After The LMS Demo – How To Successfully Trial An LMS
If you’re searching for the best LMS to manage your e-learning and training, then this guide will help you successfully run trials after seeing live screen-share demos from your short-listed vendors. Time to see it in action! While the process is straightforward and relatively painless this is an important time to audit the fit between your needs and the usability of the systems you’re comparing. Test your use cases - you’ll be surprised by what you find in the details (good and bad).
Manage stakeholders; weigh their input
Work with the sales team and your key stakeholders to set up a trial for you. A reasonable length of time for a trial is frequently 14 – 30 days. This seems to work best for most organizations. Not so short that you don’t have time to thoroughly test it, and not so long that you forget that you are supposed to be testing the system…surprising but it happens! This is also a time when you will want to think about who from your team will need to participate in the trial – think about adding your system administrator, key managers, some actual end users and of course, that amazing LMS admin who always keeps things in order. These are the people who will be able to look at things from all angles to make sure you are truly getting the solution you need. Be smart about weighting their input however. For example, weight more heavily the experience and input of those who will be in the system every day, even though a more senior level stakeholder might seem to have strong opinions. It’s hard to do, but hey, you can’t have made it as far as you have in your career without picking up some stakeholder management skills! Lean in, trust yourself, and you’ll have a better outcome.
Ask the hard questions
Once you have set up the trial don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Always (ALWAYS!) set up time with the sales manager so that your team can ask those questions and learn more. Sometimes this is called a Sandbox Demo. The sales manager assigned to your account took the time to walk you through the key features of the system during the first demo and understands your needs. You should feel comfortable working together. Now, it will be your job to make sure the system works the way you need it to work, and that each component works cohesively with the ideas you have when you launch. This is the time to ask any important questions like “How easily can my admin upload our course content” or “Can I set up dashboards for reporting so key departments and other users receive the compliance and tracking data that they need?” Don’t rule out a vendor without asking these questions. These companies – if they are good – will have spent countless hours thinking through the problems you are facing, and will have designed their software with your problems in mind. Their solutions might be more innovative than the solution you’ve thought of, so be open to that.
Be thorough; but it isn't an implementation
Another important point, and we implore you to keep this in mind, don’t ignore the time you have to test the system during the trial. This is not only your chance to see for yourself how user friendly the LMS actually is, it is also the time to receive buy-in from your key stakeholders and end users. Take this time to upload content, check to make sure your chosen authoring tools work seamlessly with the system (most play well together), run the reports that you will use on a daily or weekly basis, test the notification systems, in other words, use the trial to explore everything you expect to do with the LMS after you sign the contract. You may not be able to build it all out during the trial as this isn’t a full implementation. Still, go as far as you can, and get clear explanations or walk-throughs of how you’ll handle processes that you don’t have time to test during your trial.
If end users are participating in the demo, this is an excellent time to gather their feedback regarding the perceived ease of use of the system. Is it simple to log in? Can they find the content they need to complete required training sessions? Is the search feature easy to use, for example, does the system actively search as you type? Is it easy to launch and complete a course? Can they figure out how to track their compliance? Can they register for instructor led training sessions easily? If elements from gamification are added, are the tracking mechanisms easy to understand? Does the end user know how to view their progress? These are all important questions to answer during the trial as a good user experience will make user adoption much healthier when you do select your LMS.
If you are still struggling after the trial, don’t hesitate to ask for an extension. However, if you do ask for the extension, make sure that you plan to use the system during the extended trial. Something that has worked for other users is to set up planned meetings with all of the stakeholders and test the system together. Another option might be to assign “homework” to each key stakeholder and then ask them to report back in 2-3 days. Adding a time sensitive deadline makes the process stay top of mind and often provides surprising results.
Break it to win
If you take anything away from this, remember, you are in charge. It is your job to try and break the system and it is the sales manager’s job to show you how easy things are and to reassure that the system is not easily broken. Follow these tips so you can be comfortable and confident with your decision!
(This article is part of a series of articles that you might also find helpful: Searching for a Learning Management System (LMS); Why use an LMS for eLearning, reporting, compliance and more?; It’s Easy: How to Buy the Best LMS For You; Corporate LMS: How to Pick the Wrong Learning Management System)
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