4 Reasons Your LMS Can Fail and How to Avoid Them

Make sure you build a learning infrastructure that is flexible enough to bend to your changing business needs. Keep your total cost of ownership low and budgets focused on where you can have the most positive impact.

As we know, many learning management system (LMS) purchasers are dissatisfied with their platforms, finding them clunky, difficult to use, and unfit for purpose. Unfortunately, if you’re among the third of organizations unhappy with your current learning platform, you’ll know how painful and expensive it can be to rectify past decisions. A procurement that may have felt right at the time all too soon can turn into frustration, inertia, and disengagement.

We’ve identified four common reasons learning management systems tend to fail, and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Your LMS isn’t flexible enough. Thousands of organizations find themselves locked into platforms that may have suited their needs a year ago, but are no longer fit for purpose. This is a lose-lose situation. You face paying excessive amounts to break your contract and switch to something else, or continuing with a platform that remains inflexible, taking on an increasingly zombie-like demeanor. Maybe your platform doesn’t integrate with other systems, is not extensible or easy to brand as your own, or won’t scale as your business grows. Not only is this frustrating, it can prove damaging to your organization over time as you become more out of alignment with the actual business need, and lose the trust and engagement of your audience.

To avoid this form of locked-in syndrome, ensure you choose an open platform that gives you the freedom to be different, and to stay agile and competitive in an increasingly fast-moving world. It is impossible to predict what will happen in the future, making it essential that your platform and learning infrastructure allow you to do things your way without constraints. Choosing an open platform means you can take advantage of the expertise and experience of a wider community, helping you stay relevant and ahead of the curve as a normal part of business.

2. Your LMS has a high cost of ownership. With hundreds of learning platforms available, it is easy to to become overwhelmed and perhaps default to a system that is overly simple but ultimately limiting. Alternatively, you may be attracted by an established enterprise vendor that will seemingly provide you with everything you need and more besides—but at ultimately significant cost, and the realization that you don’t justify the attention and support you enjoyed prior to signing that multi-year contract.

You can avoid these pitfalls by choosing a platform that is open, flexible, and supported by multiple expert learning technology specialists. This significantly decreases your total cost of ownership—by as much as 80 percent—as there are no unnecessary software licenses to pay. Not only that, you are guaranteed to receive a strong customer experience from your partner throughout as it supports you through the design, deployment, and sustained management of your learning platform, dramatically increasing the chances of successful outcomes for your employees and your organization as a whole. This model means your available budget can be invested where it will have maximum impact—those often-neglected value-added services that typically make the difference between success and failure. These include streamlining the learning experience and workflow to suit the needs of multiple audiences within your business.

3. You don’t have any say over your LMS. Unfortunately, too many proprietary software vendors put their own needs before the requirements of their customers. Once they’ve signed their contract, the customer no longer has any control—they are at the mercy of the vendor and the direction in which they want to take the product. It can take months, or even years, to see the features and functionality you urgently need appear in the platform, and no amount of polite requests will see the vendor diverge from its roadmap or help you progress toward your goals.

How about instead you take back control? An open platform is your platform—meaning you can choose and switch supporting partners to keep in line with your changing business needs. Different partners offer a huge range of value-added expertise, whether this is around their technical experience, configuration, integration, migration, customisations, plugins, or even sector-specific services.

4. Your team lacks the skills to deliver success with your LMS. Independent of your choice of technology platform, it is important that your own internal teams are confident and competent to make the right procurement choices, and then leverage all available features and functionality to best effect. This is challenging given the range of skills, tools, and creative options available to design and deliver effective learning experiences. It’s essential then that you have the freedom and access to learn best practices from trusted sources. By joining a worldwide community built around an open platform, there is a shared drive to collaborate and share what works (and what doesn’t). That way we all learn at a faster rate and, importantly, perform better in delivering success in each of our organizations. This is the only sustainable way forward for organizations wanting to stay competitive in today’s reinvention economy—a time of rapidly accelerating change.

Don’t Join the Learning Dead

In today’s fast moving world, it is easy to become paralysed into sticking with traditional procurement practices and established systems. But you risk becoming increasingly disengaged from your people’s needs and the real drivers behind sustaining productivity and building their capabilities to stay relevant and competitive.

Take care when considering proprietary technology that you have little long-term control over. Make sure you build a learning infrastructure that is flexible enough to bend to your changing business needs. And since you will be changing course more frequently than ever before, it makes sense that you keep your total cost of ownership low and budgets focused on where you can have the most positive impact. That will mean you and your internal teams need to learn new skills and techniques at a rapid pace. So make sure you join a community of like-minded professionals who are open to collaboration. Join those who are alive to the increasing risks of zombie-like groupthink. Surely it’s better to “level up” together and prepare our people and businesses to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Lars Hyland leads Totara Learning’s commercial activities across the EMEA region. Hyland has been an early pioneer of learning technology since 1992 and has since successfully supported the growth of the sector, holding senior management positions within leading e-learning agencies. A well-known figure in the Learning & Development community, Hyland has championed the adoption of innovative blended learning design to reap not just greater cost efficiency, but real changes in learning effectiveness and engagement in the workplace.