Implementing new technology or upgrading current tools is never an easy task. Having the right strategy when migrating to a new learning management system (LMS) platform can mean the difference between making life easier or harder for the learners. Most organizations approach the LMS integration process as they would any project, by utilizing a project management framework and it’s five phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitor and control, and closing. Integrating into a new LMS should not be done without thoroughly thinking through each phase and considering the best steps to take to create an efficient process throughout the entire project lifecycle to maximize the outcome of the integration.
How can you best pave the way for a smooth LMS implementation or migration? The Meridian Services team has helpful tips and insights into ways to make this complex process a little less daunting. Below are their 5 tips for a smooth LMS integration.
1. Identify Appropriate Stakeholders
Everyone in the implementation team stressed the importance of identifying and involving all appropriate stakeholders as early as possible in the process. Having the right stakeholders involved from the beginning ensures that everyone is clear about the defined requirements and expected end goals. Additionally, having the right people in the right departments involved is the best way to gain insight into their various training needs and objectives.
This approach can identify efficiency improvements to set up in the LMS integration, such as consolidation of training courses, creation of reporting that meets the needs of the organization from the top down and providing a user interface that makes sense to all departments.
A quick way to identify the right people is to consider which departments and management will be affected. Consider the following:
1. Who will be responsible for tracking the progress internally and externally? Is this the best person to tie in the business processes/initiatives with regards to training or is there another level of management that controls this function?
2. Who is responsible for the technical aspects of the software? Will their input be imperative in implementing and integrating the LMS with other existing solutions?
3. What business problems or issues will the LMS need to address? Who should be in attendance that can articulate these challenges?
4. Who will be responsible for the administration of the system and how much time will they need for training?
Ensuring all appropriate stakeholders are represented throughout initial meetings warrants clear communication and understanding about what items are critical or ‘must-haves’ for the LMS to include as well as “nice-to-haves” that are desired by various departments or teams. Stakeholders need to agree on specific requirements first, rather than spending implementation time with the vendor while internal discussion and debate is going on.
Anja from Meridian’s Services Implementation team suggests that organizations include their IT team, content management teams and business groups. Once an ideal list of stakeholders is agreed upon, include them in the initial meetings and solicit their input to develop a plan that makes sense to everyone.
2. Create a Plan with Metrics
Creating a plan seems obvious and intuitive, but having one alone is not enough. There must also be tangible goals and metrics to measure success. Meridian Implementation Team member Rickard, a specialist in complex custom integrations, noted that metrics are another important but frequently overlooked item. Organizations need to ask themselves, “What does success look like and how will we measure it?”
Most Learning and Development departments know training inside and out but may not be fully tuned in to their organization’s key new initiatives or business objectives that can best be reached via training. When planning begins with desired end goals in mind, it is easier to develop a plan.
Metrics provide a standard baseline which everyone can understand. The Meridian LMS includes administrative dashboards that make data retrieval and review easier. However, if your organization hasn’t agreed on exactly which metrics will be evaluated, it will be more difficult to develop reports and dashboards that include impactful data.
3. Define Requirements and Plan for Upgrades
The execution phase should include a clearly defined requirements checklist based on scenarios and use cases, while also planning for flexibility and scalability. Organizations should take the time to find ways to handle business needs without customizing themselves into a corner. Meridian Implementation Team member Rickard, explained, “Customizations do not need to be overly complex. Any customization should be created to be ‘upgrade friendly’ and not something built outside of the main product framework.”
For instance, before making the entire LMS available via mobile, take time to understand the organization’s mobile strategy and policies to consider what is best to deliver via phone. Perhaps it makes more sense to create specific mobile-centric training, instead of delivering the full LMS solution over mobile. Mobile functionality is built into the training platform; but your current content may not be very mobile friendly. Understanding where and when learners access training most frequently will help to determine what decisions makes the most sense for your users.
While there are many needs and issues that the LMS must address today, do not forget to consider what future learning and knowledge requirements may impact the organization in the near and far-term.
4. Make time for Quality Assurance (QA) testing
Just because the LMS is set up doesn’t mean it’s ready to go live. Organizations often fail to set aside sufficient time to conduct quality testing. While Meridian’s Implementation Team performs thorough testing of every project, each client has unique business cases and scenarios that could be overlooked. Creating time in the schedule to review and test normal and unique scenarios is worthwhile.
If the testing phase does not include unique business case scenarios, you may run into problems later that could have otherwise been caught and addressed. It is best to be proactive. Determine unique test cases in advance and provide test scripts to your QA team. Create test scripts once requirements are approved. Meridian’s Implementation Team recommends that test scripts be created for client acceptance testing that align with specific use or business cases. Poor planning in this phase can create delays in the project timeline – or worse – issues after go-live.
5. Plan for Change Management
Determine early in the process just how you will launch the new LMS. Will the platform be rolled out in phases, all at once or will you run multiple LMS platforms simultaneously and slowly phase out an older solution? Are there important business initiatives or events, such as inspections and audits, that need to be factored into the overall schedule? Important organizational milestones such as quarterly or yearly goals, fiscal year and other business initiatives should be factored into the overall project timeline.
Every organization is unique and may utilize the platform differently, so there is never a one-size-fits-all answer. Regardless of the decision, the plan for change must be effectively communicated to stakeholders and users. Set expectations as to how long the project will realistically take to complete.
Whether this is your first LMS integration or if you are a veteran of the process, being prepared with a plan that includes metrics for success will help you launch a stronger learning solution that has a greater impact on your organization’s mission and goals.