Wait. What? I can buy an LMS with a credit card?

May 26, 2011

This is a cross post. Original at Bersin & Associates.

We know from our LMS 2011 research that the LMS market is experiencing more fragmentation, specialization, and globalization. We also know that we primarily see this in three overlapping spaces: (1) integrated talent management suite providers (the fastest growing space, especially for large organizations and where we are also seeing mega LMS/TMS mergers), (2) social learning platform providers, and (3) providers specializing in niche solutions (i.e., specific vertical markets like healthcare, unique needs like extended enterprise learning, and specialized delivery methods like mobile).

However, for such a mature market, we also know that many buyers of LMSs are generally frustrated with their systems and that is one reason we are seeing these changes – you are driving them. As the character Howard Beale said in the movie Network, “WE’RE MAD AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.” That’s probably why I sat up in my seat a bit during my briefing with Intellum when I learned that they had a 98 percent renewal rate. 98. Percent. Not many frustrated buyers there.

Intellum has been around since 2000. My briefing was on its Rollbook LMS with a sneak peak at something call GroupDock.

Here are some of my rough notes from the Rollbook LMS briefing:

  • Add users (or have them self register)
  • Specify data capture requirements
  • Put users in groups if needed (by manager, by geographic regions, etc.)
  • Simple upload of courses (taken a YouTube and an iTunes-like feel) for learners. (i.e., what learners are used to)
  • Don’t have to use “slideware” (built-in capabilities)
  • They will host video courses (overcome the video issue organizations face)
  • eCommerce capabilities
  • 3P integration with Exam Builder (confirmation button or testing/assessment)
  • Creator of content sees what the student will see as they are creating a course
  • They sell everything offered and customer decides what to turn off
  • Can send data to other systems
  • Partner with several 3P COTS courseware providers. Can just buy courses.
  • Create learning paths

Intellum also does custom content. Implementation is 1 day. My impression is that it is ridiculously easy to use. That’s really their value proposition.

Now if you’re a small or medium sized business shopping for an LMS to administer and track training and create and serve up e-learning you can use the following tips for avoiding long sales cycles and complicated comparisons.

  • You must be able to answer these two questions: “What do I want the system to do?” and “What business problem am I trying to solve?” Do not pass GO if you can’t answer those questions. Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail and do your homework. Homework may involve the investigation of things like “What is an LMS and how is it different than an LCMS, virtual classroom, or authoring tool?” (We have a primer on that.)
  • Make a decision on how much you want to spend. And remember even “free” solutions have a cost (support, documentation, add-ons, etc.). Our LMS report includes cost considerations.
  • Look for easy-to-use and easy-to-maintain systems. In the words of Homer Simpson, Doh! Yes, that’s common sense but I am reminded of a quote from Steve Krug’s awesome book “Don’t Make Me Think”: “If something is hard to use, I just don’t use it as much.” So…when you’re “trying on” systems, move along if it is hard to use.
  • Go with a hosted system. ‘Nuff said.
  • Evaluate the system against your use case(s) not just an RFP response or demo. Comparing which-systems-do-what using a checklist can be a painstaking and futile exercise (OMG…all boxes are checked for all of these!). Use case = here’s what I need it to do (from Q#1), can you do it? Good. Now show me or better yet, let me try.
  • Separate “must have” and “nice to have” features. “Nice to haves” are the tiebreakers. Must haves are well, *must* haves. You might just want a couple of basic reports not über analytics.
  • Keep track of demos using some sort of scorecard. Have you ever bought a house? How easy is it to remember which one had the upstairs laundry room? So like that.
  • Leverage industry research.
  • Check references. Most companies have clients listed on their website or just ask them.

Yes, Intellum will accommodate any organization’s years-long sales cycle. Yes, Intellum can crank out an RFP response if that’s what you require (and you’ll find a wealth of info in that link). But you can also just test drive Rollbook, buy it online (SaaS), and be up and running without even talking to a sales rep. I once bought a minivan on my lunch break. Now I can buy an LMS that way. There are many organizations – especially small and medium sized – that won’t find that a maddening experience AT ALL.

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