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LMS Committees – Good idea? Or painful experience?


If you have ever had the pleasure or displeasure of being on a committee to find a learning management system, don’t worry you are not alone.

Next to going to the dentist, a LMS committee often falls a close second, especially when a cavity is found and drilling is immediate.

Meetings, Meetings

I once worked at a company that had a massive amount of meetings. One day the CEO sent out a memo stating that there were too many meetings and we had to cut down the meetings to the minimum. You know where this is going..

Yep, more meetings!

In this age of lots of meetings the last thing you want to be on is a meeting to find a LMS. Now some people will see it as an honor, similar to being on a steering committee to implement a new ERP, but trust me it is not the same thing.

Committee Size

The most important component of a committee is having the right number of folks. Research has shown that the appropriate size of any committee should not exceed five people. Invariably though it expands faster than the Hindenburg did when they pumped in hydrogen.

It may start with a simple seven but before you know it, the size now is similar to the starting lineup of a football team. Here is how this gets out of hand quickly:

Whoever is on the committee decides that Jim needs to be on it, because Jim is in legal and legal is a must (actually its not). Then, someone on the committee decides that Sue who is on the senior management team has to be on it, because if she isn’t she will get real upset, so let’s just stick here on it – to appease her.

But wait! Chris who runs IT and is on the initial committee wants to add Julie who is on the networking team and is number three in IT. Her job is really to write down everything, say virtually nothing and report back to Chris who will attend a few meetings then disappear.

The sad part is that Chris is a key stakeholder who you will need after you launch the system.

But wait, there is more. The VP of HR or whoever runs it, decides that Lisa who is the HRIS (Human Resources Information Systems) manager and oversees the ERP product for HR, needs to be there.

Lisa could be an important team member, much more so than the VP of HR, who often mucks it up – because they have zero idea on what it is or why it is needed, but has an ego complex and G-D forbid you leave them out.

Oh did I mention that when you need the VP of HR for employee data they will often assign it to someone else in their department, since they are too busy running day to day operations and attending meetings.

Whew.

Cast of Characters

The bonus of this who entourage of folks will be once the system is implemented – deployed they will disappear and be silent, until something goes wrong and whalla they come out of the woodwork. The only people who really are relevant – because of the system – if you selected the right one – are the following:

  • Whoever runs training/learning – this might be you or it might be someone else and you have an e-learning department – so it comes back to you. Basically it is you!
  • Head of IT or someone they assign who can get things done in an orderly fashion when you need it. This might entail updating the computers to support the latest version of Flash, working with the other business units to ensure that the computers can access the net in a speed that is faster than a modem (from your company) and depending on their role – send the file containing employees data that sits on a server somewhere at the company. This person or whomever they assign will become your best friend – so never (excuse my language) piss them off.

Also, it is important to keep the head of IT in your back pocket because as many of us know, having an IT person at your beckoned call – never happens and because they are doing other things, and time is essential – you may need to reach out to the head of IT for assistance.

  • HR person who will be able to provide who is new to the company – employees and who has left. This often involves a database where this information is kept. The HR person lets you know – I always did it every two weeks – so that you can contact IT to send the file. Some companies enable the HR person to pull the info and send the file directly, but that is a rarity.
  • HRIS person – if applicable. This occurs if there is an issue with the interface of the ERP to the LMS (if applicable). Some companies do not interface for whatever reason, others do. Again, this is just someone to have in your back pocket- you may never use them. Also if your company does not have an ERP, then you can ignore this point.
  • Whoever is in charge of training. At some the companies I worked out – and the size of the companies varied from small to super large – I often reported directly to the COO or even the CEO. Most of the time they didn’t need updates and the only time I would ask for assistance was if some other department heads or VPs were backing away from what they said they do – on whatever.
  • Sometimes the hammer works best coming from the top of the food chain. Plus, no one is going to tell the COO or CEO that they will not do it.

There were only two companies that I reported to the division head or a VP and even then, I only needed to provide them monthly updates.

Committee members who will slow down the process

Anyone who has ever been on a LMS committee or a committee dealing with technology, will quickly realize that some members are clueless when it comes to technology. SaaS? Hosted in the cloud? Whatever the product you are including that has tech in it.

End users? Flash? Internet Explorer – don’t laugh, I once had a VP who didn’t realize that the IE on their desktop meant Internet Explorer.

When this happens expect spending more time on how the LMS will make things better and why. Sometimes you have to talk to them as though they are five year olds (I mean in simple terms, not in “this is a ball”).

This is why I never use the term learning management system, except the first time. I call it online university or online community with courses or whatever.

After you explain a LMS including its terminology and methodology you will see people with the deer in the headlights look or doodling and not paying attention.

I always have a detailed flowchart with pictures on it – relating to something that everyone uses or has. Example: I have done the ol Satellite tv – with the programming coming from the sky onto your TV or the box it uses, etc.

Remember that adults have to see WIFM – what’s in it for me, and if not they won’t grasp it.

Sometimes I tied the LMS benefits and I always included them – the pros that is – as part of my information. Why give the naysayers something they can hang their feet on?

Disruptor

When people don’t know they tend to include such things that will drag the committee into directions you do not want it to go. These disruptors include:

  • IT person who will ask about the servers, bandwidth, security, etc. Even though they will know what is SaaS (although I’m surprised on how many really do not understand it, but know the term), they will dig in their heels and ask questions that are relevant for servers on site and not online. Since many LMSs are housed on Rackspace – you can go there and pull down some info (again, being prepared), the whole what types of servers they use, what happens if it crashes, can be solved.
  • The reality is that some LMSs suffer down time – even though the vendor says it won’t. Bugs do arise and more often than not, the vendor will kick it up a notch to resolve it. I can’t tell you the number of times the issue was on the client’s side and not the LMS’s side, but the vendor is often blamed. Also, when a vendor does an update they tend to do it – after hours – as in past 12 a.m.

What I always find amusing is that the IT inquiries etc., seems to be not applicable when the servers that are housed at the company go offline – and how often does that happen? A lot.

All LMS vendors have load balance – just in case your IT person wonders about it.

All vendors have secure systems to protect privacy. In the 15 plus years I have been involved in e-learning, I am unaware of one hosted in the cloud LMS that has been hacked into. Not one.

  • HR – ties back into employee data and who will have access to it. Just you and your administrator or it might be just you. Again, privacy and security is crucial and LMS vendors know this as an essential requirement. Now, some clients allow various managers and whomever to get into the back end of the platform. I always said no. The moment they click something they are not supposed to – the moment their is a problem – who do you think is going to take the heat? Them or you? HR often puts in other requirements – so think ahead of the time what they may inquire or need.
  • Legal – if you need compliance then make sure your system offers compliance. If you need to have a digital signature, again make sure it offers it.

User case scenarios

I’m not a fan of them because if the features are not there, the user cases are irrelevant. As noted I have been doing this for over 15 years and never used user case scenarios. If I can’t figure out on my own as the person who runs training, whether or not this will work for my employees, customers or in cases both – I shouldn’t be running training.

So why do people include these? Because they are living in the past.

If you have ever implemented an ERP, having these babies are very important, especially because an ERP is fully customized to your business processes. A LMS is done differently – so watch out for the people who think that the ERP experience and approach will be the same as a LMS, it just isn’t the case.

A LMS is a turnkey platform that may require some customization, but often it requires only minimal tweaks. An ERP which is hosted on yours servers is a very complex project. I have been involved in two ERP implementations, one of which had a budget of 250 million dollars.

Uh, you will never have anything close to that with your LMS.

Big names are better

Just not true. I know of two big dog vendors who had issues with Adobe Captivate, a year ago.

One took months to find a fix, another took nearly a year. I have also seen and heard numerous times that the ERP interface with some of the big dog LMSs does not go as smoothly as it is was pitched. Granted this is not a problem that is seen only with the big dogs, but also with various other vendor sizes.

Just remember that assuming that it never involves the big dogs, isn’t accurate.

Bottom Line

A LMS committee can be a good idea when the right people are involved and the right path is taken.

More often than not, it bogs down because the people involved often focus more on their agenda than the agenda at hand – improving the learners’ experience and skill sets.

That is why committees are often seen like root canal.

And you’re the tooth.

E-Learning 24/7

5 comments

  1. Craig, you gave me a good laugh and bad flashbacks of being on an LMS committee all in the same post. I am a graduate student in the Training and Development program at Roosevelt University (rutraining.wordpress.com) and one of our assignments was to read three industry related blogs and to post a comment. While my experience with the cast of characters was not as expansive, your post was highly relatable. In addition to the laugh and flashbacks, you also provided some great information, especially in your “Disruptor” section. Currently in my organization our IT department is the middle man in the sense that they support as much of the LMS as they can, and only if they have issues that they can’t solve will they contact the vendor. But come May, the LMS will be fully supported by the vendor. I am very curious to see how this transition works out. I’m part uneasy, but another part of me is little excited. As many issues we have brought up to the IT department were “tabled” by the vendor, or so they say. I really don’t know if the IT department understands their customer’s needs. It was ironic when you mentioned the “vendor is often blamed.” These are the conversations I wish I was a part of!

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  2. Craig: I’ve been hired on contract to create some e-learning modules for new volunteers at a small non-profit. I wound up creating SlideRocket presentations with tasks imbedded in order to apply concepts, gauge skill integration, and get feedback throughout. I’m uploading these to one password-protected Edmodo site where – like Facebook – the users can post comments. (I may also use GoAnimate to liven it up even more.) This approach seems to be an inexpensive and effective approach for our first foray into e-learning. Thoughts?

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    1. Without seeing the content – I’m sure it is fine. You can use other authoring tools and then post the courses on any web server – even ones that are free via a FTP, which you can get for free – or if you want right within the hosted server itself. This will give you a better solution.

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