Remember the excitement you felt as a kid when you opened a holiday gift? Even as adults, there’s nothing quite like the joy of adding something new to our lives.
But sooner or later, the thrill wears off. Most of the once-shiny objects that made us feel so fulfilled eventually find their way to a garage sale, donation center or recycling bin.
Sadly, this happens all too often with software. As learning systems consultants, we’ve seen our share of organizations abandon LMS platforms that once seemed like ideal solutions. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
How to Keep That “New LMS” Feeling Alive
There are plenty of things you can do to be sure a new LMS doesn’t meet an untimely end. For example, when you sign your next LMS contract, consider my best advice:
1) Take a deep, cleansing breath
Choosing an LMS can be a difficult, political and highly visible decision. You’ve likely endured heated internal discussions, unwelcomed vendor surprises during demos and unforeseen contractual confusion. And if you’re like most learning decision makers I know, you’ve invested long days and weekend hours trying to keep up with your “day job” when you’d rather have been catching rays on a warm Caribbean beach.
But all of that is behind you. Now is the time to clear your mind of negative thoughts about the selection process, your colleagues, the vendor or anything else that might stand between you and a positive mindset.
A new chapter is beginning. Recognize that your journey will pose new challenges, including delays and disagreements. Letting go of negative baggage will help you prepare for the road ahead.
2) Ask an external expert to join you
A third-party expert can save you considerable time and money throughout the implementation process. You’ll have proactive guidance to help you avoid missteps with early-stage configuration and deployment decisions. You’ll also have assistance with documentation, project management and other details that are often overlooked. Plus, you’ll gain an ally who can apply “good cop/bad cop” negotiating tactics with your vendor, if necessary.
Look for an external resource who knows your vendor, understands your requirements and is willing to advocate for your business needs and priorities.
3) Review and refresh original goals
You’ve probably spent the past 3-12 months developing LMS requirements, researching potential vendors, reading RFP responses, watching demos and testing features in a sandbox. Meanwhile, your organization and industry environment continued to change.
Have new factors come into play, such as management changes, new legal/compliance mandates or even merger and acquisition activity? What about the “I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it” factor (also known as IKIWISI)? In other words, did vendors demonstrate capabilities that your team hadn’t previously considered, and now these features have become “requirements” for your new LMS?
Before you push forward with the original scope of work, be sure to verify old and new first-phase priorities.
4) Create a project game plan
Planning helps with all new endeavors. Sports teams rely on their coach to map-out a strategy for each game. New parents plan to save for their child’s college education. The same concept applies for LMS implementation success.
Think of all the various logistics involved. For example:
- Scheduling (How will you track and coordinate resources, timelines and milestones?)
- Meetings (What structure and frequency do you prefer? How will you define participant responsibilities and decision-making ground rules?)
- Communications (Who, when, why and how should team members interact?)
Even the best-laid plans can go awry. But if you create a tactical roadmap and relevant rules, you’ll be better prepared to adjust without losing momentum.
5) Assign understudies
Having been involved in performing arts for much of my life, I can assure you that understudies are absolutely critical to the success of every theater production. Your LMS implementation is no different.
How will you deliver the next milestone on time if the internal project manager wins the lottery and resigns immediately? How will you finish the new elearning content module when your subject matter expert gets the flu? Who will handle SSO implementation when your designated IT liaison is out for months after the premature birth of her child?
When an unexpected crisis affects your LMS project, an understudy may not be immediately available. However, alternative resources should be identified in advance.
Each “backup” team member should be familiar with how to find relevant documentation, how to access appropriate files, how to log-in to the system admin account and so forth. Although this is actually part of project governance, it deserves to be highlighted because it is so vital for overall project success.
6) Store all files in a central digital repository
This may seem straightforward, but several related items are often overlooked:
- Use a commercial cloud-based backup system like Box or DropBox. If you don’t already have an account with one of these services, you may want to use their free version to set-up a dedicated project account. The amount of space you’ll need isn’t likely to exceed the free limit.
- Be sure to give everyone (including the LMS vendor) access to this storage location. Your vendor may set-up a similar storage site for your project, but I recommend creating a repository you control for items that are critical to you.
- Speaking of storage, if you aren’t sure whether to add a file to the central folder, do it! Don’t forget meeting notes, work-in-progress documents and any other items that make it possible to review the history of the project. Why is that important? What if you’re audited or you’re asked to provide historical evidence for legal or compliance purposes? Create a coherent storage structure, but save it all.
7) Be loud and proud
We all love to tell friends and family about a new job, a new car or even a successful new recipe. And they enjoy hearing good news. Why not apply that same concept to your new LMS? As soon as the contract ink dries, let people in your organization know that their learning experiences will soon improve.
Of course, change isn’t always received well. But ongoing communication is one way to prepare others and gain their support. So don’t just talk up your new system at the project outset. Continue to spread good news as implementation proceeds.
For example, you could send a series of “What to Expect from Your New LMS” emails. Each week, you could showcase a feature that people “wished” to see in the old system. Include screenshots and explain not only how the new feature works, but how it will add value to the learning process.
8) Keep finding ways to improve
You did it! You bought and launched your new LMS. Now your organization is interacting with it daily and you’re ironing out initial wrinkles.
But don’t stop with your rollout and debugging process! Stay informed about what’s on the horizon by reading your vendor’s release notes. Attend user meetings and industry conferences. Subscribe to related blogs and newsletters to read about learning technology standards and trends. You might even want to ask an industry expert to perform a periodic LMS “health check” and suggest ways to further enhance the learning experience for your users.
Perhaps most importantly, establish an open line of communication with the learning audiences you serve. Let them know that you care about their needs, and proactively seek out their ideas. Create a process for reviewing, prioritizing and implementing enhancements, so you can continuously improve your infrastructure.
Closing Note: Don’t Let Your Next LMS Revision be a Replacement
There are many more suggestions I could include. But here’s one last takeaway I leave with all my clients:
Whenever you choose a new LMS, you won’t know if you made “the right decision” on the day you finalize the contract. Instead, look for that answer 3 years down the road. That’s when you’ll decide if you should replace your LMS because it hasn’t met your expectations, or keep it because it has evolved effectively with your organization.
Keep adding value. That’s how you keep a learning system fresh. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Want more 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.
- 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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