No organization replaces a learning management system for fun. It demands thought and deliberation. The process of defining your requirements, developing a shortlist, choosing and configuring the best option, implementing integrations, sunsetting your old system, and rolling out a new solution is often arduous and costly. So why go through all that? Is it really necessary? When does it make sense to replace your LMS?
Find out on this 10th episode of the Customer Ed Nuggets podcast, where I outline the most common reasons why customer education organizations move on from their LMS(s). Also, check out the short video embedded below, where I dig deeper into the top three reasons.
Odds are, you’ll see your LMS situation described in this post. So read on…
What I’ve Learned From a Career of Asking Why
“Why are you ready to replace your LMS?” For almost 25 years, I’ve been asking this question. I’ve probably asked it more than a thousand times. After all, knowing why organizations want to make a change is the first step in solving the problem.
But a thousand times — really? Yep, really.
I’ve spent the last 24 years on the front lines of LMS buying and selling. Earlier in my career, I carried a quota as an enterprise LMS salesperson for nearly 14 years. Then 10 years ago, I realized how crucial it is for extended enterprise learning systems buyers to rely on an independent source of intelligence. So I founded Talented Learning to cut through the marketing fluff, define what organizations really need, and help them choose their best LMS from over 1000 possible options. Now, as a systems selection consultant, I have personally guided over 150 organizations in finding their next LMS.
The Stakes are Higher In Customer Education
Although changing an LMS is not as easy as flipping a switch, it happens more often in customer education than employee training. This is largely because the business impact of customer education is easier to measure.
For instance, choose a key performance indicator like retention rate. Then compare that metric for trained versus untrained customers. You’ll likely find that educated customers stay onboard longer.
Because you can observe and quantify these metrics, the data is hard to ignore. And the implications are important to your business. So if your LMS doesn’t measure up, you’ll probably reach a quitting point faster than an employee training department would.
9 Reasons to Replace Your LMS
When exactly does it make sense for your customer education organization to replace your LMS? These are the most common issues I’ve seen in my career:
1. LMS Vendor M&A — When one LMS company acquires another, customers of the acquired LMS should brace for a bumpy ride. Why? The purpose of an LMS-LMS merger or acquisition is to increase profit by eliminating redundancies.
First, the acquired professional services, support and sales teams are downsized and integrated into the acquirer’s organization. This disrupts established communication flow and personal relationships. Next, the acquired LMS product is either immediately retired or dies a slow non-innovative death. This forces a migration to the acquirer’s solution when contracts are renewed.
If you’re being forced to adopt a new platform, it’s a good time to look around and evaluate your options before saying yes.
2. M&A in Your Organization — Most organizations have at least one LMS. So when they merge, acquire or are acquired by another organization, the combined organization has two or more LMSs for employees, partners and/or customers.
Many of my clients are juggling too many learning systems — two, five, ten or even more — thanks to M&A. They know it’s time to step back, reevaluate their requirements, and (if possible) select one LMS for all their needs. But this is easier said than done because M&A activity introduces new political players into the consolidation mix. Each decision-maker brings unique views and LMS successes and failures to the table.
3. Poorly Defined Requirements — Although many organizations hate to admit this, rushing through the requirements definition process always leads to a poor LMS choice. And the best way to get the worst results is to give LMS requirements short shrift.
To find an LMS that will serve you well, it is important to document your business case, define success metrics, and develop appropriate use cases. You’ll also want to specify functional, technical, service, support and licensing requirements before approaching vendors for proposals.
4. Lack of Customer Education Focus — A vast majority of LMSs are designed primarily for employee training. Vendors may say their LMS can support customers, but their key feature sets don’t meet the demands of customer education.
With 1000+ learning systems available today, insufficient functionality is unacceptable. Insist upon capabilities like a consumer-quality user interface, CRM integration, organization management, multi-single-sign-on, e-commerce capabilities, an adaptive learning experience, syndicated content and commercial-grade analytics.
5. Weak LMS Vendor Customer Service — Does this situation sound familiar?
You discover an aspect of your LMS isn’t working as intended. You open a support ticket with the vendor, describing the issue and attaching a screenshot. After 24 hours, the vendor responds with a question you already answered in the ticket. You politely repeat the answer. Then you wait another 24 hours, only to receive a response saying, yes it does seem odd, and the issue has been routed to engineering for resolution.
Another week passes with no response. You request an update, wait 24 hours, and receive no update. You continue to work around the glitch. But alas, you find another issue. So you start the process again. And again. And again.
It’s time for a new LMS.
6. Customer Complaints — While you fight through customer support delays with your LMS vendor, your customers and your support department pay the price.
Customer education should be a frictionless experience. If you’re receiving complaints from your customers about logging on to your LMS, using system features, finding content or consuming it, their experience is not frictionless. Every frustration drains your organization’s ability to make a positive business impact. A better system can help you turn this situation around.
7. License Model Misalignment — Every LMS vendor has a different license model or way to measure usage and charge for it. Common options focus on named users, monthly users, annual users, amount of content consumed or number of locations. Many vendors also include usage tiers, so cost-per-use decreases as overall usage increases.
This means it’s very easy to find an LMS that works for you functionally and technically, but doesn’t fit your usage patterns. If your pricing plan doesn’t scale, you could be paying much more than necessary. Or you may need to manually deactivate learners so you can stay under predetermined license caps.
Customer education organizations shouldn’t have to work around a vendor’s license plan. Instead, licensing should align with mutual success.
8. Customer Education Team Changes — Customer education is a relatively young and rapidly evolving field. Organizations around the globe are investing in new leaders, initiatives and customer education departments to help make a positive impact on customer experience and business performance. Newly hired leaders often bring ideas about customer education solutions that have been effective in other settings, and they drive ecosystem changes accordingly.
This particular situation may not be beneficial or fair to an incumbent LMS vendor or the original selection team. However, it is a common fact of life in today’s customer education space.
9. Desire to Improve Business Impact: Every customer education team starts small with one product or use case (such as onboarding). Then, because customer education is highly effective and measurable, organizations usually want more and more. As you expand to meet broader business goals, other functional, technical and service-related LMS requirements may be necessary. If your original LMS can’t address these growth needs, it’s time to look elsewhere.
Watch This Episode of Customer Ed Nuggets
So, what do you think? Do you see your customer education team in any of these scenarios? Over the years I’ve seen all of them many times and helped organizations find viable solutions. For a closer look at the 3 most common reasons to replace your LMS, join me by clicking on the embedded video below…
With customer education, learners’ expectations are sky-high. They don’t know or care what an LMS is. They’re judging your organization on whether their learning experience enhances their experience as a customer. And they’re likely to base those opinions on their digital history with heavyweight brands like Amazon, Instagram, iTunes and Google.
At its core, customer education is about strategically applying learning to move the needle in measurable ways that help your business outperform competitors. The right LMS can help you exceed those objectives. The wrong one will only hold you back.
These days, you should expect to love your LMS. For any conceivable use case, there are 10 great solutions. So, if your customer education team is experiencing any of the pain I’ve described here, it’s time to do yourself a favor and find out what a switch will help you accomplish.
I realize change is hard. Replacing an LMS may seem as bad as a root canal. But it’s really not that painful if you consider the price your business will pay if you stick with the status quo.
Thanks for reading!
About Talented Learning Customer Ed Nuggets
Hosted by Talented Learning CEO John Leh, the Customer Ed Nuggets podcast is a trusted source of advice, guidance and best practices for customer education professionals of all types. In this series of brief video and audio clips (10 minutes or less), I explore key topics with numerous guest experts.
We explore all facets of customer education, from how to build a persuasive business case, to effective strategies, technologies and content that help professionals create, deploy and grow successful customer-centered programs.
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Looking to upgrade or replace your LMS to improve the impact of customer education at your company? I can help. (For proof, check my 45+ LinkedIn recommendations.) Start by submitting the form below to request a free consultation with me, Talented Learning Founder and Lead Analyst, John Leh:
John Leh is Founder, 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.