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The One Common Pitfall to Avoid When Choosing an LMS

Published: 9th June 2021

Over the years, we’ve heard from so many organisations that are unhappy with their learning management system (LMS). What looked like a great deal all those years (or even months) ago, with all the possible bells and whistles included, now suddenly doesn’t look so appealing. So why do so many organisations get it so wrong? Surely it shouldn’t be this hard to find an LMS that just does what you need it to do?

Blinded by features

Let’s start with a scenario.

A retail organisation is looking for a new LMS. LMS A has 100 features, and costs £X a year. LMS B has 200 features, and also costs £X a year. Choosing LMS B is a no brainer, right? Well, not necessarily.

More features don’t always make for a ‘better’ LMS. LMS A may have fewer, more advanced features, whereas LMS B might have a lot of features you will never use. Selecting an LMS based on the sheer number of features is a mistake, even if you convince yourself that the features you don’t use now might be useful in the future.

This is a very common pitfall of the LMS procurement process: the feature shoot-out, where features alone are prioritised without considering other important aspects of the systems in the shortlist.

How to avoid a feature shoot-out

It’s easy to fall into the trap of the feature shoot-out. It can be hard to justify purchasing an LMS with ‘fewer features’ over one with more, but this is the wrong way to look at these systems.

Instead of looking purely at what the LMS can do now, think about the potential it has for the future. Will those five must-have features on your list today be the same as the ones you’ll have next year? Features alone are not enough – instead, prioritise flexibility.

Prioritise flexibility and the value of your LMS

What do we mean when we say ‘flexibility’? For starters, choosing an LMS based on open technology, like Totara Learn, will give you the freedom you need to adapt quickly in today’s fast-changing world. The unprecedented events of 2020 demonstrate the value of being able to change direction rapidly, and open software gives you the power to create whatever features and functionality you need to meet your organisation’s exact requirements.

The more flexible your LMS, the more valuable it is. Prioritising flexibility means that you can customise the out-of-the-box features, or just build your own new features according to what your organisation needs, no matter where you are in your contract. If your organisation goes through a rebrand, you can quickly update the look and feel of your LMS to match. If you need to create a new single sign-on (SSO) solution to integrate with your other systems, you can do this yourself with an open LMS.

Consider the total value proposition

Returning to our previous example, even if LMS A and LMS B cost the same amount (which is unlikely, as open technology tends to be much more cost-effective than proprietary systems), the value proposition will be entirely different. Just as one high-quality pair of shoes may cost the same as 10 low-quality pairs, comparing LMS features between systems is like comparing apples with oranges.

If LMS A has 100 features, but it is an open system, then you have the flexibility and freedom to turn those 100 features into 100 features that perfectly match your needs, or to build as many additional features as you like over time. If LMS B, a proprietary LMS, has 200 features, you are pretty much stuck with these features as they are without the ability to adapt them to your requirements.

And of course, there’s the fact that very few organisations will use all of the features on offer to them, or even half of them. So considering proprietary systems usually cost significantly more than open systems like Totara Learn, do you really want to spend 300% more on an LMS which may only offer 2-3 additional features out of the box, which could be custom-built to your exact requirements in an open LMS?

Plan ahead

None of us can predict the future, but what we can say is that preparing for anything is key. Instead of getting seduced by all the shiny features in that expensive proprietary LMS, consider the potential business opportunities and challenges facing you and your people.

Ask ‘what if’ questions – does the LMS you’re considering still support these ‘what if’ cases, or would it involve a bunch of expensive workarounds? What if you merge with another company? What if your workforce doubles in size? What if a whole new set of regulations arise which everyone in your business must adhere to within the next week? Do you even know what features you would need in these as-yet unknown situations? This is why it pays to dodge the feature shoot-out and choose an LMS that gives you the flexibility and freedom to innovate and learn.

Evolve your training programme today with the help of Wahoo Learning’s end-to-end solution. Our powerful customisable and open-source LMS Totara Learn comes with COMPASS, a comprehensive suite of Wahoo Learning add-ons to expand functionality. Contact our training experts to book a demo today.

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The author - Eloise Jakeman

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Eloise is Wahoo Learning's Marketing Manager. She has a wealth of experience in planning and implementing successful Marketing and Communications campaigns, and brings with her positivity, creativity and the drive to succeed.

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