The worst Learning Management Systems (LMS) in the world are likely the top-selling ones. Why are they the worst? They are the worst because you didn’t purchase a LMS, you purchased a small integrated portion of a Human Capital Management System or HCMS. I’ve used, implemented, managed and played with several systems and thus far the name of the worst LMS product you can ever invest in rhymes with “Cumbersome OnDemand”. This is in part because when you purchase any software system, you have to look very carefully beyond the product which means considering technical support and post-sale service. If you would like to have some fun, check out many of the alternative names learning professionals have shared on this LinkedIn post. In the following paragraphs, I will share one of the most excruciating and unethical experiences I’ve had managing a LMS and also point out HUGE red flags you should be aware of with any vendor.
The “Add On” LMS
Congratulations! You looked at all the wrong and irrelevant things to purchase a LMS. First, you listened to their salesperson brag about all the great organizations they “duped” into purchasing their product. Secondly, you listened to a “sales pitch” which only has one purpose: Sell you the product. Finally, you opted for a well known LMS with many years in the industry and most likely you purchased Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba or Success Factors. These are good software systems for only one purpose: Compliance. Why? Because they are part of a larger enterprise solution known as the HCMS which provides recruiting, hiring, compensation, human resource and performance management under one umbrella. So, what’s the problem? It seems like slam dunk right? One product covering all your organizational needs, right? Wrong! The add-on LMS portion of these systems has a “completion” framework, which means you can’t really offer learning content without some kind of user commitment to complete a course or having your LMS administrator manually remove it. Have you ever watched a YouTube video, realized it was no good and immediately abandon it without repercussions? Well, a compliance based LMS won’t let you do that. Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba, SumTotal and Success Factors are all HCMS vendors and to avoid losing revenue, they purport their LMS is a fully independent product. If you did not purchase the full HCMS; then stay away from their LMS solutions. Think of it this way, when you want an excellent Italian dinner, do you go to a restaurant or to the food court at the mall?
A Vendor is Not a Partner
Red flags should immediately pop up for you if a vendor starts throwing around comments of building a “partnership” with your organization. First of all, make it clear to any vendor that you are the customer and that’s the only relationship that matters. Vendors provide you with a technology product and support services for the same. That’s it! You have specific business needs to meet and their product may be the answer but, when it’s not; then you will find a better one. Vendors that start a dialogue with this “partnership” talk usually have big holes and gaps either on what their product offers or (even worse) their support services.
Know Your Worth and Leverage It!
To any vendor, you are a prized lead and potential customer if your organization has more than 10,000 users. Therefore, know your worth and use it as leverage to negotiate the best deal possible. I worked for an organization with over 30,000 users and exponential growth on a quarterly basis. However, the leadership failed to clear expectations with the vendor up front and any need that came up always incurred a fee where it should have been free. It’s also very important to negotiate not only based on the total number of current users but, your projected number of additional users in 6 months or a year ahead. The more users you have, the more leverage you should have when negotiating with a LMS vendor. If this is not the case, find another one that will gladly accommodate to this “hidden rule” of business.
Red Flags of the Worst LMS
Aside from all the previously mentioned topics, here are some of the biggest red flags I’ve experienced with using Cumbersome OnDemand:
- Lengthy contracts in exchange for better per user rates. Avoid this at all costs, it gives the vendor the upper hand in all exchanges.
- Nickle n’ Dime (fee for service) additional services or updates. Ensure all expectations are clear in any signed agreements to include simple web page updates to the LMS homepage. I was being charged $2000 by the account manager and when I went directly to technical support, they only charged me $600. This was a serious ethical disappointment for me.
- Account Managers who seem very keen to up sell you every time a business need arises.
- Vendors that are too big to quickly respond to your needs. Projects where quick additions are needed take 3 or 4 weeks to put in motion.
- Most of the efforts are based on pleasing administrators rather than supporting users. This usually means the product is difficult to learn by users and therefore not engaging for your workforce.
I’ve done my best to give you some highly valuable advice on selecting your next LMS platform. If you are not purchasing a full HCMS suite; then stay away for highly acclaimed LMSs associated with them. Yes! That means Saba, SumTotal, CornerstoneOnDemand and Success Factors. These are best-selling solutions but, you don’t need a best-seller most of the time. You need service beyond the product, support and post-sales best-in-class experiences. Therefore, if you need a LMS, get it from a fully dedicated LMS vendor, not one that makes a LMS because it’s part of their HCMS.