Welcome, Welcome. How are you today?

Audience: We are Fine – Craig!

Glad to hear that. Well, I am here to tell you about an amazing product that can answer your LMS questions.

That’s right your questions when it comes to identifying a LMS.  I know, I know you have heard it before, read about it before, thought about it before and yes, uh, did I say read about it before?

Anyway, with my LMS Identify device, you simply hold the device, ask it a LMS question and whalla the answer magically appears.

Audience:  OOOOH, GASP!

Yes, I know it is hard to believe, but let me tell you, that this little device – Not available in stores mind you – can answer those key questions.

Let’s give it a try now – Who’s Ready?  Uh, no not you. Who else?

Q. I am interested in a LMS, but there are so many out there, what do I need to do first?

The first thing you should do is write down what specific features you are looking for in the product. But, with a twist.

You see, most people would start with

  • Must have a course catalog, batch upload of users
  • Groups can be separated by dept, job code, location, etc.
  • Group A sees only X courses, Group Y sees only V courses, and they many not be the same courses
  • Need courses that be set in sequential order, so Joe has to complete course Y by X date and so on

I call these statements “Retain on the Brain“, because you are not going to forget these requirements. You will not forget them when you view a demo, nor when you are looking at the company’s web site or literature. These are your pressing reqs and most systems offer them as standards.

Specifics

I often hear people say they want mobile learning in their solution, social learning, e-commerce, but when you ask for specifics they sometimes have a blank stare on their face.  It is not because they have no idea on what these items are, rather it catches them off guard because they have not thought through all the specifics.

Examples

Extended Enterprise – aka Multi-Tenet, Portals-Sub Portals

If you want an EE, you will want e-commerce.  So, it becomes one feature you must have, but then drill down.  Do you want to accept PayPal, PayPal Pro or Google Checkout? Do you want to accept checks? What about EFT? Does it come with a shopping cart or do you need to buy one? What about a payment gateway – does the LMS vendor assist you with this or do you have to find your own?

And once you select one, how does that work with them?  Do they have any reports dedicated for the e-commerce functionality? Can you sell products as well or only courses?

As you can see, just saying e-commerce is not enough. Drilling down, will provide you with additional information you need to ask and know, and as  a result, even when looking at a potential vendor’s site, you will be able to see what they offer in this area.

You can apply it to any subject area, including reports.

Do you want ad-hoc reports? These are reports that are created by you, based on filters that you set, and are different than canned reports (come pre-set in the system).

Course Authoring Tool 

Do you want one that is built in? If yes, and you are using mobile learning – specifically the iPad, wouldn’t you want to know what – if any – timetable the vendor has for the ability to output the course in HTML5?  Is the CAT included at no additional fee or is it an extra charge?

Even, with the initial premise- Do you want a 100% LMS or a LMS with talent/performance management features? 

Because there are systems out there, that are geared towards the latter, so if you have no interest to have a TM/PM components, then why select a system that has one? Especially if it costs extra.

  I only know of a few vendors that include a TM/PM feature at no additional cost, it just comes with the system – and their systems are what I consider a full LMS. Why? Because it is just a feature, just as mobile learning is a feature – that comes with the system.

If you decide on having a TM/PM, do you want it turned on when you launch your system or can it be in the “off” position, and you can activate it at whatever point you desire?  Today, most systems who offer TM/PM feature sets, have them already in your system. When you buy them, they simply turn them on. Otherwise, they are in the off position. 

You may see “modules” or “add-ons” as the terms representing additional cost features.  Bottom line, they are extra.

Create three columns

  • 1st Column – Must Have (I call them deal breakers – these are things you cannot live without. Remember you already have the “Retain on the Brain” features, so this is based upon your initial list)
  • 2nd Column – Need to Have (Not deal breakers, but you still want them)
  • 3rd Column – Nice to Have (Again, you would like to have them, but if they are not available, you would have no issue)

Q. A friend of mine, got a RFP template from a LMS vendor’s web site. Is it okay for me to use this?

I am not a fan of grabbing RFP templates off of vendor’s web sites, only because if you read them in detail you will start to realize that for some of the questions, it is really geared toward that vendor’s product. Sure, other vendors could fit in there as well, but as one vendor told me that when they see some of these, they can tell it came from Vendor Z, because of the questions.

If you are going to use the RFP template, then strip it down. With a SaaS based system, there is no need for a 10 or higher RFP.

As aforementioned, when I submit RFPs, it is always one spreadsheet. That’s it. It is very specific and right to the point.

The challenge with RFP templates is that, one size does not necessarily fit all.  So, unless you are committed to spend a couple of hours going through the RFP template up front and removing things, cutting things away, changing the text to your wordage or specific needs, then there is no real value.

Q. Is it best to send out the RFP before or after I view the demos?

Always after. What is the point of sending one out before you see the demo? While you might perceive that it will save you time, in reality, it will cost you time, because you have to go through them, to find the ones you really want to see.

Then you will view the demos and go on from there.. Trust me, you will spend more time.

Have your questions in hand plus the “Retain in the Brain” ones, and based upon due diligience of going to the vendor’s web site, or using a  LMS directory (mine includes some comments)/seeking out opinions, y0u have a list of 10 vendors.

Time to make the calls

Talk to the vendors, give out only so many details up front, it is easy to get caught up in the moment, and the next thing you know, you are sharing them your favorite trip you went on in high school story.  In an upcoming E-Learning 24/7 linkedin group posting, we will discuss what you should state and not state to them in your initial call.

After you have chatted with the vendors, set up your demos.  Each demo is 1 hour in length, and you can state ahead of time specifics you want to see.  The reality is vendors have a script if you will, that they follow – it makes sense, because they do not know your e-learning level, knowledge level on LMSs, etc., so having a universal is logical.

But, if you know what you want to see specifcially tell them up front. They will appreciate it. For example, many of my clients are interested in the back end, so i always say I want to see this.

After the demo, start early negotiations. You want to know what price they can offer the system to you at, and what can you get as extras, blah blah. Explain to them, that this does not mean you are going to select them, but rather this is part of your process. 

The fun really begins

Whittle the list down to your top three.  Contact the three vendors and tell them you want access – front end and back end into a demo LMS or a sandbox LMS, and you would like access for 30 days. Some will offer only 15, so take that. 

You want to see it in more detail at your leisure, see really the inner workings, after all, this is going to be your buddy for the next few years.  You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a spin would you? You wouldn’t buy a house without going into the house and checking out every nook and cranny right? 

You wouldn’t buy a television, without turning it on, and using the remote and moving around the showroom to see how the image appears from those far sides would you?

Of course not. So, why change that approach in finding a LMS.

Okay, I have time for one more question. Just one more question. You? No, not you. Anyone else? You? Okay, go ahead.

Q. Are there any LMSs that are less than 55K?

Yes. Well over a hundred systems that are less than 55K and they are not Lite LMSs.

There is an assumption that in order for a system to be great it has to cost over 75K. That is so wrong. 

It is the same assumption that unless you buy one of the Big Dogs – Saba, SumTotal, Plateau, etc., then you are not buying a great system. It is totally erroenous. 

There are systems that are very good and cost plus 100K, but there are systems that are equally good and cost less than 40K.

As mentioned earlier, if you want a lite LMS that comes with some robust features, then go with Litmos. Very, very inexpensive, but IMO, it is the best Lite LMS I have seen, and I see a lot of systems.

And in my top 20 systems to debut next week, it is in there- I like it that much.  But, if you are mid size company, I would not select them, even though I love the system.  Because, at the mid size level, you are most likely looking for a standard system and not a Lite LMS.

Bottom Line

By utilizing the steps above, the agony that most people report when searching and selecting a LMS will be gone.

So, will the time that is commonly associated with it.

Time, that can be spent on purchasing the new LMS Identify! Call now. Operators are standing by! Sorry no CODs.

E-Learning 24/7

Next week: Product Review – Saba Social Learning Platform