• Learning and Development
  • Technologies
  • June 14, 2023

Choosing an LMS – Comprehensive Guide

The value of choosing the right LMS cannot be overstated. According to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets, the LMS market size is projected to grow from USD 24.7 billion in 2022 to USD 52.7 billion by 2027. This growth highlights the increasing recognition of LMSs as vital tools in both educational and corporate sectors.

However, with this rising prominence of LMSs has come a flood of options on the market, each offering a unique blend of features and functionalities. This makes the task of choosing an LMS that perfectly suits your needs a considerable challenge.

We tried to harness our deep industry knowledge to provide this comprehensive guide to simplify this selection process.

We will share valuable insights, practical advice, and tips that can make the task of choosing an LMS not just manageable but even enjoyable.

Discover:

10 Key Factors to Consider When Selecting an LMS

This is your guide to navigate the complexities of choosing the right learning management system, ensuring it aligns with your objectives, technological capabilities, and budget.

We’ve also incorporated insights from Learning and Development (L&D) industry experts to provide you with a rich, comprehensive understanding of this critical decision-making process.

1. Organizational goals

Determine what you want from your future e-learning activities and consider how an LMS could help you achieve these goals.

Ensure that any LMS solution aligns with organizational goals to support your overall mission.

Recognizing the unique context of your industry is the first crucial step in selecting an effective LMS. Different industries have distinct needs and nuances that should be considered in the selection process.
Johanna Hiltunen (Valamis, Sales Director Nordics)

2. Budget

Consider budgetary constraints when selecting an LMS.

This includes the total cost of ownership, including implementation, licensing fees, maintenance, and support costs.

3. User experience

What is the LMS like from the users’ perspective? It should be simple and intuitive to use for both learners and HR staff/management, easy to navigate, and visually appealing.

Additionally, modern LMSs should support a wide range of devices and browsers for accessibility.

Understanding your audience is critical when choosing an LMS. For instance, if your learners are youngsters, a platform supporting social learning can significantly enhance engagement and outcomes.
Johanna Hiltunen (Valamis, Sales Director Nordics)

4. Functionality

Assess each LMS’s features and ensure they meet your needs. This could include functionality, such as course authoring, content management, collaboration tools, assessments, and reporting.

Identifying what adds value to your learning journey can help you narrow down your options. Select an LMS that aligns with your strategic learning objectives and supports your learners in their development.
Johanna Hiltunen  (Valamis, Sales Director Nordics)

5. Integration and compatibility

L&D is greatly improved when systems are in sync, communicating up-to-date information and reflecting a single source of truth across the entire organization. By making sure your new LMS integrates with pre-existing tools, you can seamlessly manage and deliver content across multiple platforms.

Check that the LMS integrates effectively with existing systems, such as HRIS, SIS, or CRM, and supports industry standards like SCORM or xAPI.

If you’re switching from an LMS that didn’t meet your needs, it’s crucial to reflect on what went wrong. Will the new system truly serve your purposes better? A thorough evaluation of past experiences can guide you towards a more effective solution.
Johanna Hiltunen (Valamis, Sales Director Nordics)

6. Scalability

Futureproof your LMS by ensuring it meets your learning needs today and has the scalability to evolve with expanding needs tomorrow.

Choose an LMS with functionality that grows with your organization, accommodating changing learning requirements.

7. Customization and branding

Evaluate whether the LMS can be customized to match your organization’s branding and support unique workflows and processes.

8. Security and data privacy

Guarantee that the LMS adheres to industry security and data privacy standards and complies with relevant regulations such as GDPR or FERPA.

9. Support and training

Understand the level of support, training, and other resources made available by the LMS vendor. Factors to consider include prompt customer service, accessible documentation, and training material.

10. Vendor reputation

Research the vendor’s reputation to look for a proven history of success, satisfied customers, and a commitment to ongoing development and innovation.

Features Every LMS Should Have

Good LMSs bring a wide range of features both for the employees learning new material and the HR staff overseeing the learning experience.

You want to ensure a new LMS has the components necessary for effective training and efficient administration.

The list of features every LMS should have

Please take a closer look at the primary functions and supporting features, which can be found in one of our articles on LMS.

Additional reading: LMS vs. LXP: What Platform to Choose in 2023

How to Find the Right Learning Management System (LMS)

The image represents the essentials of what you need before shortlisting vendors

Step 1. Identify your organization’s learning needs

The first step to choosing an LMS is understanding what you want from your L&D program. Without a goal, you won’t know what to look for.

So, what are your business objectives? And how could a new approach to employee training support them? These two questions define your organization’s learning needs.

Understand the ‘why’s’ behind your choice. Selecting an LMS isn’t just about offering courses; you need to delve deeper. Using the ‘5 Whys’ method can help you drill down to the root cause of a problem and inform a more effective solution.
Johanna Hiltunen (Valamis, Sales Director Nordics)

Look at the Johanna’s example of 5 why’s of corporate training for manufacture company below. Use this technique of 5 why’s when a problem occurs or when you need to understand the real goals. You drill down to its root cause by asking “Why?” five times.

The example of 5 why’s of corporate training for manufacture company

  1. Why do companies have training programs? – for onboarding, compliance (security, regulations, etc.), and product and service training. So, to deliver company-specific training.
  2. Why the need to deliver company-specific training? – job-related tasks, reduce employee turnover, talent attraction, and talent retention. So, to focus on talent.
  3. Why the focus on talent?– enhance employee experience, and increase productivity and efficiency at work. So, to focus on EX, productivity, and efficiency.
  4. Why the focus on focus on EX, productivity, and efficiency? – build business resilience and improve business performance. So, to focus on business reliance and performance.
  5. Why the focus on business reliance and performance? – Stay relevant in the industry.

You can read other Johanna’s article on How to Create an Effective L&D Strategy

Step 2. Define your criteria for selecting an LMS

With these needs in mind, you can define your criteria for selecting an LMS, breaking down requirements into the LMS functionality to help meet your goals. However, this is not a simple task, and there is lots to consider.

For example, what types of content will be most effective for your employees?

Do you need a platform that supports new learning scenarios such as microlearning, gamification, or social learning?

Other factors to examine include ease of use, customization options, content library, reporting and analytics, integrations, scalability, and more.

You may also want to consider the vendor’s reputation, customer support, and pricing model.

Step 3. Assess Your Budget

In a perfect world, you could design a perfect, bespoke LMS that does everything you could think of and more. In reality, you will have to operate under budgetary constraints.

Remember to include the total cost of ownership for the new system, including implementation, licensing fees, maintenance, support, and any additional costs like customizations or integrations.

But also remember to consider the other side of the equation – the potential long-term savings on offer through improved efficiency and productivity.

Additional reading: How to Connect Learning Data to Your Business Success

Step 4. Gather Stakeholder Input

A new LMS’s success depends on many stakeholders, including administrators, instructors, and learners.

Therefore, expanding the number of people with input into the decision is critical, ensuring the selected LMS results in a positive experience for everyone interacting with it.

Involve stakeholders from different departments in the selection process to get a diverse range of opinions to ensure your chosen solution will meet the needs of everyone.

Collect their feedback on desired features, potential challenges, and specific needs.
The image shows people who are talking

Collaborate, connect, and converse with every stakeholder before a new LMS takes flight.

Step 5. Create a Feature Checklist

After defining your goals and hearing from key stakeholders, you can build a checklist of essential LMS features. Prioritize based on relative importance and relevance to your overall e-learning strategy. Creating a feature checklist provides a valuable reference to evaluate the various LMS options.

Instead of getting swept away by an array of features, focus on the context – how the LMS responds to the specific needs of your industry. Particularly in compliance-driven industries, a robust emphasis on reporting and analytics can be a game-changer.
Johanna Hiltunen (Valamis, Sales Director Nordics)

Step 6. Research and Shortlist Vendors

Conduct market research to identify LMS vendors with solutions aligned with your requirements. Compare their products, features, pricing, and reputation.

Shortlist the vendors that best meet your needs and budget for further research.

It is essential to examine critically and test vendors’ functional claims when choosing an LMS. The current market is abuzz with claims of AI-driven Learning Platforms. However, it’s crucial to verify these assertions as they often fall short of reality. Test before you invest – this is a principle that can save you a lot of potential troubles down the line.
Ben Laycock (Sales Director UK, Valamis)

The image shows the steps on how to proceed in shortlisting vendors

Step 7. Request for Information (RFI)

Once you have a shortlist of possible vendors, you should create a Request for Information (RFI) to delve deeper into their products.

An RFI includes a series of questions to determine if a solution fits your organization and its needs. See the next section for examples of the questions to ask in an RFI.

Request for Proposal banner image

Step 8. Evaluate Shortlisted LMS Solutions

Evaluate your shortlist of potential LMS solutions based on returned RFIs and your feature checklist. Involve stakeholders in the process and collect their feedback to ensure the chosen LMS meets everyone’s needs. For example, you don’t want to focus on the opinion of administrators at the expense of the learner’s experience.

At the evaluation stage, you can also request demos or trial access to your shortlisted LMS solutions to better understand how the software works in practice. This includes the user interface, navigation, features, and customization options. Again, invite stakeholders also to review the software and provide feedback.

Step 9. Investigate Integration and Compatibility

Assess how the LMS would integrate with the HR systems already in use at your organization.

Check that the LMS supports compatible industry standards to ensure seamless operations across the various tools and platforms.

Check what integration capabilities Valamis has.

Step 10. Review Security and Data Privacy

Confirm that the LMS adheres to necessary industry standards for data privacy and complies with relevant regulations like GDPR or FERPA.

Review how the vendor handles data and the policies they have in place, including encryption methods and security certifications.

Step 11. Check Support and Training

Discuss and verify with previous client testimonials the level of support the LMS vendor offers.

Consider the availability of a dedicated account manager or support team capable of assisting with implementation, troubleshooting, and ongoing maintenance.

Step 12. Make a Final Decision and Get Started

After a thorough evaluation, select the LMS that best meets your organization’s needs, objectives, and budget. Work closely with the vendor to plan and execute a smooth implementation process. Train relevant stakeholders to use the new platform and continuously monitor its effectiveness to ensure it delivers on your e-learning goals.

In the context of the DACH region, the integration of a Learning Management System (LMS) in any organization significantly depends on the board of decision makers and their perception of its alignment with their business values, regulations, and overall business approach.

The challenge is particularly prominent for governmental entities and businesses with over 10,000 users, as achieving compliance to regulations and board approval can be a daunting task. Therefore, a real LMS checklist should emanate from board advisories. The importance of various aspects can vary greatly across departments, but at the end of the day, the decision-making really needs to start at the top. It’s a quintessential top-down decision.

Claudia Schulz (Sales Development Representative DACH, Valamis)

Request For Information (RFI): Crucial Questions to Ask Vendors

Crucial questions to include in a vendor RFI include:

  • What types of content do your LMS products offer, and can we customize the content to suit our needs?
  • How easy is it to use and navigate your platform? Can you provide a demo or trial period?
  • Can we use your platform to build personalized learning experiences for our employees? Can we create learning paths based on different roles and skill levels?
  • What features do you have to help us measure the success of learning initiatives? What reporting and analytics capabilities does your platform offer?
  • Can we easily integrate your LMS with our existing systems?
  • What is your pricing model? Do you offer subscription-based pricing or one-time fees? What are the costs associated with customization or integrations?
  • Can you provide customer references and case studies demonstrating the performance of your LMS at other organizations?
  • What kind of customer support do you offer, and what is the process for addressing technical issues or questions?
  • How often do you update your platform, and how do you involve customers in the development process?

Questions like these ensure you will better understand the vendor’s capabilities and how their LMS aligns with your organization’s needs.

RFP banner

Additional Tips to Keep in Mind When Selecting an LMS

1. Assess content quality

The quality of the content provided by the LMS is critical to the success of your learning initiatives. Ensure that content aligns with your learning objectives and is engaging, interactive, and relevant to your employees.

It’s paramount to have a dedicated content team in place or a subscription to an online learning library like LinkedIn Learning or GO1. These resources ensure your learning materials stay relevant and impactful.

Check whether your chosen LMS provides such content natively, or if there is an option to purchase a content subscription directly from the LMS provider. This can streamline the process, saving you the time and effort of sourcing content independently.

Remember, the goal is to create a seamless, efficient learning environment for your employees, so ensure your LMS and content sources can smoothly integrate and cooperate to reach this objective.

Additional reading: 8 Benefits of a Complete Learning Solution

2. Check for analytics and reporting capabilities

Your LMS should provide detailed analytics and reporting capabilities, allowing you to measure the effectiveness of learning initiatives. Accurately determining the impact of a training program helps HR teams continually improve, guaranteeing an ROI. Look for reporting features such as completion rates, engagement levels, and knowledge retention rates.

The extent and depth of data that an LMS can collect should be a key consideration in your selection process. If the system only offers SCORM compliance, the data collected will likely be basic, covering aspects such as time, completion, and score. However, if you opt for a platform with xAPI reporting, you can expect far more in-depth insights. This can be invaluable in informing your training strategies and enhancing the effectiveness of your learning programs.

Ben Laycock (Sales Director UK, Valamis)

3. The importance of certifications and compliance is growing
In the world of business, ensuring compliance and maintaining certifications is not just a good practice – it’s an operational necessity.

Non-compliance can lead to substantial fines and disruptions to your operations. Through our experience with numerous clients, we have seen firsthand the critical importance of these aspects.

Ben Laycock (Sales Director UK, Valamis)

4. Benchmarking

Understanding industry trends and strategies is essential for any business that aims for success. One of the effective ways to navigate your learning journey involves keeping a close eye on your niche leaders.

Take note of what leaders in your industry are doing. Benchmarking against successful players can provide useful insights and help you avoid common pitfalls.

Johanna Hiltunen (Valamis, Sales Director Nordics)

Additional reading: 9 Learning and Development Trends You Need to Know

Conclusion

In conclusion, selecting the right LMS is key to enhancing your organization’s learning initiatives. Valamis experts have underscored the importance of considering factors such as your specific needs, scalability, flexibility, and cost when choosing an LMS.

We’ve also identified must-have features like supporting diverse content formats, tracking user progress, providing analytics, and allowing customization. Moreover, finding the ideal LMS requires involving stakeholders, conducting comprehensive research, and evaluating customer support.

Ultimately, the best LMS is one that caters to your unique needs, simplifies the learning process, and supports your learning and development goals. We hope this blog serves as a useful guide in your LMS selection journey.

Remember, Valamis’ complete learning solution is designed with all these considerations in mind, providing a flexible, user-friendly, and feature-rich platform to support your organization’s unique learning and development needs. With Valamis, you can leverage a scalable platform to create custom learning paths, track progress, and leverage analytics to make informed decisions about your training programs.

Should you require more information or wish to take the next step in your LMS selection journey, our Valamis experts are readily available to assist you. Feel free to reach out to them directly on LinkedIn or via email. Alternatively, you can request a demo to see our solution in action and discover how Valamis can revolutionize your learning and development initiatives. We’re looking forward to helping you create a thriving learning culture in your organization.

Is Your Company Ready for Corporate Learning Solution?

This checklist helps you determine whether your company is ready to invest in a new corporate learning solution or make a change to its current strategy. You’ll gain valuable insights into your organization’s strengths and weaknesses by assessing critical areas such as learning goals, employee engagement, and technology infrastructure.

Author

Dawn Vieira

Senior Learning Solution Partner, Valamis

Dawn Vieira is a Senior Learning Solution Partner at Valamis helping clients maximise their digital learning experience platform and user engagement. She has spent the majority of her professional life in the Learning and Development space both contributing and leading talented teams. Her passion for helping others succeed has been the driving force behind her accomplishments.

Author

Julia Kuzmina

Julia Kuzmina

Content Marketing Specialist

Julia, a Content Marketing Specialist at Valamis, stands out for her skill in weaving together emerging trends and insightful data within the L&D and HR industries. She is committed to delivering well-researched and tailored content and is a trusted ally for professionals seeking guidance. Julia’s love for traveling and photography brings a fresh perspective to her work, resulting in captivating and impactful content.