The process of choosing an LMS shouldn’t be rushed. It takes time to fully investigate and understand your e-learning needs, identify viable platforms, and search the LMS market for the best value solutions. And while your exploratory LMS research should involve getting to know providers and their LMS systems, it’s important to avoid getting stuck in the dreaded LMS demo loop.
Although it’s tempting to canvas far and wide and attend as many product demos as possible, this is more likely to hinder your search for the perfect LMS than help it. Read on to understand why so that when it comes to choosing an LMS provider for your organisation you don’t end up going in circles.
The problem with LMS demos
Don’t get us wrong, LMS demos are important. Once we’ve assessed a client’s needs and outlined how our platforms can help, we always advise that they attend a demonstration of our recommended LMS solution for a better feel of the product. But if you find yourself meeting with multiple providers and trialling demo after demo, you’ve likely lost sight of what it is you need to be looking for. So, follow our step-by-step guide to get the process right first time.
Step 1: Cut the wheat from the chaff
It’s easy to be bamboozled by a visually appealing demo that, in a controlled environment, looks flawless and behaves intuitively. But relying on a product demo’s ability to wow you isn’t the right approach when it comes to choosing an LMS (and LMS provider) that’s calibrated to your e-learning requirements.
Coming into the LMS market having not properly understood what you can realistically expect from an LMS platform means that you may not be getting the most from the LMS demo. Typically, an LMS demo will last one hour – and those 60 minutes can fly by. Therefore, while it’s important to use the demo in order to properly evaluate the LMS, it’s also imperative that you make the most of it. Key points to consider include:
- Understanding who should be attending
- Understanding your training needs
- Understanding what LMS features are a ‘must see’
- Understanding the pricing framework
- Understanding what the next steps are
That’s why it’s so important to do your LMS research first so you can ‘cut the wheat from the chaff.’ With a shortlist of platforms that align with your functionality requirements and budget constraints, you can spend more time discerning what providers have to offer and how to use that information after the demonstration.
Step 2: Remember, a provider should offer a partnership
Your LMS research complete, you can now shift your focus from LMS platform to provider. When considering providers that offer your chosen platform(s), pay close attention to how they position themselves. Unlike a one-off product purchase, when investing in a SaaS (software as a service) LMS you are essentially investing in a provider. It is far better to invest in a provider you can be sure will provide good service and support for growth so that you can get the best out of your chosen LMS and develop your L&D programme over time. Conversely, a provider positioned as ‘the cheapest’ or offering ‘the fastest implementation’ is unlikely to have your organisation’s continued success high on its priority list. This is why you should be looking for a ‘partnership provider.’
A partnership provider pays close attention to their clients’ long-term L&D goals, identifying areas where solutions will – and, more importantly, will not – meet their needs and committing to continued mutual success. With a high client retention rate, partnership providers build relationships that last for many years, if not decades, and celebrate the successes of their partnered clients as a matter of course. With this in mind, when choosing an LMS provider to book a demo with be sure to look out for the following:
- Emphasising support and service. If things go wrong or you need assistance with your LMS, can you expect complimentary technical support? And will there be an opportunity to get to know the provider’s representatives?
- Highlighting client success. Does the provider highlight and celebrate the success of its clients – big and small? Has the provider maintained close relationships with clients over many years?
- Committing to value. Regardless of cost, does the provider justify and explain its value offering? What value-added features and tools has the provider developed to enhance its offering and platform(s)?
If the answer to all the above questions is ‘yes,’ then it may well be time to book an LMS demo.
Having followed the steps so far, your discernment should have narrowed down three or four providers that provide the platform(s) and features you require, position themselves as ‘partnership providers,’ and deliver excellent levels of client support. With all these factors confirmed, you can now commit to exploring only the options in front of you via demos, conversations, and any literature the providers might provide.
Step 3: Let the LMS demo reinforce your research findings
Unless there is something critical lacking from your chosen providers at the demo stage, you should be very close to choosing an LMS. It’s therefore important to keep your initial findings in mind – remembering that the demo should reinforce what your earlier research indicated:
- The provider is competent, professional, supportive, and has a good understanding of your organisation’s needs and goals (maybe even more than you do)
- The platform delivers what you require on a technical level, with additional features and functions unique to the provider
- The LMS investment represents good value – not necessarily the lowest price – with customer support and long-term mutual success built into the commitment
You can now get down to the nitty gritty of assessing each provider’s offering to see which is ultimately best for your organisation’s needs. Choosing the right learning management system is not easy, but if you apply the criteria outlined above, you’ll quickly find your way to avoid the dreaded demo loop and rule out a number of LMS platforms at an early stage. When you've made your choice, ensure you make your business case and pitch successfully with our eBook - 'Building a better business case for an LMS'.
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