LMS Buying Process - Learning Management System RFP

Learning management system RFPs have a reputation for being difficult, but it will be much easier now that you have well-defined requirements. The goal of a request for proposal (RFP) is to clearly describe your use cases, requirements and learning content to be deployed, so vendors understand what you really want and need from business, feature, functional, technical, service, support and budget standpoints.

The LMS RFP is also important for your evaluation process because proposals can easily be compared and ranked side-by-side. A process-based approach to requesting, receiving and evaluating proposals eliminates ambiguity and provides a written record of vendor responses and assumptions for the future. A formal learning management system RFP also provides the only way to compare vendor pricing using the same criteria.

Skipping the learning management system RFP is a recipe for disaster

One of the easiest ways to pay too much for the wrong solution is to skip the RFP step in the buying process. It’s easy to ask a vendor for a proposal and receive one. However, it’s not easy to determine whether the learning platform in that proposal will provide what you need, or if it’s better or worse than other, competitive solutions.

At Talented Learning, we’ve seen what happens when companies skip the RFP:

  • Although the vendor says they have a particular feature, you may not realize it’s limitations for your use case until after the contract has been finalized.
  • The bidder says they are providing all the implementation and configuration services your organization will need. But during the implementation process you discover they didn’t account for something which results in a change order. Now you must either go without or ask for more budget.
  • The potential vendor proposes modules that include functionality you don’t need, which unnecessarily raises the proposal price.
  • The pricing tiers proposed by the vendor are not aligned to your use case, business model or professional training and education goals.
  • There are no specific criteria by which an LMS comparison can occur on key elements, leaving you guessing which LMS might be best for your organization.

Our advice? You can’t afford to skip the RFP!

Do all buyers really need a learning management system RFP?

Sure, there are self-service LMS solutions with no sales or implementation services that have free trials and published online pricing and functionality. But those are for small businesses and first-time buyers with simple use case scenarios and nominal budgets.

These solutions serve a purpose, but if your organization will easily outgrow them, you’ll need to use an RFP to be successful in your search for a more robust learning platform.

A great LMS RFP in 7 parts

 At this point you may be tempted to create a relatively generic learning management system RFP and send it to 10 or 12 vendors to see what sticks. However, RFPs without much detail will result in vague proposals; they’ll be light on specifics and create more questions than answers, requiring more time and follow-up with each vendor.

Instead, we recommend writing a specific LMS request for proposal that clearly and concisely describes exactly what your learners and your organization need, from deploying a learning management platform to growing your online learning. A good goal is to solicit proposals from 3 to 5 qualified vendors whose platforms appear to closely fit your project’s requirements.

The RFP should provide the key evaluation criteria your organization will use to select a learning platform, and the objectives the organization wants to accomplish with the system. It should be detailed enough so that evaluating and rating proposals are easy when bidders respond.

Your learning management system RFP should include these essential elements:

  1. Executive Summary – Have vendors describe the highlights of the learning solution they propose, and how it will meet and exceed your requirements.
  2. Vendor Profile Requirements – Ask questions about the supplier’s company, contact information, business structure, experience and their key differentiators.
  3. Critical Use Case Functionality Requirements – Describe the goals your organization wants to accomplish with this LMS, including the main types of users for your learning platform, what you want them to accomplish, how and why.
  4. Professional Service Requirements – What type and scope of implementation, integration and support services do you require to be successful?
  5. Technical Requirements – Verify deployment, integration, accessibility, mobile capability, security, scalability and other critical infrastructure needs.
  6. Business Requirements – The scope should also include describing your past usage statistics and outlining your organization’s future usage predictions, license model preference and pricing parameters.
  7. References – Ask the vendor to provide reference clients who are similar in size and type to your organization, who are currently using the vendor’s LMS. Obtaining references for three clients is a good goal.

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