Ten issues organizations have when implementing a new Learning Management System:

Implementing a new Learning Management System can be a daunting task for any organization. In addition to the considerable upfront costs, there are a number of potential issues that can arise. For example, employees may resist using the new system, preferring the familiarity of the old one. Additionally, the new system may not be compatible with existing software, which can cause technical difficulties. And finally, there is always the possibility that the new system simply will not meet the needs of the organization, in which case it will have to be scrapped and replaced. While there are certain risks associated with implementing a new Learning Management System, taking the time to carefully consider all potential problems can help to minimize these risks and ensure a successful transition.

In the world of information project management, projects fail at an alarming rate. It’s often the unspoken truth (shrouded in mystery!) in the IT world: With a failure rate fluctuating between 25-85%!

 International Data Corporation (IDC)

When switching to a new Learning Management System (LMS), there can be several issues that organizations face. One common issue is data loss – if the data from the old LMS cannot be transferred over, then all of the progress made by employees will be lost. Another potential issue is compatibility – if the new system is not compatible with the organization’s existing hardware and software, then it will not be able to be used. Additionally, there can be a period of adjustment as employees get used to the new interface and features. If not managed properly, this can lead to decreased productivity during the transition period.

Finally, there is always the possibility that the new LMS simply does not meet the needs of the organization, in which case it would have to be scrapped and replaced with something else. While these issues can be daunting, if dealt with properly they should not prevent an organization from successfully implementing a new LMS.

Remember that according to recent research, across all industries (including K12, Higher Education and Vocational training projects, the average percentage of IT implementation projects that are deemed failures or needed to be restarted is a whopping 25 per cent! Given the costs and human hours involved in implementing such projects, it’s best to enter the project with as much knowledge as possible. Be alert, but don’t be alarmed!

1. Lack of clear goals and objectives

This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s important nonetheless. Your LMS project needs clear objectives and ultimately needs to drive business and educational outcomes. While it’s easy to get excited about a new shiny LMS, always keep in mind that in this case, the destination is more important than the journey.

2. Lack of buy-in from key stakeholders

Depending on the size of your orginization, you may have only a few key stakeholders, or if at a larger organization, you may have many. As well as teachers, you need to make sure all other team members are on-board: from the executive level, teachers and educators, to IT administrators and most likely developers. Lastly, remember the needs of your end-users, who in most cases will be your students (or employees).

3. Lack of a dedicated implementation team

At the end of the day, someone has to implement the system and administer it. While some vendors will provide substantial support, it is up to your organization to make sure the goals and objectives are fulfilled by the LMS itself. You know your organization and requirements better than your vendor, so ultimately you need a team to tailor the LMS to your requirements. Whether the implementation will rely solely on your own team or in tandem with the vendor depends on many factors, such as the size of your orginaztion, complexity and requirements.

4. Lack of budget

Even if you opt for a totally free open-source LMS – such as Moodle – there is always a need for a budget. If hosted in-house, you have to consider server architecture and running costs. If purchasing from a SaaS cloud vendor, while you do not have to worry about internal infrastructure, the costs can range from “cheap” to “very expensive”. Also, most vendors charge on a per-seat basis. The price difference between 100 seats and 5000 is going to be vast. Remember to always consider TCO (or Total Cost of Ownership), the initial purchase cost is only the beginning, the system needs to be administered, updated, populated with content and supported. These factors should always be considered when building out your budget projections.

5. Lack of clear communication

Communication in your organization is key, along with communication with the LMS vendor. In most cases, many staff can be resistant to change, and it is important to make sure that no department is isolated from the implementation process. Keep everyone informed, transparency is the key here.

6. Lack of user engagement

So you’ve got your new LMS in place, what now? Are your staff/educators using the system? Are the students/employees using the system? Once again, refer to your goals and objectives. An LMS is simply no good if no one is using it. Are there roadblocks? Is training required (refer to support below). Are there technical issues with the system? Always conduct a thorough audit both before and after going live.

7. Lack of data and analytics

As with most complex IT systems, an LMS lives and breathes from the data and analytics it collects. This data is invaluable in evaluating the performance and learning outcomes. Ideally, you should have a team member (and or team, depending on your resources), dedicated to collating and analyzing the data your LMS is generating. Analytics can often be complex to interpret, so these people should be fluent in being able to analyze and disseminate this information to the broader business.

8. Lack of customization

No matter what your vendor may say during the sales pitch, no one system is a 100% fit for your orginization. In today’s market, most learning management systems offer a high degree of customization, but this is only relevant if such features align with your own objectives. In this case, it’s ideal to generate a “roadmap” of both short-term and long-term objectives. Even if you don’t require specific customization now, consider the long-view. Don’t wait a few years to find out that something you had planned to implement is simply not possible.

9. Lack of integration

In today’s world, virtually all systems are integrated in one way or another. An LMS is no exception. Most orginizations have a multitude of systems which will in some ways require talking to other systems. For example, your LMS may need to integrate with HR (Human Resource) systems, Payroll, or even the ability to ingest learning content. Most LMS today offer thorough API (Application Programming Interfaces) to connect to other systems, but it’s highly important to consider your LMS as part of a larger IT ecosystem.

10. Lack of support

Whether your choice to DIY your implementation totally in-house or in participation with a vendor, support is a key component. If using a vendor, you need to know what levels of support they offer. Depending on the vendor (or the tier of support purchased), this may be as basic as a simple ticket system all the way up to 24/7 phone support. As in all cases, higher levels of support generally cost more. Premium support levels will often provide your organization with a dedicated account and technical support manager. While support costs may seem unnecessary, consider the impact of waiting 5 days for an email reply while your system is facing technical difficulties, or even worse, down-time.

Free and open-source projects often provide forums and community-led support, however, this is often slow and unreliable. Always examine what support levels and features your vendor can provide.

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