The short-cut buyers guide: LMS requirements and more

• 8 min read

LMS requirements: The guide to finding your dream LMS systemLet’s talk about finalizing your learning management system requirements. Getting your requirements solid before beginning your LMS search or sending to vendors can seem a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

It takes time, consideration, and people power to get the ball rolling. Not only that, but there are so many LMS vendors on the market, and so many different LMS features to choose from it can start to very quickly feel like mental gymnastics. Don’t *flip out* yet though (pun intended). 🤸🏻

There are ways to ensure that your process in picking out an LMS platform is organized and streamlined. Unlike a lot of online shopping, you can’t rely on a quick Google search alone. Your LMS selection is pretty dang important, and you ideally want to ensure that your user experience, user interface, training needs, and training goals are all top of mind when your internal decision-makers sit down together to vet out a new LMS. We’ve created an LMS requirements checklist for you so that you can, as easily as possible, land on the right LMS for the learning experience your audience needs.

LMS RFP template

Build your team 👩🏾‍💼🧑🏻‍💼

Having an A-team when finding your dream learning platform is paramount. These are the folks who help you navigate the needs of the learners, what it is that you need to accomplish, technical requirements that need to be considered, and will ultimately help ensure the LMS provider who you sign the dotted line with is a perfect fit.

This type of operation means that you need people in different departments since this is definitely beyond the scope of just one person, or even a single department. Your IT department, HR department, Learning and Development (L&D) department, and any staff who uses/will use the LMS or its data otherwise should have representation on your LMS requirements team.

Depending on your use case, you may also want to consult your people in Partner Enablement, Customer Enablement, and Sales Enablement. These are the people who will help to get you to the finish line.


Things to consider before going to market ✍🏻

Before you solicit information from vendors about how great their SaaS LMS is, or how they can reinvent the way you approach online training, it’s really important to firstly know exactly what you’re working with from your own organization’s standpoint.

💭 What’s your current process?

You know the old saying: hindsight is 20/20 (we’ll save the comments on the year 2020 for a later date). In order to start building the bridge to where you want to go, you have to observe where you currently stand. Take the time to break down how your training currently operates, where the gaps lie, and how people are impacted by the current training. Capture what the experience has been for your learners in the past so that you can clearly articulate to vendors where you’re starting from.

💭 What do you want the future to look like?

Now that you’ve taken an honest inventory about how your training process and procedures operate today, you can start dreaming big time! Take the time with your team to assess how you want the user experience to be, for everyone, and the goals you want to instate for the organization. These will give you a good roadmap for where you want to head towards, and it’ll help you navigate whether the LMS vendors you’re looking at can help you get there.

💭 Where does your current process hurt?

Getting buy-in from higher-ups for LMS and other learning software can be challenging. A great way to start this conversation is by going in with tangible challenges or pain points that have actionable solutions that could be solved with the right learning software. Try to quantify how expensive your current problem is by asking:

❓How much time do your admins spend on enrollments each week/month/year?
❓How is your relationship with your partners?
❓Are your partners and customers seeing the results they need to continue that professional relationship?
❓How much would it cost to lose those revenue streams?
❓Is your talent retention suffering?
❓Do people enjoy learning in your current system?
❓How much would it cost to lose someone because they do not enjoy the current learning procedure?

These are the questions worth considering when we start to think of how to sell this sort of change internally.

💭 What’s your budget?

There are a lot of LMS vendors out there and they all have different capabilities. It’s important to know what you’re working with in your budget so that you can prioritize vendors that are more aligned with the resources you have allocated. If you find a platform that has you reconsidering your budget because their functionality is so out of this world, it’s worth considering how much the problems you’re facing now are costing you so that you can quantify and rationalize upping your budget as needed.

💭 When do you want to launch your new platform?

A timeline is a good way to keep everyone on track with eyes on the prize. Everyone on your team and any team leads will benefit from knowing when you want to launch so that you can work together towards achievable and focused goals with the end in mind.

💭 What are your learning needs?

It’s important to crowdsource information here, whether through surveys or your own research. Thoroughly vet answers and continually ask yourself and your LMS project team: what do our learners need and what do they want? Who is our target audience? What is most likely to keep people engaged in the platform? Where have our learning programs previously fallen short and how can we improve this? What experience do we want our audience to have? These questions are pretty important to make sure your audience is always top of mind when you’re making decisions about different solutions.

This is not where this list ends. You also need to take time to consider your audience. Whether you’re providing or hosting customer training, partner training, corporate training, sales enablement training, or onboarding and compliance training, you need to make sure all of your ducks are accounted for and in a row.


LMS functionalities to choose from

Social learning 👍🏽

We are more socially connected than ever before (can we get a retweet?). Because online social interactivity has become second to breathing for most of us, more and more organizations are turning to social learning modules.

This LMS feature creates learning environments where professionals in the same organization can communicate, collaborate, share best practices, and learn from subject matter experts (even despite location). These e-learning experiences are a great way to ask questions and share user-generated content (think Youtube) to drive learner engagement and knowledge sharing across your organization. Need we say more?

Mobile learning (m-learning) 🤳🏼

We’d be willing to bet that within arms reach of you, there’s a mobile device. When you’re not at work, you probably do most of your Google and Youtube searches on it too.

E-learning has become the way we work and learn, so LMS platforms that are not accessible on other devices are not optimizing the bandwidth of their online learning program (lame). You’re missing out on the ability to reach your learners on their favorite mobile device and catch them on the go.

SCORM, AICC, and xAPI 💻

SCORM, and AICC are international standards for tracking e-learning activities. xAPI (formerly Tin Can API) is the Learning Objects new standard. These standards are what power authoring tools with the ability to receive content and bring it to life in an LMS. The beauty of authoring tool packages is the power to diversify your learner’s experience. Instead of solely pushing out word docs and powerpoints, you can expand your horizons with different media types by using the various versions of SCORM, AICC, and xAPI.

Authoring tools 🖌️

Think of a painting. You have your rulers, pencils, a canvas, paints, and brushes – and then you have your frame for when your work is ready to be seen by the world. Your authoring tools are your painting supplies in this scenario, as they enable course creation, while your frame is your learning management system (LMS) which houses your e-learning content.

A common practice in the learning industry, SCORM and xAPI make it possible for an LMS and an authoring tool to work together to push these various media types for Learning & Development programs instead of just sending out old school word docs and PDFs.

By using an authoring tool (which usually has storyboarding capability and an editing tool), you can embed and combine anything from text, video, audio, graphics, and animation into a course. Sounds sexy, right?

Gamification 🎲

Gamification as an LMS feature can operate with points, badges, leaderboards, contests, and rewards. The concept of taking the essence of games and applying them to professional objectives makes the objectives themselves more enjoyable for the learners. Having these in a learning management system boosts learner engagement, knowledge retention, healthy competition, and positive user experiences.

E-commerce 💳

This LMS feature is pretty easy to understand – after all, we wouldn’t love shopping on Amazon so much if it wasn’t so easy, right? With e-commerce functionality, you can use built-in stores or integrations with vendors like Shopify or Paypal to make selling (and shopping for) training courses simple. With e-commerce, you can also compose and sell bundles of courses and manage different plans for different groups of customers. User interfaces that include e-commerce make it easy for your customers to browse, preview, and purchase training materials or course catalogs from your LMS.

E-learning content 🖼️

Your e-learning content is going to be the bread and butter of your training program and online courses.

Blended learning 🎨

Blended learning is an LMS feature that helps you supplement traditional modes of learning (these are your top-down formal learning course and ILT), and uses technology in your LMS to include modern learning methods too. Blended learning is a multi-dimensional approach to delivering learning content for a multi-faceted audience of individuals who have different needs. We love options!

Data migration 💾

Data stored in an LMS is a goldmine, and the cost of losing that could cause an organization a lot of unnecessary pain. Data migration gives you mobility and freedom if you need to switch your LMS so that you can take all of your progress with you. With data migration in an LMS, you can take your valuable data with you and re-distribute it inside of a new LMS so that you’re not completely starting from scratch.

Single sign-on 🧑🏽‍💻

One of the easiest ways to keep your people inside of your platform is to make it as easy as possible to login. Security markup languages allow you to have the same login for multiple systems so that you don’t lose engagement when your audience forgets their password (and honestly, who doesn’t forget their passwords here and there). Using API’s, for example, your people can access their LMS by using their G-Suite or Microsoft accounts without having to memorize yet another password.

There are plenty more features to consider, but these are some that we find to be most crucial. Once you’ve completed the steps above and ultimately decided what functionality is going to be most important for your audience(s), it’s probably time to begin your evaluation!


Going to market 🛒

You’ve really done a lot of good work to get to this point. As you start speaking to vendors, establishing relationships with different sales teams, and having them fill out requests for proposals, hold your points of contact accountable. Take full advantage of the sales cycle, and ask them as many questions as possible. One very important pro-tip: make sure you don’t just take anyone’s word for what a product can do – test drive it yourself (thoroughly) to make sure the shoe (or rather the LMS) fits!

Now that you have all of the above in your back pocket, ready to conquer learning now and explore new platforms?

LMS RFP template