Selecting an LMS can be a very involved process. First you have to understand the requirements of multiple stakeholders. What do the users need? What does the administrator need? What kind of reporting is required to monitor content use?
Once you have narrowed the list of vendors that seem to fit your needs, watched demos to see the Learning Management System functionality, and narrowed the field, then comes the reference checking.
Here are some things to consider when looking at client references:
1. Have they worked with someone that looks like you?
- The reference they provided – are their needs similar to yours? Do they have similar integrations with an ecommerce solution? Is there an integration with an Association Management System? Is that integration the same platform and version you are using? Do their assessments look like the same assessment environment you are trying to deliver?
A great predictor of success is past performance. If they were able to solve problems similar to yours, most likely they will have no trouble helping you as well.
2. How long have they worked together?
- Has the reference been through a version upgrade of the LMS software? What was that transition like? Has the functionality evolved?
Customers that have stayed with their LMS for long periods of time can give you an idea of the stability and longevity of your potential vendor. At this point in the LMS selection process, no one would be eager to have to start over if the deliverable doesn’t meet expectations. Much better to find an LMS that will act as a long term partner and evolve with you as your learning environment evolves.
3. What is the customer service experience?
- The chances of never having a problem are most likely zero. How are problems handled? Is the customer service experience responsive? Knowledgeable? Timely? Friendly?
Even if the functionality of the LMS is flawless, your environment will always be changing and evolving. Your IT infrastructure will change, or you may add more LMS administrators. Assume you will interact with the customer service department at some point, and find out what that experience will look like.
4. What is their experience with the performance of the LMS?
- Have there been issues with uptime? What about speed of delivery of the content? Do their users have trouble navigating?
Understand from both the learner and administrator perspective what type of experience you can expect adding content, consuming courses, and retrieving results.
5. How bumpy was the deployment?
- Did the initial deployment run on schedule? Where there any “surprise” costs that appeared once the rollout started?
- What was the training like? Do they feel confident adding content, creating assessments? Are they comfortable using the functionality the system offers?
Keep in mind sometimes problems are caused by the LMS, but sometimes they are caused by other issues. Make sure you understand where the problems originated, and how they were resolved.
6. Ask open ended questions?
- What do you like best? What would you change? What has been the biggest point of frustration?
You will want to know specifics, but don’t narrow your question so much that you might miss a critical data point. Give the reference the space to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. Better to know now than after you have made the commitment.