Getting final budget approval for an LMS is kind of like pushing over a Coke machine — it usually takes a few tries. The buying cycle for a new or an upgraded LMS averages 12-24 months — and can easily take much longer. This elongated buying cycle is almost always due to the challenge of obtaining executive budget approval for the purchase and ongoing maintenance.
Once you have your budget requests submitted, there is really nothing else to do other than hope and prepare. Despite having the available time, most LMS buying organizations don’t take advantage of the calm before the storm and are woefully unprepared for their LMS implementation once they have the approvals to proceed with a purchase.
There is a perception that the implementation process is the time to figure out the small details of the project, but you should define as much in advance as you can to streamline the implementation and maximize your odds of success.
Even if your LMS budget gets delayed for a year or two, any preparation work you do will be leveraged at that time and you’ll be stronger because of it. Preparation is never lost. What should you do while waiting for your LMS budget approval?
Below are five activities that will be valuable, no matter when you buy, or what learning platform vendor you choose:
1) Start Researching — Yesterday
If you are researching LMSs in the same year you are going to buy an LMS, you are most likely running too fast for comfort. Buy a LMS and you are staking your professional reputation on the outcome. Most LMS buyers don’t get a second and third opportunity to get the vendor selection and implementation correct. You really can’t know too much about the LMS industry, best practices, trends, pitfalls, case studies and vendors if you want to buy an LMS and be successful.
My best advice is to start early with the research and do a little every day. If you spent just 10 minutes every work day reading blogs and websites about LMS you would read over 40 hours in one year! When was the last time your read 40 hours on any topic? Just imagine how LMS smart you would be if your core team read 30 minutes a day and shared results weekly?
2) Create a Measurable Business Plan
If you can’t define and predicatively measure how the purchase of a LMS is going to make or save your organization money –way more money than the cost of the LMS –you are not ready to buy one nor will you get LMS budget approval. A measurable plan doesn’t need to be a mega-MBA affair. It can start as small as monitoring one business metric such as sales volume, support requests or compliance violations and comparing changes in trained vs. untrained groups or individuals.
The measurable differences in performance can be attributed to the use of the LMS. Once you have identified a historical trend, you can then make future predictions of the impact of the new system that has broader reach, is easier to use, etc. If you start measuring from day one, getting incremental budget for new projects will be easier than first grade math.
3) Sort out your LMS Governance
A governance structure and plan defines all the collaborating (or competing training groups), how decisions are made and prioritized, standards for use of the system and tries to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the business units. If you don’t have one, you need to create one.
Governance plans not only will help you manage the global adoptance of your LMS, it is also very useful to educate potential vendors on the scope of the implementation process resulting in more realistic bids and outcomes. For example, if you have a centralized governance structure with relatively few decision makers, LMS vendors will be able to bid a smaller implementation than if you have 27 federated training stakeholders. Either way, if you don’t define governance now, you will have to do it during the implementation process when it is too late and too hurried.
4) Master your Historical Data
When a vendor provides quotes on LMS licensing, implementation, hosting and support, they base them directly on usage assumptions. The more a LMS buyer knows about their historical and predicted usage patterns, the better the vendor can estimate and provide for the proper level of pricing and support. Give a vendor too little data and they bid too high or too low but definitely not right unless they are lucky.
As part of your data collection, define specifically what content you have, in what medium, how often it is used and by whom. The ideal time to throw out a bunch of bad content is when you are switching LMSs.
5) Build a Reference Network
Vendors hate giving references. They never know what their references are going to say. It is tough for vendors to keep going back and asking the same clients to provide hour after hour of uncompensated references. This means that a vendor has to maintain great relationships with many customers or they will never have enough references to go around in the sales cycle. And that is exactly why you need to ask for and conduct client reference calls before selecting any partner.
However, you don’t need to wait until the LMS selection process to start getting references. Speak with former colleagues, monitor LinkedIn LMS groups, join your local ATD chapter, read vendor case studies and you will find owners and users of many LMS systems. Most are happy to share their experiences when asked and many do so freely online. If you start your research early, you will be able to create your own informal network, learn best practices, pitfalls, vendors to speak with and vendors to avoid.
Whether automobiles, real estate, smartphones or LMSs, prepared and educated buyers buy better and thus have more success. Unless you are a C-Level executive of your organization, it is really tough to accelerate the LMS buying cycle. If you can’t speed it up, make the most use of your down time getting smarter and better prepared.
Thanks for reading!
Want more LMS insights? Check this on-demand webinar:
The LMS landscape is crowded, complex and difficult for potential buyers to navigate. What should learning technology buyers do?
Join Talented Learning Lead Analyst John Leh and Docebo North American Sales Director Corey Marcel as they explain what you should know before you choose the right LMS for your organization. You will learn:
- What an effective LMS selection process looks like
- The factors that matter most in choosing a learning platform
- Where to find the most reliable LMS vendor intelligence, and
- How to avoid common LMS selection missteps
If you’re selecting a new LMS this year (or are only thinking about it), replay this on-demand webinar, and start putting your selection strategy to work!
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