the rest is a vendor that looks holistically at how its clients use their product. Is there a shift in how the platform is being used? Does it indicate the need for a new feature? Is there a new buzzword to pay attention to? Ideally a provider will be constantly monitoring and reviewing for such trends, and adapting the product accordingly.
Then there’s day-to-day support. Look for a vendor who offers you a support team which is Australian-based, and who your administrators can access easily
5. Is it software-as-a-service (SaaS)?
The software-as-a-service model delivers you your LMS licensed on a subscription basis. Centrally hosted and accessed via the internet, this model does away with software purchasing and maintenance, and frees you of the complications of owning several different licence types.
Look out for a vendor which offers two further options: enterprise and non-enterprise. An enterprise model means you pay a flat rate irrespective of the number of users. The non-enterprise option means you are not forced into an organisation-wide rollout, to justify the cost of a flat licencing fee. Perhaps you’re not ready to roll out to all your 100,000 users from Day 1, but only wish to start with 1,000 users. The price reflects the number of users; you only pay more once you scale up.
6. How do you track compliance and progress?
Knowing exactly where your organisation and team stands on compliance is one of the key benefits of a thoughtfully-developed LMS. Look for whether it offers a clear visual representation of compliance data. A dashboard allows a manager to instantly see who’s at risk and who’s about to become at risk.
Ideally, it will allow for granularity and scalability – allowing a CEO to drill down all the way to micro-levels of management.
In an innovation on the market, mandatory-training dashboards can also display compliance by geographical region: drill in to NSW or QLD, or look across the whole of Australia, and see who is compliant. Capabilities can be assigned to users, positions, organisations or structures and the system will record data according to these parameters. It means that a CEO can see across their organisation or pick a state, a department, a region, or a business unit, to check compliance.
7. Do you have a road-map?
Does your vendor offer a static solution, or an agile one that can evolve with the pace of digital developments? Given the sheer speed of tech developments, future-proofing is becoming top of the list of requirements. Ensure the vendor you choose is anticipating the needs of the market by continuously adding new functionality and releasing regular product updates.