LMS Stories – Fantasy or Reality?

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I love a good story. A story that has solid characters, a nice foundation, possible scenarios – that may be true, but who really knows, in other words, a fantasy.

Thankfully scenarios such as the end of the world, isn’t upon us. Dragons and knights aren’t heading down the e-learning path. Beowulf is not lurking behind the corner. Dracula isn’t hanging out at your favorite restaurant.

Or are they?


Everyone loves my system. Our retention rates are 95%, heck even 100%.

As I have noted numerous times, if you listen to vendors, everyone loves their system, they have retention rates in the plus 90%, yet, somehow the number one thing they hear is that people are looking for a new system, they are unhappy with their current system.

Think about it.

If everyone is saying their retention rate is over 90%, with some companies telling me it is 100%, then how is it possible that a)no one is leaving their system, but b) people are leaving other systems.  If everyone is content with your system, and there are 450-500 vendors out there, then how is it, people are leaving?

To me its fuzzy math – and trust me, I’ve seen data from some vendors, that makes you wonder how in the heck are they claiming xyz, when the numbers show abc?

I have heard from folks, including customers of specific systems – that they dislike their system, but stay with them. Why?

Top Five Reasons

Fear Factor  – There are some vendors out there, they shall remain nameless, are still pushing the idea that if you move your data it will be lost. I have one word for that – “hogwash”.  It just isn’t true. Think about it, if you can download all your data as a file into your excel file, pdf or just alone as a file – then wouldn’t it make sense, that this same file can be moved into another system?

Time – You have just spent months to find the right system. Starting over is either a “pain” not worth having or you just don’t have the “time”.

So, you stay with your current system despite the fact – people hate it, your employees can’t figure it out, support stinks, etc.

They fully customized my system. I won’t have be able to replicate that. – Nonsense. Virtually any vendor will do heavy customization for you – but there are additional costs to it. Just as if you wanted your car to be metallic raspberry with an interior of green and these are not the free colors available, you have to pay extra for that. It can be done, but it’s not free.

The heavy customization was free. Nothing is ever free. The amount was very likely placed into their high setup fee (which for some vendors, covers the customization or moderate customization or even set project hours).

The amount can also be placed in other areas to offset. Example: you want a three year deal, the vendor tells you seven is better. Seven means seven years of constant revenue, which is better then just three.

Multiple years deal – beyond 3.  I can’t tell you the number of vendors who push five or seven years as the best way to go. It isn’t. The best way is three years (so past blog posts on why this is true).  For them, it is the best way to go – because as noted above – it is a guaranteed revenue stream.  You are locked in, safe and sound.

Robots Rule the World

We all know the story. People are disappearing and being replaced by other beings either robots or nasty space creatures. 

In the LMS world, you have nothing to fear or worry about when the LMS/TM system is acquired by someone else. The system will remain as is – we will never change.

I’m sure the fine folks at some of the recent acquisitions are telling their customers this right now. That the LMS they purchased six months or years ago, will remain the same (obviously updated though). Support/Service will not change. Everything is fine.

From my experience this is rarely 100% accurate, because everything changes, whether you want it or not.

This may not be a bad thing for some customers, but for others, it isn’t what they wanted.

 If I was one of these vendors, I would send out a lengthy statement about how the system will change, and the pluses of such a change.

Why wait to have a customer who is unhappy and then tells others – perhaps people in a group, about their unhappiness.  I would even offer a gift card or something.

When you think about it, what is the cost of losing a customer and bad PR? 

As Jeffrey Gitomer once said, “customer loyalty is everything”.

My dragon is not the same as your dragon

We are an industry of hype and one of these new hype statements are “unlimited courses”.

It may seem brand new, something super exciting that is exclusive to these vendors.

Alas, that is far from true.

Go back 13 years and you will see that nearly every vendor allowed unlimited courses into their systems. There was no set number of courses that were allowed – not  3rd party nor proprietary.  You could add as many as you wanted, without restrictions.

Fast forward to 2012.

Nearly 98% of the systems are still doing the same thing. They just don’t advertise it.

Storage Armageddon

Who is causing this angle to be pitched?  Vendors who fall under these two categories:

  • Storage limits – most Lite systems
  • Charge by how courses you upload and use

Prepare for the Knight Storage Assault

These vendors will tell you how many courses typically can be uploaded, how many audio/video files, etc.  Sure, the number they are presenting regarding courses is based on minimal interactions, since more robust takes more bandwidth, which in a nutshell is the key.

Bandwidth Zombies

Unless the bandwidth is eating your LMS brain, then the bandwidth angle is just hooey.

If the vendor has load balance (which anyone who has servers should), then the bandwidth claim just doesn’t fly – not even in a spaceship to Mars – unless you i.e. the customer is having internal issues with your network lines or your own servers.

On the e-learning side, vendors who do not have their own servers, will use server farms such as Rackspace. Rackspace is a server farm with load balance and thousands of customers and rarely has any lag issues.

Now, the only way your vendor could have bandwidth issues:

  • They are not using a server farm
  • They do not have servers with load balance
  • They are having problems with their own servers
  • Every customer is on one shared database on the vendor’s servers (i.e. not a server farm) PLUS:
  • The vendor has a large number of clients AND
  • They are all on one shared database, but are in silos. Oh, and if the vendors have multi-tenets, then the children are equally on the shared database in the silo shared by the parent.  AND/OR
  • They are having issues with their own servers, but the one shared database, with lots of data and no load balance are signs for the apocalypse
  • The vendor is doing maintenance or updates, and has not informed the client that this is happening – again, the vendor has their own servers and not outsourced to a third party online server farm

Bottom Line

The balderdash above is similar to what you have read, heard or seen about the 12-21-2012 (i.e the Mayan calendar).

If you talk to people of Mayan descent (which I have), the end of the calendar does not mean the end of the world. Rather it means a new beginning and nothing more. None of them see it as the destruction of planet, a new age of discovery or creatures from Orion’s Belt visiting us. (although that would be very cool!)

Ask specific questions, find out details and ask some more. More questions and due diligence are always better.

Unless Martians are about to land on this planet and take over the world.

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