Selecting a learning technology is a decision that every training manager must make. Whether it be a learning management system (LMS), delivery platform or authoring tool, training managers from companies of all sizes are confronted with the need to select a technology to assist with the learning experience. It may not be the most frequent decision you will have to make, but definitely one of the most important – and for a number of reasons.
- The impact is huge. Technology impacts so many constituents. Selecting one technology that pleases multiple user groups and needs is not easy. It’s hard enough to get your leadership team to agree on one platform, much less all your constituents.
- Long-term commitments. Technology often requires long-term commitments with a supplier. Learning technologies are generally licensed, not purchased, which means there are recurring fees for use and maintenance based on the number of learners or users.
- Total cost. The true cost of a technology is not just what you pay a supplier. True or total cost includes your internal expenses for data migration, administration, ongoing support by the IT group, and the cost of change for moving from one platform to another. Depending on the technology, this can be more than the cost of the license agreement itself.
Choosing a Training Partner
The most difficult factor in selecting a technology is the sheer number of platforms and technologies to choose from. Every supplier wants to show why their platform is better than others. The reality is the features and functionality of each technology are relatively the same from one company to another. I’m not suggesting that technologies are completely commoditized, but I am saying that the value difference in one feature versus another doesn’t always warrant the difference in cost.
The features and functionality of the tools are not the only important factors. Look closely at the capabilities of the supplier you are licensing from. Every company has a set of business attributes that make their organization viable and competitive. These become even more important when forming long-term relationships as opposed to transactional relationships. Here are a few variables to consider when choosing a technology partner.
- Financial viability. A company’s financial viability is the best indicator of its ability to invest in future improvements and software enhancements, as well as if it will still be in business in a few years.
- Location. The geographical location of the vendor may indicate how they will provide ongoing support. If the company’s support team is overseas, then this may impact the timeliness of the support you require.
- Leadership team. An assessment of the talent in a vendor’s leadership team and its development organization can tell a lot about the company’s ability to innovate and remain viable.
- Company culture. Assessing the culture of a vendor can reveal whether they are committed to the same values as your organization, such as diversity and inclusion, security, or individual privacy.
Your selection of a technology and supplier must be done objectively and based on the right variables. And it should be done as a team that includes your constituents and support staff.
To help determine the factors that are most important, create an evaluation spreadsheet and assign a weighted value to each variable. Hold demos of each tool and due diligence of business attributes of each supplier. Have your team evaluate each supplier and the technology based on a scale of 1 to 10. Tally the scores based on weighted values. Now you have an objective, inclusive process for how to choose a technology and partner.
The process sounds simple, and it really is. But the secret sauce is identifying the most important variables and including your constituents and support team in the process.