Recently, a client asked me about the “lessons learned” from previous LMS implementations with other clients.  As a project manager for a hundred or more LMS implementations, I have identified some common issues with previous implementations that clients consistently encounter on the pathway to a successful LMS implementation.     Even with our internal processes to proactively avert these client issues, sometimes they can have a significant impact on project success.

LMS

If you are implementing an LMS in the near future, it may be worthwhile to find measures to deal with these issues to ensure a smoother and successful implementation:

  1. Leaving the IT components as late as possible will put your LMS implementation at risk.

An LMS is a system, after all, and therefore will require involvement from internal IT resources.

  • Typically, the IT tasks involve creating domain names (usually sub-domains of an existing client domain) or an email address to be utilised for the LMS from address.
  • It usually means the purchase of an SSL certificate.
  • It may even involve activities associated with authentication methods (e.g., single sign-on). These items are quite technical and can be daunting.

It is human nature to put off items we do not understand.  Most LMS project implementations are managed by learning and development teams who may need more information on these IT matters.

With a recent LMS implementation, the client PM had set a go live deadline, but had issues in getting their IT department to understand the importance of having an SSL certificate for the LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). Finally, the client IT department purchased the SSL but did not have the network ports configured correctly to allow the LMS server to make a connection.  It took several days at the last minute and in a rush to sort out the SSL and correct network port configuration by the client IT department.

Imagine Friday afternoon before a go live on Monday (that had been advertised to the whole company) – high anxiety moment in the best of times. Finally, the client network port were finally configured correctly to be able to use the SSL certificate for LDAP. As the vendor company, we had to make a decision as to whether there was enough time on that Friday afternoon to install the SSL for LDAP so that the client could go live on Monday.  The client project manager left work on Friday not knowing whether we were going to be able install the SSL after business hours so that they could go live on Monday. It was a close call.

Recommendation:

  • Have IT stakeholder involvement in the project from the beginning.
  • Have a clear list of tasks that your IT department needs to complete
  • Make sure your IT department commits to the timelines and are accountable

A client IT team is crucial for a successful LMS implementation.

  1. Clients sometimes have only a general idea of the business processes and learning workflows, but are not prepared for the detailed understanding required for an LMS implementation.

People usually choose to implement a learning management system to solve issues regarding learning, competency and reporting requirements; among other reasons. A learning management system by its very nature requires business processes and learning workflows to be systemised.  If client business processes and learning workflows are not documented, how can the learning and/or competencies be put into a learning management system?

Sometimes clients start an LMS implementation coming from a mixed-up world of spreadsheets and inconsistent processes or workflows.  When clients do not have documented business process or learning workflows, it is the most common cause of a project cost and timeline blowout.

A recent client with multiple divisions and only using spreadsheets embarked on an LMS implementation.  There was an exhaustive exploration of LMS functionality during the procurement process. The client team had a general idea of their internal business processes and learning workflows without much documentation.  After a significant amount of time trying to map previously stated requirements from the procurement process, it became clear that documenting specific business processes and learning workflows in a detailed manner was required.

Recommendation:

  • Do your homework prior to beginning an implementation by documenting business processes and learning workflows
  • In businesses with multiple divisions, decide whether internal business processes or learning workflows are to be harmonised or operate independently
  • Know your data – where it is coming from, who owns it and what you are going to do with it.

Do not expect an LMS implementation will sort out the lack of internal learning workflows documentation; that is a separate piece of work that should be undertaken prior to the commencement of the implementation or add additional time during the implementation for this work. Being prepared will minimise risks associated project implementation costs and timelines.

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