by Annette Bouzo - Elearning Manager (CELM)
Are you considering to exchange your current LMS and implement another training administration software instead? No matter if you are organizing a company’s corporate academy or running a training center in competition, there are many aspects to be considered when switching to another software installation. Many people, processes and departments, not to speak of the changes in your IT landscape are concerned. Therefore this is a decision of some consequence and must be thoroughly considered. We would like to share some of our experiences with you.
There are many reasons why you could want to change a software product. You may instantly recognize some of the most common reasons:
- New processes or requirement cannot be covered with the current function portfolio
- Number of enrollments and number of participants outnumber the capabilities of your system
- Interfaces for data exchange between several systems cannot be defined or it takes a huge effort
- The system or technique is not supported anymore by the vendor or is not developed any further
- Cost for maintenance, changes or updates go beyond any sensible scope
- The software technology is not supported anymore which will limit future application
- You would like a clearer, more modern surface for planning, execution and administration of your training portfolio, update your course offering and correspondence
- You would like to work more independently from the software vendor or your IT department and would like to carry out minor changes yourself
All these requests are legitimate. However your daily tasks continue and you are under no illusion that implementing a new software will add to your workload. Is the inconvenience of using the current software still bearable, or do you see yourself collapsing of work load in the near future? How urgent is the change really and how realistic is an exchange of the system with your current manpower?
We would like to share some experiences which we have gathered in more than 20 years of experience in developing and implementing training administration software. Some questions turn out critical when it comes to evaluating how urgent a change is. Ask yourself if:
- your participants are actually satisfied with the services you can offer on your training platform?
- you can employ modern learning scenarios in your current system? Modern learning might require virtual classrooms, online-assessments, mobile learning or integration of social media in the learning process.
- the effort involved in switching to another system will save you cost, effort and resources in the long run whilst increasing efficiency at the same time?
These questions can often not be clearly answered. The strain on different departments such as IT, training office, managers or corporate strategists will perceive the situation differently. Monitor and document incidents and difficulties occurring. Likewise detect customers‘ and trainers‘ satisfaction level. If you try to separate the situation’s current impact in isolated processes the perspective of the individuals involved might be clearer.
Evaluating the currently employed software means to document connections and impact on the system landscape and politics, the function portfolio and the vendor’s development policy, especially employing the view of training officers in charge who are operating the system. How modern is the current software? Could the system be described as over mature? Is future development by the vendor actually happening or is it particularly slow and expensive? We would advise you not only to check the software product but also to prioritize your expectations. Which of the deficits are really critical, which are simply irritating?
Check service and support during, but also after the implementation. Do you see a possibility to exchange professional experience with other customers? How sure are you that the company will continue to exist as long as you need them? Do you have the impression that the vendor considers himself more as a sales organization or as a professional in software development company? Especially larger vendors can feel their superior position in competition as they generate their turnover over the large number of clients and not by generating new functions by software developments. An uncomplicated dialogue between you and the key accountants of the software vendor is mandatory not only during the purchasing and implementation period. Is a dialogue on eye level (still) possible with your vendor?
Consider not only cost of licenses, software maintenance and updates, but also for the manpower involved on your side, especially as pricing systems and basis for calculations differ widely. Definite comparisons can only be drawn by giving pretty exact parameters as offers can be individually manufactured to your needs.
When going over the findings resulting from above discussions as described above, only then can you identify points on which you easily agree with others indicating a common perception? Which part causes particularly strong discussions and why? Try you make adjustment issues into a list of priorities and this way rank the importance of a singular opinion. Also consider employing the services of an external consultant.
Typically you will start with a list of problems to solve. This document illustrates the premises and frames of conditions for the exchange other software. This document serves as a reference point in the whole project. The previous discussions about the software product, the vendor and cost have been the basis. Still not only a list of problems is important but likewise a list of features which you value and appreciate in your current system. You will not want to miss them in future.
A team of representatives from all parties involved will include stakeholders from IT, training office and management will help integrate all demands from the beginning. Responsibilities and priorities must be defined early. Communication and identification ofthe project goal, which is the implementation of a new training administration tool are the most important drive to your success.
The project team defines the requirement profile of the new LMS. It is not unusual that due to time or cost issues that you will have to compromise in some respect. To get an idea of the consequences it may be helpful to discuss priorities of the issues and the reason why the ranking turned out like it did. Requirements can be completed by integration of an external consultant or software vendor. Often suggestions and ideas from an outer perspective supply an impulse to enhance the system and accelerate the project.
Descriptions of core processes within your training organization as well as a structured organization chart of business units involved are particular helpful. This way you will identify relevant communication-, certification- or approval processes and can then focus on their integration.
IT regulations may be relevant to critical parts of your corporation’s strategy. Data protection and IT Security are highly relevant issues. However,this may bring up the opportunity to also check existing regulations and processes if they still apply to the environment.
When choosing new software the vendors sales presentation will give you a first impression. However, it is also very important that you can test the software product using your own configuration and data. A test installation can be seen as a pilot project, where for example one subsidiary, a particular business unit or a training segment uses one of the systems in choice for a certain period. Access only to a public test system or so called demoversion does not allow for adaption of your individual processes.
Course data, information of training programs and events, as well as trainer, classroom and participant management are some of the usual entities which are transferred from the old system to the new one. An important aspect when it comes to participant management relates to correspondence, such as booking confirmation, invoicing and the issuing of certificates. Trainers usually have to be provided with lists of student names, attendance lists and feedback-questionnaires for quality management.
If you are implementing your new system in HR for achieved and aspired qualifications, their validity and the education history of a person is also relevant. Potentially also user generated content such as posts in blogs or fora may have to be transferred. But bear in mind that occasionally it might also be helpful to make a clear cut and start entering certain data from scratch.
Sound training of the software users also during test implementation is mandatory to document definite success of the project and to define the achievement level. Further requests and details for further configuration can turn up during training. If the testing period is satisfactory data migration can be completed if necessary and the previous system can be switched off. Adjustments during piloting phase or a test-system are relatively easy to implement. After completion of the pilot project the tried and tested settings will be integrated into your system landscape by interfaces and then be rolled out to the rest of the enterprise. Changes may have a wider effect.
Very often you will get a software vendor’s advice to buy one complete system, instead of combining a variety of single solutions. This sounds convincing. However, nowadays this holds no truth anymore. Authoring tools or WBTs must not be integrated parts of your new LMS.
Depending on your training concept different formats and didactic approaches can be productive and may be employed and evaluated. Today’s standards of technology and interface design enable seamless integration which highest advantage is the immediate data transfer from say a elearning platform to your participant data. Generally a solid training administration software is the central piece of your training infrastructure as it provides all relevant data, which is relevant also for your communications. This central software can be enhanced with one of many learning platforms and training portals from the same or another vendor. Modern systems can nowadays always be enhanced by employing interface design. Web-services and interfaces to HR, Finance or CRM-Systems guarantee future-proof software architecture. This way you will stay flexible. Due to this flexibility your priorities can frequently be adjusted to new challenges.