Most organisations today understand the value of a learning management system (LMS). Whether it’s more efficient distribution of learning, cutting the cost of expensive face-to-face training sessions or ensuring consistency across an entire national or international organisation, an LMS plays an essential role in most learning strategies in 2018. However, many companies make the mistake of allocating virtually all of their L&D budget to an expensive LMS, leaving them with a little left over to dedicate to other initiatives. In this article, we will look at why it might be best to rethink your L&D budget and how to select a better-value LMS.
Investing your whole L&D budget on one initiative is risky
It stands to reason: if you’re spending your entire L&D budget on a single learning platform, what happens when a new piece of legislation is announced requiring a whole new e-learning course? Or what happens if your company introduces a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy that renders your content unusable on half of the devices in use? Or if your CEO announces a brand overhaul and you’re left with e-learning content using outdated branding? While the LMS is generally one of the biggest investments an L&D team will make, it should still offer good value for money within the constraints of your budget, which should have plenty of contingency to allow for changing business needs.
Do you really need all those features?
Many people assume that more features = a better LMS. With a big proprietary system, you’ll get access to all the currently available features but will pay a higher price. With an open LMS, you will have access to these features but at a much lower cost, and you will have the added benefit of being able to extend your platform with any additional features as and when you need them. If you’re not going to use all of the features, you don’t want to be paying more than you need to. An open technology platform removes inflated licence costs which benefit the vendor, and instead frees up your budget to build better learning experiences for your audience.
Are you stuck in a long contract with an LMS that no longer meets your needs?
What if you’ve just signed a multi-year contract for an LMS, and three months down the line you have a whole new business need to contend with? If you’ve opted for an expensive proprietary LMS that doesn’t have the features you need to meet your new business need, it could be a long wait before they introduce these features to the system. Instead, you could be better off opting for an open source LMS with the option to build new features as and when you need them. As well as this, some open source software comes with a thriving online community of experts who can help you make the most of your LMS and offer advice and tips.
Why investing where it counts matters?
L&D teams are constantly being asked to do more with less, and when training budgets are constantly being slashed, it can be difficult to know where to focus your attention. Many L&D professionals make the mistake of assuming that their LMS will solve all of their challenges alone, but they also need to consider the cost of producing and maintaining e-learning content, any face-to-face training sessions, rolling out new training initiatives, internal communications, any extra development work, the time of subject matter experts and more.
The right LMS should have a good range of learning activity types available within the platform itself. This means you can do a lot on the single platform without spending a lot of extra money on expensive SCORM modules. The flexibility afforded to L&D teams with open source learning platforms is also beneficial because they mean you are not at the mercy of a roadmap you cannot influence – you have the power to customise your platform as you see fit. While this will also require budget, it gives you more power in terms of meeting your unique business objectives.
How to find a cost-effective LMS
Many organisations find that open source learning management systems deliver more value to the business than proprietary counterparts. This is because they tend to have much more control over the LMS, and can implement many of the customisations they may require in-house. They can also reuse code or plugins created by other developers, which reduces the duplication of efforts and spending. There are several questions to ask yourself in order to find a cost-effective LMS:
- Which features do we actually need now? Which features might we need in the future?
- What contract length do we need? What changes might happen in the coming months or years that will affect our LMS?
- Do we have the in-house expertise to implement any customisations?
- Is the LMS flexible enough to keep up with our changing business requirements?
- Does the LMS scale easily?
- Is the LMS adaptive and responsive for use across multiple existing and future devices?
- What does the roadmap for the LMS look like?
- Will it integrate with your other existing systems?
The Total Cost of Ownership for an open source LMS is very likely to be lower than for a proprietary system – firstly in terms of the contract itself, and secondly because it will be more flexible and easier to customise as your business requirements change. The key thing to remember is that ‘cost effectiveness’ is about much more than the upfront cost – it’s also about whether or not the LMS will save you money in the long run through more efficient training delivery or end up costing you more if it’s too inflexible or won’t adapt with your organisation’s changing needs. Ultimately, this is key to helping you achieve better alignment with your business objectives, as you can avoid being forced to change by external forces you cannot influence, and can instead adapt at the pace required by your own organisation.
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