How to successfully implement an LMS in your organization

You typically can’t implement a learning management system (LMS) overnight, especially if you work in a large company. While these platforms have come a long way since the CD-ROM days, there’s still a lot of planning and strategy involved. By knowing what to expect and how to navigate the complexities of LMS implementation, you can launch your program with minimal stress and frustration.

1. Designate an LMS implementation team

A successful LMS implementation depends on several players:

  • A team leader. This person champions the LMS implementation process. They work with both the internal LMS team and the vendor, addressing any conflicts that arise, fielding questions and concerns from the other team members and holding everyone accountable for a successful implementation.
  • A project manager. This person oversees the individual objectives and deadlines and ensures that everyone remains on task. An LMS implementation has many moving parts, including platform configuration, content migration, user provisioning and testing. A skilled project manager prevents bottlenecks and ensures that everything stays in motion.
  • An eLearning technology specialist. An eLearning specialist will understand the complexities of migrating content from a legacy system to a new LMS. They may also be tasked with auditing existing content and developing new lessons, quizzes and supplementary materials.
  • An L&D administrator. The learning and development administrator works with the eLearning specialist to ensure that the content is useful, relevant, engaging and in line with the organization’s goals.
  • IT specialists. If you use a cloud-based SaaS system, you’ll already have the infrastructure in place, but you’ll still need an IT professional to handle the setup, software integrations, LMS customizations and QA testing.

While the above roles will comprise your core team, your project may require additional assistance from content authors, database administrators, instructional designers and other professionals. It all depends on the type of LMS you’re using, the goals of your training program and the skillsets of your core team members.

2. Outline an LMS implementation plan

Your team leader will typically oversee the planning phase, with input from other stakeholders within the organization. The plan should address variables such as:

  • Which LMS to use. Not all learning management systems have the features you need. To get the most value from your LMS, it’s important to select a vendor that understands your organization’s goals, provides a learning experience that fits your employees’ needs and offers high-impact features like microlearning, adaptive learning, gamification, mobile access and advanced analytics.
  • Your goals and objectives. Why are you implementing a new LMS? Are you trying to solve a specific business problem? Has your legacy system fallen out of touch with modern tech standards? Are you trying to expand your training offerings to include additional types of content? Keep the objectives for your LMS implementation top of mind throughout the process.
  • Your LMS implementation timeline. An LMS implementation can take anywhere from a few weeks to a full year depending on the size of the organization and other factors. Set clear deadlines, identifying which tasks will be completed by which dates. Your project manager should keep close track of these dates.
  • Your change management strategy. A poorly-executed LMS implementation can quickly frustrate managers and employees alike. You can get ahead of any potential friction by developing a change management plan. Make an effort to get management on board, and maintain clear and transparent communication about the changes. Consider whether it would be more beneficial to implement the new LMS gradually or all at once.
  • Your contingency plans. Sometimes things don’t go as expected. Deadlines are missed, budgets are exceeded, the content doesn’t resonate with learners. You should have plans in place to keep the project moving forward when rough patches hit. Make a list of everything that can go wrong, and then determine how you would address those problems.

You can request a project plan template from your vendor or develop your own plan from scratch. Your vendor may even be able to connect you with an implementation specialist who can walk you through the planning stage and help you to customize the system according to your needs.

3. Configure your LMS

If you’re migrating from a legacy LMS, the first step is to speak with your new vendor to ensure that your existing content is compatible. They should then be able to walk you through the LMS implementation switchover process.

For example, Axonify has an implementation team that assists frontline managers and administrators with the migration process. If your existing content is SCORM-compliant, it should be compatible with most modern LMS platforms (although certain modifications may be required).

Whether you’re migrating some of your existing content or building a new program from scratch, there are a few essential steps you’ll need to complete:

  • The initial platform setup
  • The program customization
  • Integrating compatible software
  • Building out user profiles
  • Setting up your course catalog structure

Your vendor should be able to make the major configurations on your behalf once they have an understanding of your operations and goals. For instance, they may help you to establish multiple domains if you’re catering to different audiences, customize the type of demographic data in your user profiles and create the optimal course and curriculum structures based on your input. Most of these configurations can also be completed and updated by your IT team.

4. Develop your content

There are three ways to populate your new LMS content:

  • Migrate content from a legacy LMS
  • Populate your LMS with new, original content
  • Populate your LMS with off-the-shelf content from a third-party marketplace

In most cases, you’ll be doing some combination of the three. For example, if you’re switching from a legacy LMS, you’ll first decide which content to migrate and which content to archive. Then you’ll fill in the gaps with new content, either from a content marketplace or from your own authors—or both.

Off-the-shelf content is beneficial because it’s developed by eLearning professionals and crafted with both learning and knowledge retention in mind. It’s also a huge timesaver for businesses trying to implement an LMS. For example, the Axonify Content Marketplace provides organizations with ready-to-go content built specifically for frontline workers in industries like grocery, retail and finance.

Whether you’re migrating, authoring or sourcing your content, you want to be sure to include a combination of short lessons, videos, quizzes and surveys for best results.

5. Test the LMS

Once the migration and buildout are complete, the next step is to test the LMS from top to bottom. Your IT team should ensure the platform is compliant from a technology and data security perspective. You should also select a group of hand-picked users to test the platform and content from a user-experience perspective.

For your user acceptance testing, try to select those team members who would actually be expected to learn the material. For example, if you’re testing a restaurant training module for kitchen workers, it wouldn’t make sense to have support center employees test it out.

In addition, make sure that the testing occurs in-context. If you anticipate your employees completing the lessons on their mobile devices inside the workplace, then that’s how the testing should be carried out.

When conducting these tests:

  • Solicit feedback from your test subjects via surveys or questionnaires
  • Review the feedback and note any areas for improvement
  • Review your LMS reports and note any anomalies, such as questions that are frequently answered incorrectly or lessons with high drop-off rates
  • Document any bugs or errors and forward them to the IT team

Use the information learned to improve your LMS before launch.

6. Launch your new LMS

You have two options for launching your new LMS. You can opt for a soft launch (gradual implementation) or a hard launch (immediate implementation).

A soft launch may be ideal if:

  • You’re migrating from a legacy LMS and you prefer to move your team to the new system incrementally (rather than all at once).
  • You want to limit access to a single team, department or other subset of users to further audit and fine-tune your program before unveiling it company-wide.

A hard launch may be ideal if:

  • You don’t have a legacy system in place and you’re confident that the new system is ready to meet the needs of your entire team.
  • You want to immediately scrap your legacy system in favor of the new LMS.

The next step is to onboard your team. This can be achieved via live demonstration, webinar or written tutorials. You can even build an introductory tutorial into the LMS itself.

Finally, you want to ensure that you’re reinforcing a culture of learning and development. The trainees should see the value firsthand, and so should leadership. Getting managers to prioritize learning is the No. 1 challenge that L&D professionals face.

When marketing the value of the system, you want to emphasize how it will help each audience achieve their goals and improve performance across the board. Do this in a simple, integrated way, leveraging the feedback from real users during the testing phase.

After the LMS implementation phase

After you’ve completed the whole LMS implementation checklist, the rest is just fine-tuning and upkeep. Review your reports and analytics on a regular basis, conduct periodic training evaluations to audit the ongoing value of the system and make periodic improvements accordingly. You’ll especially want to pay attention to metrics like employee engagement rates, knowledge retention over time and the business impact of your training.

When implementing an LMS, remember that the program doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate. Even the best learning management system takes time to build out to perfection. But as long as you continue to make the system a priority long after the implementation is complete, you should be in excellent shape.

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