The essential LMS implementation plan: expectations, estimated timelines and exceptions



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13 mins


Implementing new learning management systems in the workplace can be tricky. Ciphr’s essential LMS implementation plan will help you avoid any potential issues and make sure you get everything you need from your new software

If you’ve ever led the charge on organising a major event – whether as part of your job or outside of work – you’ll know how much planning is needed to make it a success. And although implementing a new LMS might not be quite as exciting as planning a wedding, or dream holiday, it still requires prep work to make it a success.

Fortunately, we’re here to help. And, now that your decision-makers are bought in to your LMS project, it’s time for the real hard work to begin. Our overview includes the steps you’d usually expect to take while implementing a new (or first) LMS, the estimated timelines, and what you may (or may not) expect – guided by Ciphr’s own implementation plan.

Internal process management

Your first step for your LMS implementation plan is an important one: generating stakeholder buy-in. There will be many colleagues involved in deciding if the time is right to invest in your first (or replacement) LMS software. You’ll need to show how it benefits them, their team, and your organisation.

Your management team will be focused on the organisation’s overall objectives and areas that need improvement. These goals may include simplifying processes, increasing productivity, or boosting sales effectiveness – and the best way to do this will be through continuous training and employee development.

LMS software is an indispensable tool for HR teams because it supports initiatives that add value to your organisation, and allows employees to manage daily learning-related tasks themselves. Employees can perform better in their roles as they’ll have access to tools that can help improve productivity and expand their skills and knowledge. Your people team will be able to provide access to engaging training activities, and include self-service options for employees and managers — freeing up valuable time within the team and empowering employees to take control of their career paths.

Once you’ve demonstrated these points to your stakeholder groups, you’ll now need to secure a budget. The time it takes to fully implement LMS software, and the associated costs, will vary based on the size of your organisation and complexity of your project.

Before you go any further with your LMS implementation plan, you’ll also need to check compliance with your organisation’s internal procurement process and due diligence requirements. Keep engaging with key stakeholders, so you can focus on the issues your new LMS software will resolve.

Set your goals, requirements (and expectations)

So your LMS implementation plan is a successful one, you’ll need to have clear objectives and expectations set out early on. These should include any business concerns that will be addressed by the new software, and the objectives you hope to achieve. This will help you focus on those priority areas with this project, so your new LMS software fulfils its purpose.

Setting your goals will enable you to identify the non-negotiable requirements for your new LMS. It shows stakeholders (and vendors) what you want this software to deliver, and ensures everyone understands the role the LMS will play in realistically reaching your goals. If you haven’t implemented or used an LMS before, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What’s the purpose of your training programmes? Check if your courses are weighted towards mandatory activities (eg compliance training) or focused on development needs (eg leadership and management training)
  2. Do you want to gamify the experience? eLearning gamification can help motivate learners and, ultimately, employees are encouraged to value learning
  3. What content types should it deliver? It should support a range of media to deliver blended learning, and provide various formats to suit different learning styles and preferences
  4. Can it support talent management and succession planning? Skills gap analysis tools can help identify knowledge and talent gaps, and support you in creating a skills development plan to address these areas
  5. Can it integrate with your HR system and deliver robust reporting? Accurate user data in your LMS is the foundation of a good user experience. If you need your LMS to integrate with HR systemspayroll, or even recruitment systems — this is the stage to quiz potential vendors on whether their LMS can do that

Also, consider what success will look like once you’ve completed your LMS implementation. These are the standards by which the project will be judged and, by knowing what constitutes ‘good’, ‘average’ or ‘poor’ early on, you’ll know what metrics you’ll need to track and can start to explore how to collect this data. There will also be objections to LMS investment, so be ready to show the return on investment (ROI) if you’re challenged to provide this information.

Choosing a new vendor

Now you need to get prepared for conversations with potential LMS vendors. It’s where you’ll get important insights into the suitability of the relationship, software, and functions, so you choose the best LMS. These are the typical questions you need to ask:

  1. Is it scalable? Check if the LMS can grow with your organisation, especially if expansion is one of your key objectives in the next few years
  2. Can it support blended learning? This functionality lets you deliver multiple learning content formats tailored to employees’ needs, vital for a remote or hybrid working environment
  3. What type of reporting and data can I extract? Stakeholders will want relevant data and insights into your LMS’ performance, so you’ll need to ensure the LMS can provide the right data, reliably
  4. Are automated workflows part of the LMS? Automation can boost productivity by freeing up people teams to spend their time on strategic tasks, and also plays a vital role in ensuring mandatory training — including compliance, health and safety, and data-related learning — is delivered regularly
  5. Is the LMS mobile learning (mLearning) compatible? Employees will want to access learning content on demand, usually from a smartphone or tablet when away from their desks
  6. Can I see some (relevant) client feedback? Ask for comments from people in your industry, or case studies on organisations of a similar size to yours
  7. What is your implementation process? Your vendor should have an overview of the typical steps and procedures they follow, and advise on an expected timeline. Bear in mind each implementation project has variables that affect delivery times, but it’s good to understand the broad steps you can expect throughout the journey
  8. What level of customer care is on offer? Understand what to expect from the vendor’s customer care team, what level of training is provided, if you have a designated customer success manager, and if there is an additional cost for ongoing, post-launch support
  9. What’s your pricing structure? Although prices will vary between vendors, and depend on the size and scale of your project, you should get a good estimate once your prospective vendor knows your requirements
  10. What does the market say? Check trusted review sites for unbiased reviews of your potential LMS provider

Once you’ve asked these questions of suppliers, you can then shortlist vendors and arrange demonstrations. Have your list of platform and stakeholder needs available to remind shortlisted LMS vendors of the goals they need to help you achieve. They can showcase how their solution can address challenges and support requirements, while you get a glimpse into the culture of your potential LMS provider.

Also ask how long the system setup will take: this can range from a few months to a year, depending on the level of complexity and customisation. It helps to set expectations early on, so agree on an expected timeline with your potential vendor sooner rather than later.

Ending your relationship with your existing vendor

If you’ve chosen a new vendor for your LMS software, that means having to leave your current provider. Making an early exit from a supplier relationship can be costly, so you’ll need to check your contract. Find out if there are any exit fees for which you’d be liable, and if there’s a termination clause that can lower the amount you’ll need to pay – for example, if you can rebate service fees if you’re received a poor performance from your current supplier.

Make sure you follow best practice guidelines so you negotiate a satisfactory end of this supplier relationship: it may be that an opportunity to work together again occurs in future. Also, request that your current supplier gives you all the information you need to have a smooth transition between your old and new LMS software. If you can, try to have an arrangement where your current supplier handles the changeover process to your new provider, including elements of data migration or essential software integrations.

Technical infrastructure and expertise

Your business has specific needs – so your integration requirements will be individual to you, too. Identify any other platforms within your organisation with which your LMS needs to integrate, such as HR systems.

Your LMS software should be compatible with other systems used by your organisation, so work with your vendor to ensure this part of the LMS implementation goes smoothly; this may require some bespoke integration projects if your software stack isn’t included in the vendor’s list of pre-existing integrations. Seamless connections between talent management and HR systems, for example, will make it easier for stakeholders to assess how courses match your organisation’s goals, and determine the value of various learning activities.

Whether you’re moving from a current system or implementing one for the first time, migrating data is an essential (and often complex) step. Your IT team and LMS vendor will need to work together here, as they’ll account for the assets, data, and courses that will be moved across. Migrating clean data is critical to reduce the likelihood of errors, but you’ll still need to account for the possibility of unforeseen issues: it can have a significant effect on your implementation timeline, but you must ensure you maintain the integrity of your data at every step of the process.

Keeping any implementation project on track is always a challenge. You’ll need to be realistic about what you can do with the resources available, and allow for any unexpected surprises (there will be some). You’ll also need to complete testing before launch, so issues are resolved before the system is in use. Clear timelines and milestones are crucial so your LMS implementation plan meets expectations, but be sure to build in some buffers for your own peace of mind.

Get your go-live plan in motion

If you select Ciphr as your LMS vendor, you’ll follow our tried-and-tested nine-step implementation plan:

  1. Welcome: agree on when to start your project with a kick-off meeting, and setup documentation
  2. Kick-off meeting: confirm the scope of the project and our approach to delivering it
  3. Customer hub setup: this provides you with access to everything you need for a successful project
  4. System specification and data plan: choose your system specification and the data you’ll import into the LMS
  5. Data import and base configuration: you’ll help us test that configuration and approve it
  6. Additional configuration: include any add-on work as required in this stage
  7. System configuration approval: client sign-off, and the next steps are planned
  8. Handover to business as usual (BAU): implementation is complete, and the project is closed
  9. Account management and aftercare: your account manager and our customer care team are on hand to help you get the most out of your system

And just like that: your LMS is ready to use. Your people team will have had training on how to use Ciphr LMS by this point, and you can start to roll out the system to end-users who can now use the system to access training activities and other functionality, such as the skills gap analysis tool. Reporting and analytics will also available, so you can start to understand how the new LMS is being used by employees, and if it’s on track to meet your goals for the project.

The timeline for this plan will be approximately 15-17 weeks. This assumes there is a six-week lead for installing systems.

Digital learning content

This optional extra is an excellent addition to your LMS implementation plan, and will help you make training available on your system more quickly compared with creating your own content. Ciphr offers off-the-shelf elearning content, and, of course, you can load any compatible training materials and activities that you may have created in house, or by working with another agency.

Personalised, self-paced and digital training is increasingly supplementing face-to-face and on-the-job training. These online training materials can be used to save time, space, and/or costs.

Our team will work with you to identify the most relevant digital e learning content (including off-the-shelf and bespoke options), which offer instant access to engaging microlearning content on essential topics, from digital skills to compliance and wellbeing.

Ciphr LMS is compatible with a variety of content types, such as audio, video, workbooks, courses and more. You can also create themed learning hubs to organise and share learning content, and upskill your people in the areas that matter most.

What’s next?

Your LMS implementation plan will vary based on many factors, such as system complexity, your bespoke requirements, and the size of your organisation. The plan will need to be flexible enough to allow for changes – which may come from your brand or your LMS supplier – caused by any unexpected surprises. Managing expectations early on will also help mitigate potential issues. If you’re searching for the right LMS vendor, request a demonstration with one of our experts to start planning for the implementation of your new software.

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This article was first published on – a Ciphr Company.