The successful implementation of any enterprise system requires solid business support and deliberate planning and this is especially true for systems that have a wide impact on regulatory compliance, such as Learning Management Systems (LMS). These implementations require detailed planning and cross-organization collaboration to guarantee success.
We have identified 8 best practices, based on our experience across multiple industries, that will help you achieve your goal of a successful LMS implementation.
1. Strategy Alignment
An LMS implementation is most successful when it is aligned with the organization’s strategy. Your chosen LMS should contribute to the long-term success of the organization, not just address short-term needs. To ensure strategic alignment you should be able to answer the following questions:
- Why are we buying an LMS at this time?
- How will the chosen LMS deliver ROI?
- What are the potential human and/or financial consequences of not acquiring an LMS at this time?
If you can’t answer these questions then you need to revisit your business case.
2. Get an Executive Sponsor
If you don’t have an executive sponsor, get one! Ideally you should have identified your executive sponsor in your business case, but it’s never too late to have the support of a senior voice. An executive sponsor can help bring teams from different departments together (such as L&D, IT and Legal), get budget approval and empower you to implement change.
The sponsor doesn’t have to be an HR or Learning Executive, in fact it can often be advantageous to have a sponsor from an area such as Finance or Legal. These departments will already have a remit that includes compliance and so they make good partners for an LMS implementation initiative.
Take every opportunity to publicize this executive support in both public communications and senior management updates.
3. Define your Business Requirements
Unclear objectives, vague requirements and poorly defined success metrics are often contributing factors in failed LMS implementations.
- Define your target: what do you want to achieve with the LMS?
- Don’t just take existing processes (especially paper-based) and move them to the LMS: assess, analyse, change.
- Use out-of-the-box features of the LMS as much as possible – change your processes first and don’t try to change the system until you’ve used it for 3+ months.
- Prioritize and document your requirements: What “MUST” you have in order to support your business and what requirements are simply “nice to have”?
- Continue to track these requirements throughout your LMS implementation project. Ask yourself at key review stages: Is the system delivering my MUST have requirements? Is all project activity relevant to delivering these key requirements?
4. Create a Team
Plan ahead to make sure you have resources available to work on the implementation. An enterprise LMS has multiple functionalities and is not something designed to plug and play. It requires an ongoing investment from your people as they get familiar with the functionalities and process changes.
- Hire or identify your key administrator/system owner early, ideally as the key functional project lead from day one. Getting an LMS doesn’t remove administration, it just creates different administration! Depending on your organization, how deeply you want to use the LMS and how key it is to your organization’s strategy, the administration may be a part or full-time role.
- Depending on your organization, you may also require an LMS Manager to lead the LMS from a strategic perspective.
- Establish your IT department’s interest in the project. If it is an on-premise deployment, the IT team will need to be active team members. If it is a SaaS deployment, they may have requirements for password security, data access, etc.
- Select the appropriate administration structure for your organization. This may be a single system administrator or a central system administration team with a network of regional or departmental administrators.
- For a network of global administrators consider establishing a forum or LMS council to enable collaboration on processes, best practices and continuous improvement.
5. Implementation Plan
Ensure you have a robust plan that contains all the key steps of an implementation process:
- Be realistic about your schedule. Remember that planning is key! If you want to be successful you need to allow enough time.
- An LMS implementation project can take between 3-6 months but it depends on what you are trying to achieve, available resources and your overall organization. A large enterprise-level LMS can take a year or more, to implement.
Do not underestimate the value of time spent on formal training and informal practice. After training your system administrators should be able to engage in detailed conversations with the vendor and even challenge them with questions. This is a key differentiator for companies that report a greater ROI. You can enable your own success by:
- Identifying designated backup administrators who receive the same training as the primary administrator(s).
- Creating an end user (managers, users and instructors) training plan. Sample resources could include a simple “How To” module or instructor led (virtual or in person) modules.
- Establishing your administrator support network. This could be as simple as a shared drive containing user guides or as extensive as an administrator’s wiki/microsite to promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
- Proactively training your internal IT Support on resetting passwords and creating accounts.
7. Change Management
Changing can be scary. Many successful technical implementations fail because organizations do not prepare people for the changes. While a new LMS might be exciting to the project team some people are intimidated by new technologies and processes. We also recommend that you:
- Utilize your internal communication channels to prepare your teams for the upcoming change. Make them excited!
- Focus on branding and PR. Perhaps your organization would appreciate and engage in a “Name the LMS” competition.
- The communications plan is just as important as the implementation plan. Prepare launch materials early to make your go live as smooth as possible.
- If you have a worker’s council or union, reach out to them early in the process to get their support.
8. Continue to leverage the LMS
It is really important to maintain the buzz around the LMS after the implementation is completed. Most people will log in once. Your aim is to keep them logging in time and again. Some strategies that have been successful are:
- Circulating statistics on the departments with the most logins or the highest scores to create a sense of competition.
- Adding “fun” courses to the LMS to entice users. Many content providers offer courses on topics like photography or languages, so check out your provider’s catalogue.
- Using communication features of the LMS, such as homepage updates or news articles, to give users a different experience each time they log in. Avoid having a static homepage that never changes.
- Adding an LMS link, login box or news feed to other company sites such as the company intranet, HR system or appraisal system.
- Partnering with your LMS vendor to help ensure that you are continually leveraging available or upcoming new functionality for your new projects.
- Joining the community of other users for sharing knowledge and best practices.
Did you like this blog post? Then you might also be interested in our webinar recording on Best Practices for a Successful LMS Implementation.
Head of Global Professional Services, NetDimensions
Louise is the Head of Global Professional Services, leading a team of consulting, technical & implementation professionals across Europe, America & Asia Pacific. Louise has experience across a range of industries including finance, life sciences & automotive and is passionate about the application of technology to business. In her spare time she loves eating good food, reading Jane Austen & travelling the world.