Waste Money on Software

15 January 2016

If your company or organization regularly trains your employees in order to fulfill internal or external requirements, chances are your company has had to face the question of whether or not to buy a learning management system (LMS), or in some cases, to upgrade your existing LMS, or switch to a different one. Here’s how to waste money on software.

In my observation, first time buyers of an LMS are wasting their money, no matter how carefully they do their research on LMS providers.

In other words, how do you waste $100k on an LMS? By buying one, of course.

Here’s the basis for my statement. When a company reaches a certain stage of growth or maturity, it finds itself dealing with issues of new employee onboarding and training, or ongoing training to meet regulatory compliance, or ever-changing product updates that have to be communicated to sales personnel.

In any of those cases, companies find that it is a time-intensive proposition to maintain all of this training activity, much less track it. As a result, the well-intended and over-burdened learning director seeks efficiencies in time, and makes the case to upper management that it is time to invest in an LMS, to better manage and track all the training that the company requires for its employees.

Enter our hero, the LMS! Problems solved, right?

You can fool yourself into thinking you have found a great solution for your company, and then sit back waiting for the accolades to roll on in. The bad news: it’s not going to happen. When you waste money on software this way, for training or any other purpose, you lose.

What’s wrong with the picture I’ve painted above? All those proud purchasers of LMSs can’t be wrong, can they?

They can be wrong, if they make this oft-repeated mistake, namely, they confuse the software with the system. When you buy an LMS, you are not buying a system, you are buying a tool in support of a system. If you didn’t have a system before you bought the software, you still don’t have a system even after you bought the software. This will become apparent within three months of the purchase, because you will find yourself creating a system that serves the software tool, which I say is backwards. Once you create systems that serve software, you are on a slippery slope that leads to poor software use habits, disgruntled employees, and ultimately a wasted expenditure that you’ll end up replacing in three to five years.

So let’s turn this scenario around, and ask, “How do you get the most value out of an LMS?”

From a Learning perspective:

  • Develop clear expectations for the levels of performance you expect of your employees in their respective roles
  • Develop a system by which you determine precisely what training employees must have in order to meet the above-mentioned expectations… no more, no less
  • Develop a tracking system that reflects both internal and external requirements for documentation of training completion

From a Quality perspective:

  • Provide training on a “just in time” basis, to minimize training “waste,” meaning, training that does not stick, and must be repeated unnecessarily. You can manage this with an LMS.
  • Conduct the learning equivalent of a Cp and Cpk analysis (process capability) for employee performance. The results can guide your decision about where training is called for
  • Select a tool (i.e., an LMS) that serves your learning systems, not the other way around

In short, don’t buy an LMS on arguments of “efficiency” if you do not have a true system of learning in your organization. Otherwise, you risk using the LMS to perpetuate an ineffective system, and you’ll simply make the same mistakes even faster than you used to.

In a future blog, I’ll provide my thoughts on how to know you have a true learning management system, not just a software tool called an LMS.

Do you have an LMS success story, or maybe a blunder, to share? Add a comment below, we’d like to hear from you.

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