Fall is a transitional season, with the leaves changing color and starting to shed, and we start thinking about planning for the weather changes coming in the next season. Similarly, it's usually at this time of year that associations and other organizations start to review their training requirements and inevitably their delivery of that training. It’s during this time of evaluation that the organization's learning management system (LMS) can come under scrutiny. As a starting point for evalutating your current learning solution, you might want to have a look at the post "When is it Time for a New LMS", and ask these questions:
- Are your learners frustrated?
- Are you wasting time on administrative tasks that could be simplified?
- Has your organization outgrown your LMS?
If it is felt that the current LMS is not up to meeting the requirements of the organization, a search for a new system is started, and the planning begins...
The first step to a successful LMS implementation is planning. Planning is essential to define what you're looking for from your learning solution. For example, there are many different LMS solutions available, so you might want to consider the differences between an association and corporate LMS, to see which type of system will best meet the needs of your organization. You might also consider whether you want to generate revenue from your eLearning program, what systems you need to integrate with, or if you need social learning capabilities to increase engagement among learners.
When you have decided on your requirements, then generally the process goes something like this; first an RFP is developed and then a scan of available LMS in the market is done. Once completed the RFP is sent to those that the organization believes will meet their needs. Then comes the proposal evaluations, demos, internal discussions and a decision is made. However, if you have been inspired by the transitional nature of the fall season, by the time this has been completed it’s now December and that means the holidays are in full swing, and so is your organization. Typically associations and the corporate world want to start new applications in January. This means a clean slate and a way to do some housekeeping at the same time. Since January is a very busy time of the year this can be a daunting task. It can take between three to six months to implement a new cloud LMS, and between six to nine months to implement an on-premise LMS for a large corporation or extended enterprise. In order to keep everyone’s sanity and the project on track planning is crucial and even the best laid plans can go awry. Having a clear, defined and agreed-to project plan is key.
Essential Steps Before Planning to Ensure Success
Having a plan is great but there are key steps you must take before beginning planning for any major project or change for your organization. In "The Six Proven Steps for Successful LMS Implementation", an article from Learning Solutions magazine, Steve Foreman outlines that:
"before you begin the six steps, there are two things you must do:
- Assemble your team
- Establish your implementation timeframe"
While having a plan is crucial, to avoid surprises, delays and cost overruns in any project, Foreman emphasizes, "Whether you are implementing a new LMS or performing a major upgrade to your current system, allocating the right resources to accomplish each step in the process is critical."
Therefore, before planning even begins, it is essential to the success of your project that you select the right team to execute the plan. Who need to be involved in the project team? To help ensure acceptance and a solid integration that works for all users, it is important to involve representatives from IT, Professional Development, Membership, Conferences and Meetings, and Marketing to help define and agree the requirements and scope of the project. However, you may wish to have a smaller core team that is responsible for executing the project, and bring in members from other departments as appropriate during different stages of the planning and implementation. Therefore, having a project manager to lead this team is even more important. The project manager needs to keep everyone focused and within the scope of the plan. The project manager also needs to have excellent interpersonal skills, as they will be the primary liaison between your organization and the LMS vendor and will need to be able to establish good communication and relationships with LMS vendors, that will help to keep the project on track for the duration of the implementation.
It can take between three to six months to implement a new cloud LMS, and between six to nine months to implement an on-premise LMS for a large corporation or extended enterprise. A new LMS implementation or migration to a new system can be quite disruptive to an organization. That is why Foreman notes it is important even before planning begins to establish a timeframe for the implementation. It is also important to communicate this both to the wider organization and to potential vendors as part of the RFP process, to help set expectations on both sides, and provide a clear goal to work towards.
At WBT Systems we have developed a program called QuickValue. It is an implementation process that defines all of the steps from refining the scope and requirements, to building a project plan, and managing the implementation process. This keeps everyone in check and helps to eliminates scope creep or budget overruns. The QuickValue implementation team works with your organization to define and meet your goals, aiming to deliver value to the organization in the shortest time possible.
The fourth quarter is a very busy time of the year and having the right team and project manager to drive your project will make all the difference in the world to both the planning and implementation of your new LMS. After all, the goal is to have a successful LMS implementation and not a disappointment.