Learning Management System Implementation

Implementing an LMS tool properly is something that not a lot of people consider to be a hard job. That is until they try and do it themselves. Just like any other multi-purpose tool, LMSs require careful installations and proper configurations. Doing it without a proper plan can result in all kinds of issues, including but not limited to bugs, broken features, and missing data.

In today’s article, this is exactly what we will discuss. We will breakdown what exactly you need to do and when so that your LMS implementation process can go without a hitch. Thus, without any further delays, let’s dive directly into it.

Getting Started

Regardless if you used an LMS tool before or this is your first time, you need to make sure that you’ve settled down two things, namely, assembled a team and defined a time frame. These two things are essential as, without them, you will not only prolong the entire implementation process but lose a lot of money in the process.

If you don’t know when you have to do this, then the answer is simple, from the very start of your project. By the time you will be signing the dotted line you need to have all these things done. Another thing you also need to perform in advance is to clarify all the implementation details to avoid any surprises. Got it? Good. Now let’s take a look at how and why you should create a team and define a timeframe.

Implementation Team

Now the number one reason why you would like to create a team is to avoid any human resource shortages and more importantly crunch. By having a proper team you can rest assured knowing that you will just enough people at any given implementation stage. Typically, it is advised that you compose two teams, namely, the core team and a seperate extended team.

The Core Team – This is technically the “brain” of your team as this is the team that will perform all the decision making from across all angles. Their activities should range from developing the plan itself to the installation process to creating a communication channel and to keeping track of all the deadlines.

Typically, the size of this team is defined by the scale of the organization itself. However, if you feel like pulling people from the leadership team won’t be enough, add more as you see fit. Now that we know what kind of people we need, we need to define the structure of the team.

Here’s a list of roles that you absolutely must fill out:

  • Team Leader – This role is pretty self-explanatory. This will be the person that will ensure that everything goes forward. This is the person who will be responsible for hitting all the deadlines, as well as the one who will devise all the plans to avoid potential roadblocks.
  • Project Manager – Similarly to how a Team Leader operates, a project manager will keep track of all the tasks, their due dates, and resource assignments. Finally, this person will be the one who accepts the work submitted.
  • eLearning Tech Specialist – This specialist will be responsible for the company’s learning models and all the tools that are involved in said models. He will test and configure the solutions migrated and verify their stability.
  • Training Administrator – This person will help define what LMS features your company needs. He/she will also check whether the tool needs to comply with certain industry standards, regulations, and laws.
  • IT Architect – This is the person that will be in charge of the proper migration of data. Things such as system configs, data security, integrations, and authentification are the IT Architect line of responsibility.

The Extended Team – This team should consist of people that will work regularly on the LMS platform. This includes authors, designers, administrators, and even training managers. These people will test the entire tool before it will be released to the whole company.

Building a Timeline

Some experts say that it takes upwards of 12 months to properly implement an on-premise solution, and roughly 6 months if you use a cloud-based one. We say that both numbers are accurate but with a twist. You see, not every business is the same and some groups might not need some features.

The best way to settle on a timeline is to assess the number of people you have and the number of steps you need to take. Evaluate how much time it would take you to complete one step and stack that info on a scale. Based on these clear numbers you will be able to settle on a pretty realistic deadline.

Pro Tip: Even if you know to a minute as to how long it would take you to complete a step, always add extra time. The reason being, you will never know what roadblock you might encounter. If you do not allocate enough time, you risk prolonging the project even more.

Steps for Implementation

And now for the more technical stuff, the implementation phase. Generally speaking, there are roughly six phases, namely:

  1. Planning
  2. Configuration
  3. Integration
  4. Migration
  5. User testing
  6. Go live

Let’s take a look at each in detail so that you can have a good idea of how each step will work out and how long it might take you to complete them.

1. Planning

The first thing you need to do is to configure a reliable and easy to access a communications plan between the core team members and the LMS tool vendor. By having this tunnel, you can be sure that both parties are aware of the entire process, where things are standing, and what potential issues they might encounter. This will also make the Project Manager’s work much easier as he will know what is going on.

Also in this phase you need to settle on multiple strategies for each step. Your best course of action would be to ask the vendor for their LMS implementation project plan and align it with yours (or vice versa). Do keep in mind that the vendor’s plan is not permanent and can change so make sure that both parties are on the same plan.

Here are some key questions to consider are:

  • What is the key mission of the LMS within your company?
  • What configurations are necessary?
  • Who will maintain the software once implementation is finished?
  • How you will train the end-users of the tool?
  • Do you need the system to work with other third-party tools? (e.g., Google Apps, HR systems, CRMs)
  • In what way you will train your administrative group to use the LMS tool?
  • How training will be conducted when the software goes live?

2. Configuration

The bulk of the implementation phase involves a lot of configuration. Specifically speaking, adapting the tool your company needs and employee requirements. To properly execute this step, your team needs to understand how to complete their duties and what data they will need in the process.

Here’s what configs you might want to decide from the get-go:

  • What data is collected in user accounts
  • What security permissions party that is using the LMS you’ll need
  • How many domains you need for different audiences
  • Define what the structure of the course catalog will look like
  • Define each meta-data tag that will be used for easy search and selection
  • Adapt the layout for courses migrated from old solutions
  • Define skills and competencies for each position, course, and assessment
  • What kind of notifications you need and what can be deactivateddiactivated
  • What kind of reports you need and what kind of data you might want to extract
Pro Tip: Just as you know what your company needs the vendor knows about their LMS tool capabilities. Both of you need to settle on a fine communication line and discuss both your needs and offerings transparently.

3. Integration

In this phase, we will discuss the most common things you can integrate an LMS solution. See if any of the listed things your business might have and can benefit from as doing so can speed up your entire workflow.

  • Solutions with user accounts and profiles
  • Systems with single-sign-on (SSO) abilities for employees using multiple software solutions
  • LMS portals to access data, such as deep links that take users to a specific course page, or using an API (application programming interface) so IT can pull LMS data and place it in a portal
  • A platform allowing users to access content and documents from other enterprise solutions that relate to the course material (also known as Enterprise Search)
  • Any solutions that aid in e-commerce services, such as credit card processing systems, accounting solutions and so on

4. Migration

This phase is the most complex but not because it covers a number of different things but because you’ll have to deal with incompatibilities. Indeed, if you are moving stuff from legacy systems to new ones, you will need to deal with mismatches in fields, broken records, and other things.

Just like with any migration project, you first must first determine what data you can move and what you leave behind. Ideally but highly unrealistic, you want to move as fewer records as possible. This will allow not only minimize risks but will help you avoid many roadblocks and errors during the process.

Dividing your entire data footprint into these three small steps will help you avoid data corruption and losses.

  1. Perform a small demo data migration. Move as little as you can to see how things will end working;
  2. Only migrate stuff you need and leave the “junk” out;
  3. Perform a Delta Transfer is necessary (it is when data got updated in the old tool but the new did not register this action);

Here are the many different types of data you’ll need to migrate:

  • Employee data, (from both, the legacy LMS solution and from your HR system)
  • Standards for academic establishments, non-prof organizations, and SCORM;
  • Data that tracks a person’s progression
  • Meta-data tags, schedules, etc.

5. User Testing

Similarly to how QA departments in the tech industry work, you too will need to perform user testing. And the best way to start this process is to have your Core team create a list of areas your users need to see. Once you have this list in your hand, we suggest that you divide it into a couple of smaller papers that you can send out to people from the Extended team.

After the team is done testing the system, we suggest that they conduct a report as to how things work and areas need either adjustments or fixing. After counting the bugs and inconsistencies, proceed to fix them by conducting a meeting where you will discuss the many strategies.

6. Go Live

And for the last part, you go live. Once you know that everything will run okay and that nothing will break, you can proceed to create a workflow to pass on to new employees. Additionally, you can also ask your IT service desk to announce about the completion of the project.

Moreover, you need to notify in advance all of your designers, admins, and other responsible personnel about the new system so that they can prepare. Once done, announce a “blackout period” (a period where both tools will be unavailable to the users) and proceed as planned.

Pro Tip: Don’t just close your old instance yet because if your team identifies some major issues, you might want to reinstate the old tool until the issue in the new LMS solution is sorted out. Also, it is best to perform “blackouts” during weekends when you need your tool the least.

Bottom Line

And there’s that. Every implementation project is complex and there’s no way around it. You need to make sure that every nook and cranny is taken care of as otherwise, you are bound to encounter issues in the long run. But that’s all from us for now, if you need help with LMS systems and whatnot, consider dropping us a message.

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