The costs of owning and implementing a learning management system can quickly push you beyond your budget if you fail to plan accordingly. So, how can directors and managers create a true picture of their actual LMS costs to avoid ballooning expenses? Start by asking yourself several key questions before signing on the dotted line.
Ready to invest in a learning management system (LMS) for your team? Before you give up your corporate credit card number and call it a success, remember that to truly get the most out of any LMS, you must budget for additional costs and considerations.
Truly, all LMS options share a single reality: Up-front fees are only the beginning. What about employee training on the new software? And the price tag associated with personnel time devoted to developing robust content or providing internal LMS support? These expenses can quickly add up if corporate directors and managers fail to fully appreciate the costs of successful LMS onboarding, maintenance, and performance.
While some buyers might place fault on LMS vendors, they’re misplacing the blame. As consumers, it’s up to HR managers and directors to conduct due diligence by researching and documenting all costs associated with an LMS implementation plan.
Every company will have its own expenses to bear based on its objectives, staff size, must-have features, and deployment preferences. The ultimate cost will vary based on the LMS itself, as well as a variety of in-house corporate needs and considerations.
Once an organization begins factoring in the investment required on the part of senior leaders’ time—as well as to correctly provide the necessary content and manhours—the true price tag can quickly balloon.
Breaking Down Potential Platform Costs
The costs of owning and implementing an LMS can quickly push you beyond your budget if you fail to plan accordingly. In fact, most organizations end up footing the bill for additional costs before they even invest in a system.
One of the biggest costs of adopting an LMS is hiring IT experts and other key team members to set up the platform before implementation. Statistics show that IT professionals earn about $54,000 annually. That added expense doesn’t account for employer costs such as health care and matching 401(k) options.
Another often-misjudged expenditure is the cost to migrate data across platforms. Expect to spend an additional 50% or more of the original LMS cost to migrate your information into the system.
From a steep learning curve among your learning and development team to bringing external LMS consulting services on board to hiring SMEs to help create meaningful training content, a broad range of factors can contribute to surging expenses. This could even lead to a litany of LMS implementation challenges, including data migration obstacles and incompatibility with third-party tools.
Many people waffle between purchasing the software outright in the form of a licensing fee versus signing up for a software-as-a-service platform based on a monthly subscription. The former usually involves a much higher cash outlay than the latter, but that doesn’t mean costs end for either. Regardless of the type of LMS you choose, expect trade-offs like the need for occasional upgrades and updates after buying a license. In other words, an LMS purchase is not a cut-and-dried proposition.
Make Inquiries Early to Avoid Draining Funds
How can directors and managers create a true picture of their actual LMS costs to avoid ballooning expenses? Start by asking yourself several key questions before you sign on the dotted line:
- How much can you spend on LMS software?
Knowing that you will have hidden and obvious fees, generate an accurate budget to see what your company can absorb. Break the process into steps to evaluate costs for each phase of the implementation cycle, including conducting research with an LMS consulting partner, launching online training courses, and conducting ongoing maintenance. Be sure to leave some wiggle room in the budget for unforeseen expenses that might be difficult to detect before you dig into LMS options.
- What are your onboarding goals?
Having your expectations on paper before you implement employee training via an LMS will help you reach your objectives. What gaps do you expect to fill? How will you know that you’ve bridged those gaps? The answers to those and other inquiries will assist you in determining the best LMS for your needs while reducing any risk of buyer’s remorse.
- Is your team ready for an LMS? Do you have tech limitations to consider?
You could have the most talented learning and development pros on the planet, but they are only part of your LMS selection and implementation. Your employees and their willingness and ability to learn how to use an LMS are equally important factors.
Staff members who are unfamiliar with online training platforms might hesitate to use the technology. If that’s the case, you’ll want to factor in the need for training support to move people toward LMS comfort and eventual mastery. If you only look at raw numbers, you might be tempted to choose an open-source LMS solution that is virtually free of charge. It will work, but you will need a high degree of know-how to make it operational.
- What level of LMS support does your organization require?
Your employees count on you for LMS support; in turn, you count on your LMS vendor for assistance. The support services for LMS platforms range from basic forums to 24/7 assistance. You will pay more for more advanced LMS support, but the cost is well worth it if your team lacks expertise.
- How will you evaluate the effectiveness of your LMS?
Defining LMS success equates to tracking specific metrics. Develop a list of measurable objectives, and make sure you can extract the data you need to evaluate progress. For instance, set a date for when your LMS must be operational, determine how much you’re willing to spend, and figure out how many employees will play a role in the initial phases. Setting milestones and knowing what you need ahead of time can save you countless hours and dollars.
While many companies use cost as the sole determining factor when exploring LMS options, it should not be the only factor you weigh. Invest in an LMS that offers the best value based on your unique requirements and online training objectives. It should have all the features you want and provide your ideal level of support. Don’t allow yourself to get so stuck on cost that you forget to explore a vast directory of LMS solutions that offer the best value for your team’s specific needs.
Christopher Pappas is the founder of eLearning Industry, the largest online community of e-learning professionals in the world. Pappas established the company as a safe online community for e-learning professionals and instructional designers to connect and share their knowledge. Pappas holds an MBA and a Master of Education from Bowling Green State University. Connect with him on Twitter.