Thursday, 8 January 2009

How long does it take to select an LMS?

I saw a post by Bryan Chapman discussing how long it takes to select an LMS. I've known Bryan for quite a few years - more than 10. And he and I do a lot of LMS selection and implementation work. And I think we are both pretty good at it. I may even be the person he's talking about in his post as the other consultant, but I'm not quite sure.

So, the real answer to how long it takes is, of course, it depends. But to give you some better answers than that the eLearningGuild has some great survey data on it. I put out some of that data in my post - LMS Team Size and Time - Wow 23 Months!

Clearly, there is some disconnect between Bryan's timeline of
entire process from beginning to end in about 2 1/2 months
and the 23 months cited by guild members. Now he's talking only about the selection process rather than the implementation process. So the actual numbers reported by Guild members is roughly 11 months to select. So, we have a difference of 11 months vs. 2.5 months.

Where does this come from? Well if I compare the steps in his process vs. the steps in the LMS Selection Process that I describe, there's a lot of overlap. However, a few differences jump out to me.

Learning Strategy Defined?

The first steps in my process are:

  1. Form a core selection team and define stakeholders
  2. Define business and learning strategy
  3. Agree to process with key stakeholders
Bryan jumps by these. I'm sure that in reality Bryan includes these but is not counting them in his 2.5 months. In other words, you would need to have business and learning strategy and a core team identified before you start. What often happens when you go to select an LMS is that you realize that you don't really have the strategy defined. This is a common LMS Selection Gotcha.

Tail of Process - Demos, Hands-on Testing, Negotiation

The tail of Bryan's process is:

Week 9 - Read and Grade Proposals
Week 10 - Final meeting to pick system

(Bryan has demos in Week 5)

The tail of my process has:

  1. Demos
  2. Pilot or hands-on tests
  3. Negotiate
  4. Final selection
Bryan talks about having demos earlier in the process:
In my model, I have learned the value of moving the demo upfront, rather than waiting until after the RFP. It makes all the difference in the world.
I personally like to have demos after you've defined your differentiating use cases and know where the system is likely going to be more challenging. We don't want a standard demo, we want to see how they handle the challenges.

Similarly, if you can afford the time and effort, there is almost nothing better than using the LMS with a hands-on test or a pilot. When you look at LMS Satisfaction the people who report the lowest satisfaction are the administrators who have to work with it day-to-day. How about giving them a chance before final selection? This is likely the best way to really know what it will be like to have the LMS.

Given the generally low marks that LMS systems get (LMS Dissatisfaction on the Rise), it's best to take a bit of time and make sure that you are doing what you can to get what you need.

I also would suggest that you don't plan to rush through negotiation. Bryan and I probably both save our clients lots of money during negotiation - more than our fees for large deals. But if you are up against a spending deadline or try to finish negotiation in a week, then you put yourself in a weaker negotiating position.

I do believe that Bryan and I can greatly shorten the time and improve the resulting satisfaction. And there have been cases where selections have taken less than 2 months. For me that's been the exception - and often I'm involved when things are more complex. But I thought it would be good to have the rest of the picture.

Some other posts around LMS:

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