Anyone who has ever gone through a technology implementation will tell you that it is not for the faint of heart. An LMS implementation is no exception. These systems have become increasingly complex to configure, as over time, our industry has embedded functions to drive virtual, social and collaborative learning. To business leaders, the LMS is often seen as a “nice-to-have.”

The reality is that many employees are on a PC or mobile device all day. Having a system in place that can support their learning 24/7, 365 days a year, is critical to their ability to successfully perform. The seven steps below are a guide to a successful LMS implementation.

1. Set the Direction.

When building your business case, include at least four elements:

  • Cost savings or cost avoidance in the form of process improvement and the ability to take work out of the system or of risk avoidance
  • Liability exposure: If you have training that is legally required, and you do not have a reliable tracking mechanism, it could put your company at great legal and financial risk.
  • Strategic alignment: The LMS should enable your company’s business strategy and vision.
  • An innovation in the learning space (e.g., mobile or social learning): Highlight technology that will drive learning and your business forward.

2. Define Requirements.

As painful as this part is, it is critical. Take the time to understand and map stakeholder processes. Only then will you have a realistic idea of what the system needs to do and what processes may need to change. In addition, look at the current training content you’re using; is it old, irrelevant or duplicative? Ask topical experts in each area of the business to review content. This step is the beginning of establishing a governance process for all content that will go into the system going forward.

3. Assemble the Team.

Assemble a team that fills in your weak areas. The team should consist of at least an IT and business process owner, HR data analyst, and project manager. Project managers are critical; they can keep you on schedule and budget, so you can focus on other aspects of the project.

4. Obtain Buy-In.

Ask yourself, “Who can ensure the success of this implementation?” Your answers to that question will become your key stakeholders. They could be senior leaders from each function, training staff embedded in your plants and offices, or topical content experts who will be reviewing content. Meet with them monthly, hear their perspective, share progress and allow them early entry into the system.

5. Configure the Technology.

Take your time on the configuration. It is critical to get it right, or the system won’t be right. Set up multiple rounds of testing for training staff and user acceptance testing. Bring in testers from different functions and regions. Run the testing on all relevant operating systems, browsers and devices. Also, make sure your support desk has the documentation needed to help people once the system is live.

6. Develop Communication and Change Strategies.

Design a communications strategy for everyone who has not yet touched the system. Your stakeholders will be a key part of this effort. Training staff will have been in the system early and will be ready to support you within their office or plant. Hold virtual sessions, plant meetings or road shows to interface with the end user: your employees. If possible, tie the launch into a larger initiative. This connection will drive instant hits to the site. Also, consider desk drops – perhaps a branded memory stick? Be creative.

7. Evaluate and Report.

This step is where you see the results of your labor. Track the statistics of user activity over the coming days, weeks and months. Do some pulse surveys for qualitative data. If the results are notable, share them! Continue report-outs to the stakeholders for at least three months to showcase the ROI.

Challenges are to be expected with every implementation, but following these steps will help you create your case, gather the right requirements, assemble the best team, gain buy-in from stakeholders, button up the technology, communicate to the right people and support employee learning 24/7, all year.