A learning management system (LMS) is more than just software to help deliver training and automate training administration — it should be an integral part of every company’s learning and development (L&D) strategy. Unfortunately, organizations sometimes don’t realize that a successful LMS implementation can help drive business results.
Below are 10 steps in LMS adoption and operation that we have identified based on our experiences working with clients. They include strategies for securing stakeholder buy-in, streamlining business processes, succeeding with user adoption and much more.
1. Establish Vision and Objectives
Senior leadership should define the overall vision of the learning experience within the workplace and address the strategic objectives for L&D. The challenge comes in balancing multiple business objectives and audiences. For example, the learning experience needed for a call center will be different from the learning experience needed by IT or sales divisions. Clear articulation of business drivers and audience needs will help shape the LMS architecture and operating model.
To assess whether progress is being made toward achieving the strategic vision, we recommend that clearly defined measurements be established in each of the following areas:
- LMS adoption
- L&D operational efficiency
- Learning consumption/course completion
- Business outcomes
2. Assemble the Team
Whether you are preparing to implement your first LMS, transitioning to a new system or realigning LMS resources for more efficient operations, it’s important to take time to think through the roles needed, the mix of individual skillsets required and how team members will most effectively work together.
In most organizations, the LMS is implemented and operated with the involvement of members from various business units, including L&D, HR and IT. With the complexity of cross-functional projects and matrix operations, it is critical to clearly define roles and accountabilities.
To facilitate collaboration at all stages, identify and document the executive sponsors and stakeholders and determine who will champion learning initiatives and technology solutions across the organization. Identify which executives will be contributing and who simply needs to stay informed.
3. Activate the Team
Whether team members are discussing functional requirements as part of the buying process, engaged in configuration workshops during initial implementation or deciding how to implement newly released capabilities, they will not always share the same perspective on what should be done and how.
To help the team be effective in decision making, the team needs to adopt two distinct sets of principles: One focused on the team interaction and one that explains the desired culture, business rules and norms used by the learning function.
4. Define the Experience
As with any commercial website, there is a science and an art to planning the user experience you want to create with your LMS. Analyze your audience needs and the business context in which they will be using the LMS. Do users need to get in, take courses or find content and get out quickly or is the preference that they explore learning options and plan their development?
The best LMS portal pages are designed from the inside out. Before planning a home page, be sure to have a solid understanding of what content needs to be offered, how you want the content architected (e.g., what will be pushed to learners, what subject structure to use, etc.), and the best user interface design.
5. Assessing Business Processes
To set the stage for project success, document the key business processes to be supported by the LMS. Conduct interviews/workshops with those in learning operations to develop “Use Cases.”
6. Learn the System
To bring business processes to life, project team members need to have a full understanding of the LMS core functionality. Because they will be making decisions for the organization, members need to be familiar with the software and its key capabilities. Formal training, following by hands-on practice, will build the understanding and the confidence the team needs.
7. Determine Solutions Requirements
If you don’t have many courses yet, conduct a formal assessment to populate your LMS with the right content to meet the desired learning and business outcomes. If you have thousands of courses, tests and resources to migrate from multiple sources, you will need to take inventory of the full spectrum of content to be offered through the LMS.
Working with all business units, build a plan to populate your LMS with the right content to meet the desired learning and business outcomes.
8. Establish a Communications Strategy
The LMS will affect many departments and people within the company. Because only a small group of individuals are directly involved in the planning and implementation work, successful adoption hinges on a good communications strategy.
9. Create a Risk Mitigation Plan
One of the biggest and most disheartening risks of an LMS implementation is experiencing low usage after launch. To avoid low user adoption, develop a comprehensive LMS adoption strategy that includes the following five elements:
- User experience design
- Change management planning
- Communications strategy and campaigns
- User support strategy
- Learning program and content marketing
LMS adoption is not a one-time challenge to solve. Your organization needs to implement an ongoing strategy to achieve a high usage rate and high user satisfaction.
10. Serve Your Users
The goal of the implementation is not that LMS is a perfect solution on day one — rather that the project team has established a strong foundation that will support development and improvement of the platform over time. Ongoing commitment is important for user adoption, continuous process improvement and achievement of long-term business objectives.
As you go live, encourage user feedback and act on it quickly. Have a solid end user support process in place and treat your users like you would treat outside customers in terms of response time and resolution targets.
Keep senior leaders engaged in learning and accountable for long-term LMS success. While you may want to demonstrate the sheer volume of learning activity in the organization, you can take it one step further.
- Share executive dashboards on the state of the learning function (now that you have an LMS rich with learning data).
- Use the LMS data to tell the story of how learning is helping to transform the skillsets within the organization.
- Ask for executive input on where they see emerging skill gaps in the business that learning can help address.
A LMS alone is not a solution. Like any successful software adoption — upfront planning and a clear understanding of the desired outcomes are key. Alignment with business goals and balancing learner needs is the foundation of a successful LMS implementation.
A central focus of any LMS implementation — both now and in the future — should include:
- Managing the distinct needs of disparate business divisions and/or separate brands
- Catering to various employee, contractor and external learning audiences
- Delivering the right content to meet goals.
I hope these steps help organizations of all types to types to drive business success through learning.