Posted by Laura Riskus ● January 14, 2016

5 Steps to Consolidating Learning Management Systems

multiple_lmsIf you're a learning professional with a large, diversified company, there's a good chance your organization uses multiple learning management systems. It’s also likely that you aren’t an expert with every one, and that’s assuming you’re even aware of them all.

Most of the time, the existence of multiple LMSes in a company is the result of a federated or decentralized learning organization structure, or it may be the legacy of mergers and acquisitions. But rarely is a multi-LMS structure the most efficient option, and so when it comes time to optimize your learning organization structure, consolidation of multiple LMSes will probably be part of the process.

Whether you are the learning leader charged with spearheading the LMS consolidation, or you're merely a member of the L&D team who will need to perform the consolidation and gain expertise on a whole new system, consolidating learning management systems can be a major undertaking. Without proper analysis and planning, the exercise could be stamped as an epic fail.

If your organization is considering an LMS consolidation project, here are 5 steps to ease the process.

1. Understand What You Have

Make a detailed audit of all of the LMSes under your organization's umbrella. It's not enough to simply list them—pull together a side-by-side comparison of features and pricing. Determine who uses which system and for what purpose.

2. Start Chatting

Interview key stakeholders, administrators, SMEs, managers, and learners about the system's benefits and drawbacks, which will help inform your search for a new LMS. You'll want to develop a strong understanding of:

  • How the LMS supports specific organizational goals, as well as the learning function generally
  • The structure of the learning organization, including the LMS governance process
  • Audiences served by each LMS, including size and makeup
  • Expected future changes to L&D needs and activities
  • What LMS features and functions are must-haves
  • Other systems that each LMS interfaces and integrates with, including specific requirements
  • What they love about their current LMS
  • What they hate about their current LMS
  • Specific features and functions they wish they had
  • How different user groups interact with the LMS

3. Analyze Your Options

Use the interview findings to create a master description of the ideal system, then go back to the feature lists of your current systems and compare. Does one check all of the boxes? If yes, you might just be lucky after all. If none hit the mark, it’s off to the marketplace you go. Regardless, you should always examine more than one qualified contender before making any decisions.

During your analysis, don’t overlook these important aspects:

  • Total number of learners supported
  • Expected number and location of learners accessing content simultaneously
  • Compatibility with other key systems and portals
  • Flexibility of administrative rights/levels of access
  • Supports current-state and future-state content packaging (Tin Can API, SCORM, AICC)
  • Customized reporting/analytics/data warehousing

4. Stop and Plan for Change

Change can be difficult and overwhelming for all parties. Make sure a solid implementation and change management plan is in place before taking any additional steps. Keep these important things in mind:
  • Training: Users and administrators will need to master the consolidated LMS.
  • Implementation timeline: Be generous with timeline expectations. Expect hiccups. First, run a pilot with a small audience, if possible. Baby steps allow more flexibility when issues arise.
  • Implementation roles and responsibilities: There will be a lot to do. Make sure all tasks are covered and that those responsible are aware of their obligations.
  • Champions for change: Who in the organization is excited about this? Who isn’t? Highlight WIIFM and get these valuable voices out spreading the word that good things are coming.
  • Administration changes: What processes are affected? What roles will change? What additional resources might be needed?
  • Communication: How will you communicate the changes?

5. Go Forth and Roll Out!

When all plans are in place, it’s time to execute! During the process, make sure to keep a pulse on what stakeholders are saying. Monitor and make thoughtful changes when necessary to ensure you stay on the right course. And be ready for surprises, because there are always at least a few that pop up.

Topics: Learning Technologies