Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Putting the Service in LMS

What proportion of corporate LMS projects fail because of issues with the way they are implemented or run, rather than inadequacies in the underlying LMS application?

This is a key question we have been exploring for some time in our LMS research and it seems to me to really challenge some of the vendor market messaging, and the corporate mindset on LMS procurement. Our historic research tends to point to the view that many LMS projects fail (or at least fail to meet their original expectations) because of poor ... insert your choice of ... implementation, customisation, integration, support, operations, administration, etc. In other words, poor service.

Many of the "lessons learnt" from our roundtables relate more to the services around the LMS, than the LMS itself. These can include: poor architecture design and performance, problematic HR integration, excess customisation and failure to upgrade, no change management inside L&D, lack of long term direction, poor expectation management. These are all largely indicative of "service" failure rather than application failure.

Sure, application choice has an impact on how these services are performed, and how difficult it is to achieve the outcome. I'm not saying it isn't important, just that it is not the only thing that is important. Maybe choosing the best implementation partner is more important than choosing the best application? And surely even choosing the LMS is itself a service proposition (clarifying strategy, building the business case, understanding requirements, shortlisting potential products, planning, negotiating the contract etc.).

We have doing quite a lot of thinking about the service proposition of LMS, but I would be interested in your thoughts on the matter.



Tony Karrer said...

David - I agree that lots of problems come from services related problems and issues with internal teams being inexperienced in these kinds of implementations. At the same time, it's often the case that the LMS doesn't match very well with the processes and models of the organization. This should have been figured out during or even before selection.

David Wilson said...

That's exactly my point. Those problems that aren't explicitly service related, often could have been avoided by better service in advance - i.e. at analysis and selection. In the cases you reference where there is poor process fit, either:
- they didn't understand their process needs, or
- they didn't understand that the application couldn't meet those needs, or
- they didn't understand they had to change their process to fit the application

The argument breaks down when the application doesn't do what its supposed to do, either through misrepresentation or through application error/bug etc. The latter is a service issue (support, workaround, hotfix, upgrade), the former is either a service resolution or a legal/procurement fix.

Don't think I'm trying to say that the application doesn't matter, because I don't believe that. I know the application choice matters to ensure we're a) working with the right base material to allow a viable solution, and b) the choice of application impacts the ability to deliver the service, as well as the available supply chain for that service. That's one of my biggest concerns about the enterprise LMS market - the lack of a robust independent service chain for the enterprise LMSs. This is particularly weak in the UK where the EMEA base of most of the enterprise LMS vendors resides.

Interesting enough if I can link back to the discussion about Moodle. One of the things that really interests about Moodle and other open-source LMSs, is the potential for creation of a much more diverse service channels for it, and b) how the open-source nature of the application transforms the ability of the service providers to make the product do what it needs to do to be viable. I believe this may be more significant a value longer term than not paying for the application!

John Curran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Curran said...

David - I agree with your comment on the flexibility of Moodle to create a much more organic 'learning system'. When I talk to clients about LMS' I always get them to consider whether the software is an lMS (small L big MS), or an Lms (big L small MS). Moodle is the latter - a learning system with some management functionality - most are the former - management systems which actually pay scant attention to learners (what a paradox)!

By the way we have just landed a corporate project for Moodle - will be interesting to see how it goes!