Global LMS — What does that term mean to you? Truth is, it means different things to different organizations.
At its most basic level, a global LMS delivers learning content in English (or another single language) to all of its users, anywhere in the world. Due to the cloud, many U.S. LMS vendors offer this capability. They sell to global companies headquartered primarily in the U.S. and deliver the same content to everyone who uses the global LMS, wherever they are located globally. “Hey, we’re global,” they say, but that is not sufficient for many global organizations.
For example, some global organizations must manage employee training and compliance at multiple locations around the world, in local languages, delivered or created by local learning groups, while simultaneously supporting customer and channel partner learning in those regions. This example would drive the need for multiple integrations, audience domains with high levels of configurability, delegated administration, certain language localizations, localized content and regional reporting.
Not complex enough? Here’s another scenario. If you run a commercial training company with global reach and multiple organizational clients, you’re likely to need a solution that offers private client views, localized branding and communications, campaign management and reporting, public and private catalog management, course and resource content management, single sign-on and CRM integration, currency and taxation management, sophisticated ecommerce and time zone management capabilities, and integration with accounting and other business systems — oh yeah –and a full mobile experiences. How can buyers possibly find the best fit, let alone make it all work?
There’s another truth about being a global LMS — it’s tough and usually impossible for learning platform vendors to fake. That’s because global LMS requirements are much more expansive than just functionality. There are also technical and deployment issues, local implementation and support needs, varying security regulations and licensing and cost considerations. With so many critical factors in play, inexperienced and unqualified “global” vendors are rapidly exposed.
In our recent webinar, we explored many issues that influence global LMS success beyond functionality. But below is a look at the three levels of sophistication you can expect to find in the global LMS marketplace:
What Level of Global LMS Functionality Makes Sense for You?
1) Basic Global LMS Functionality
Basic global LMS features are good for entry-level widespread employee training solutions, but they quickly hit the wall when multiple regional business offices need to administer, teach and learn. Features you should expect from a basic global LMS include:
Using automated, non-human translations like Google Translate for LMS interface translations. It is easy to translate languages this way, but leads to a lot of wrong words, misinterpretations and cultural insensitivity.
Translations are for LMS labels and menu items, but not content or user defined data. Learning content is never translated automatically by the LMS.
Most common translations include English, Latin American Spanish, Spanish, French, French Canadian, American, British, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Welsh, Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese.
The LMS “sniffs” the browser display language and automatically displays the LMS content in the same language if available.
Learner profile specifies language preference.
Learning profile includes time zone preference for automatic time conversions to support live or virtual live events.
Online help, tutorials and notifications are in primary language only.
One global currency is supported for the deployment.
Each content item is deployed in a single language. Localized versions of content are standalone content items.
More than end-learner interface is localized. Often administration, reports, mobile or notifications are not localized.
2) Intermediate Global LMS Functionality
Intermediate global LMS functionality helps you manage concurrent learning business in multiple languages. This is useful for many global organizations — but especially those that grow through mergers and acquisitions.
Concept of “domains” and “subdomains” allowing for unique areas for each global group to have their own site, content and languages but be part of an enterprise-wide LMS.
Geographic reporting within domains.
Simultaneous support for multiple HR feeds and Single Sign On (SSO) technologies from different regional organizations.
The translations are done by native speakers and are called “localizations.” Localizations include culturally sensitive translations and native speaking patterns.
“Double-byte” graphical character sets are provided including traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai languages.
Nordic, Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific language localizations include Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Czech, Albanian, Greek, Russian, Turkish, Polish, Malay and Bahasa.
Administrative tools to create new or modify existing localizations to localize even tighter to an organization or regional culture.
Online help files, tutorials, email notification templates, reports and documentation are also localized.
Variable pricing for content can be based on region or country.
3) Advanced Global LMS Functionality
It’s difficult to simultaneously support multiple learning groups focused on employee training. Now add-in variations on extended enterprise learning (delivering customer and channel partner education to multiple regions around the world) and various ecommerce scenarios. It makes rocket science seem simple. What kind of requirements are common in these environments?
Support for right-to-left languages such as Arabic, Aramaic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu.
All LMS modules are fully localized including mobile applications.
Content distribution networks (CDN) that serve up content from local, regional servers.
Ability to manage a piece of content and create and dynamically serve local variations to users, yet retain one reporting record for administrators.
Each piece of content has the ability to be delivered in localized versions.
Users can specify one or multiple language preferences in their profile. If content exists in the preferred or alternate languages, it is served automatically to the user, if not, the next preference is presented.
Support for multiple currencies are deployed simultaneously by either a unique separation of language domains, or via API integration that converts currencies in real time, based on user’s preferred currency in their profile.
Global data centers in regional areas with strict privacy concerns like Germany or China.
Integration with customer relationship management (CRM) software such as Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics.
Integration with global taxation software such as Avalara or TaxJar.
Nothing about global LMS selection is straightforward or easy. With more than 700 learning technology vendors in today’s market, the possibilities can seem overwhelming. The minute you start digging into globalization capabilities, you will find more layers and layers of complexity and ambiguity.
Global LMS vendors are truly in a category by themselves. They must develop highly complex functionality and make it all available globally, yet locally configurable, coherent and easy to use. They must also support multiple variations of LMS configuration, localization and integration — simultaneously. And that’s only the functionality. Stay tuned, we’re just getting started on this topic…
Your learning business is always open. At any moment, employees, partners or customers somewhere in the world need access to relevant learning content that helps them perform more effectively. Is your LMS ready?
Join John Leh, Talented Learning CEO and Lead Analyst, and Tom Holz, Blackboard International Senior Director, as they shine a light on too-often neglected issues in global corporate and government learning technology rollouts. You’ll learn:
Which global learning challenges pose the biggest business risks
Functional requirements and processes that make or break a global LMS implementation
Challenges of global data security, ecommerce and taxation
How to reduce the burden of worldwide learning administration, including best practices for managing localized content
How to determine the business impact of a globally responsive LMS
John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.
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