Is your LMS provider stuck in a rut? Are you using a 20th century system in the 21st century? If your LMS isn’t moving forward with you, it might mean it’s going downhill. The next time you select a new learning platform, one of the factors to consider is the vendor’s LMS roadmap.
LMS roadmap: are promises delivered?
A product roadmap is the vendor’s plan for their software’s continual improvement. They have a public version of their roadmap that illustrates their product vision as well as an internal version that lays out the details of their plan for developers and other staff.
If the roadmap isn’t providing the information you seek, ask the vendor specifically about their plans to add new features and functionality, especially the ones in your LMS requirements. Do they have plans to enhance the user experience for staff and learners? How about improving system performance or security? What new integrations do they have in the works?
A roadmap is a vision. Should you take it seriously as a promise? There’s only one way to find out: talk to the vendor’s clients. How well has the vendor been in keeping their roadmap promises? Have they released new versions and upgrades when they said they would?
Ask vendors about their most recent upgrades. What specific updates have been released and when? Would their most recent upgrades be useful to your association? You want to know if you and your future partner are heading in the same direction, and they haven’t switched their focus to a different market.
If there’s any disconnect between what you hear from clients and what the vendor says, ask the vendor about it. There could be good explanation, like delaying expected functionality so they could address an emerging compliance or security issue. Or, they may not have a good excuse.
Flexibility to go off the LMS roadmap on purpose
You want to invest in software that’s flexible enough to adapt to new conditions. For example, many software vendors were able to help their association clients become GDPR-compliant before the deadline, but some couldn’t. If a security vulnerability is discovered, you want them to quickly fix it. Or, add integration capability when there’s enough demand. These are all good reasons to veer off the original roadmap.
An LMS roadmap receptive to client feedback
Technology vendors want their clients’ feedback and constructive criticism, really, we do. Our goal is to deliver software that helps associations provide the best online learning experience possible. One of the ways we do that is by gathering intelligence and feedback directly from clients and prospects.
This philosophy starts at the top. Linda Bowers, our chief technology officer, participates in the sales process because she likes to learn directly about the problems associations are trying to solve. She talks to clients regularly about their LMS implementation and different aspects of TopClass.
When vetting prospective vendors, find out from existing clients how easy it is to put ideas and issues on their vendor’s radar. Does the vendor listen to feedback? How connected is the company to the association community, especially the leaders who make decisions about new functionality and features?
The LMS vendor and association partnership
The relationship between a technology provider and their client is a partnership. Ideas and communication flow both ways. Both sides have expertise to share with the other.
When upgrades are released, set aside some time to learn about them and how they might impact your processes and programs. If you’re not sure how to use some part of your system, talk to your support team. Ask them how other associations are putting it to work.
A partnership should be a win-win for both sides. Client support is essential. When vetting a technology vendor, find clients not listed in the reference section of the proposal and ask them about support. Your LMS vendor has to focus both on their future plans and on their clients today.
LMS roadmap: evidence of a forward-thinking culture
Lifelong learning is an exciting market. Online learning trends change frequently. Learning business models, products, and delivery formats are also changing. Competition is increasing. Everyone—colleges and universities, for-profits, and MOOCs—is getting into the lifelong learning business.
Your LMS partner must keep up with trends, but also decide what’s a fad without lasting value and what’s a trend worth investing in. Their product roadmap may influence the type of learning programs your association decides to offer in the future.
Select an LMS vendor who is continually investing in technology. You want a team whose software is positioned for the future, not dated, and who will evolve with their clients. If they’re not investing in R&D, it’s a sign they don’t think their software has a future in our market.
Learner needs and expectations are a critical element when your team develops strategy. Your association’s needs and expectations should play the same role in your vendor’s product strategy. If your vendors aren’t living up to your expectations, it’s time to rethink the relationship. Ask your vendors about their investment in R&D, future upgrades, and roadmap. If their answers aren’t convincing or don’t instill confidence, it’s time to look for a new LMS partner.
We recently shared our roadmap in our quarterly newsletter for customers, and we are happy to discuss our plans for future development of TopClass LMS with any prospective customers. We often elicit feedback and input from our customers when designing the roadmap for new features and updating functionality - contact us to find out more.