Purchasing a learning management system (LMS) is a big decision and one that few take lightly. Bigger is not always better, as you could end up with a system that brings little to no value for your business … not to mention a lot of wasted time and money.

This scenario frequently happens when people confuse wants with needs in two ways: First, they want everything. It’s easy to overthink, which lends itself to over-buying for “just in case” situations that might come up down the road. Second, they begin to think that they need everything. It’s also easy to be swayed into choosing additional features that weren’t on your list because other companies have them, marketing jargon says you need it or a savvy vendor has great upselling skills.

However, an LMS that is bloated with unnecessary features:

  • Becomes overcomplicated and distracting for both administrators and learners.
  • Is expensive and limits your ability to invest in other critical learning content and activities — jeopardizing the success of the programs the LMS is intended to support.
  • Causes problems when LMS administrators change.
  • Causes problems both when regulations are different in different offices around the world and when there are updates, either with the LMS or with business processes.
  • Is difficult to reconfigure.

In order to help you feel confident in your final LMS decision, here are some common features that are erroneously put into the “need” category and others that sometimes fly under the radar but are very much needed.

Social Learning

Social learning is buzzword in the industry that is naturally placed at the top of many companies’ lists of desired LMS features. However, this feature is rarely used, largely because not every type of training is appropriate for social learning. For instance, you may have a scenario where different employees have different goals or require different learning content. Social learning is more appropriate for a narrow audience than for general learning population.

Verdict: For most companies, social learning is not a need. Unless you have specific use cases for it, it should be bumped down to a “nice-to-have” feature.


In theory, gamification sounds great. Who wouldn’t want to make learning fun? Unfortunately, the majority of learning management systems offer only elementary gamification features that aren’t useful and do not boost knowledge retention. As a result, many administrators don’t even use their LMS’ gamification feature.

Verdict: Gamification is not necessary to provide a great learning experience. However, if you believe that learners will use it enough and that it will be worth the cost, be sure to find a vendor that has more advanced gamification features.


During the LMS selection process, you’ll hear a lot of talk about e-commerce and why you need it.

Is your company planning to sell online courses and training content? A payment gateway and other e-commerce features will be of no use to you if you’re only planning on using the LMS to train employees, as is the case for most companies.

Verdict: E-commerce is not a need for most companies.

On the flipside, there are several key features that are rarely talked about or mentioned during the LMS selection process but that are critical needs. Here are a few examples.

Customizable Reporting and Dashboards

Reporting is a standard feature, and you might already have it on your list. However, for many companies, especially in highly regulated industries, basic reporting will not suffice. With the constant influx of regulations for all industries, the ability to demonstrate compliance is mandatory. Reporting is also key to evaluating the effectiveness of training programs. Instead of a one-size-fits-all reporting solution, companies should require features that can provide the depth of information they need quickly, in real time and customized for their specific needs.

Verdict: Advanced reporting features are an important need.


More and more companies are realizing the value of systems integration, but many fail to consider how training falls into the larger business ecosystem. As a result, it is often overlooked during the LMS selection process. When you prioritize integration, your business will reap the benefits of increased efficiencies, time savings, improved collaboration and the ability to reach business goals more quickly.

Verdict: The best software doesn’t work alone, which is why an LMS that has deep integration capabilities should be at the top of your list.

Automation and Scalability

Selecting an LMS with only your current business needs in mind is not a good idea, but it happens frequently.

Automation and scalability can protect you from needing a new LMS a few years down the road because the old one can’t keep up. Whether your company faces a huge influx of employees who need training or a massive number of new regulations, the LMS you choose should be able to handle the task with ease — and less manual effort by the administrator.

Verdict: Automation and scalability are important to consider when selecting an LMS.

Purchasing a big-ticket item for your business like an LMS requires a lot of research and preparation in order to select the software the will provide the most benefit in terms of being able to reach your goals and objectives. Making a smart decision also requires the ability to objectively choose features that will help your business now and in the future. When you can positively identify wants versus needs, you’ll be able to zero in on an LMS that will save time and money, successfully educate employees, and bring real value to your business.