Choosing the right learning management system for your business is a bit like online dating. If you jump in and make plans with anyone who likes your profile without properly screening them, you may find yourself trapped on an awkward date, counting down the seconds until you can walk away. Similarly, the sheer volume of eLearning platforms necessitates a patient approach in which you look beyond the surface functionality of the system to find the perfect fit.

As you start your search for the right training management software, use these five steps to weed out the duds and find your perfect match:

  1. List your needs: As with online dating, you can't find a good fit if you don't know what you're looking for. What business objective are you wanting? What do you expect users to know and do upon completion? What tools do you need to quantify the effectiveness of online training programs? Look at each of the elearning platforms from the perspective of your end users and make certain your list of needs addresses all of their potential concerns.
  2. Ask questions: Private messages sent within dating sites are the online equivalent of small talk, in which you determine whether there is enough chemistry to warrant moving forward. The same holds true in your search for an LMS. With your list of needs in hand, start the vetting process by asking potential LMS vendors how their training management software fits with what you want. If all the vendor does is talk about past customers or how shiny the LMS’ features are, you know they aren't paying attention to your concerns, and it's time to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if they provide you with detailed descriptions and real-world examples of how their solutions mesh with your criteria, take things to the next level.
  3. Test-drive: Before committing to a dinner date, it's common to grab a casual cup of coffee with a prospective mate. There's little pressure, and either party can make a quick getaway if things aren't working out. In terms of your LMS, asking to test-drive the software is the equivalent of a coffee date. Have vendors spend an hour or so asking questions about your needs and then demonstrating their product to your users, so a cross-section of potential learners and administrators will get some hands-on experience.
  4. Feedback: This is the most important step of the vetting process. On a date, you simply say "Let's do this again" if you had a good time, or "Nice to meet you" if things didn't go well. Feedback for elearning platforms requires more effort. First, ask your users what they thought of the product. Was it easy to use? Were there any problems? Next, discuss the LMS with your decision-makers. Does the product meet their expectations? Will it move your organization forward? With this information in hand, the feedback you give each of the vendors is specific and detailed. Allow them an opportunity to respond, but if their solution was not exactly what you wanted, let them know you are going in a different direction.
  5. Propose and negotiate: A good date ends with someone suggesting that you move forward, and so does a solid elearning platform demo. Take the top two or three vendors and ask for proposals. Each bid must contain all associated costs, customization and details of any needed support to get the training management software operational. Strike a balance between cost, features and service, and you'll have an LMS you can use for a long time.

All companies and eLearning platforms require a little matchmaking to find the perfect pair. Don't rush headlong into a long-term relationship with a vendor you barely know. Take the process seriously - your ideal match is out there.

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