My sense from numerous conversations at conferences like the recent ASAE e-learning conference is that the process of identifying and selecting a learning management system (LMS) remains shrouded in mystery for potential licensees. Tony Karrer has been addressing LMS selection on his blog for some time and recently capped off a number of postings that Mission to Learn readers may find helpful with the following slides from a DevLearn presentation.
A couple of things to highlight in the slides:
- I like the “Featuritis Curve” from Kathy Sierra that Karrer makes use of in the slides. As Sierra illustrates, adding features is valuable up to the point that a “Happy User Peak” is reached. After that it’s all down hill.
In my own experience, the average LMS selection process becomes focused very quickly on features. This is partly natural and understandable: features tend to be the way in which a user “knows” a software product, so they represent an easy and obvious area on which to focus.
But this natural tendency is also fed by a dysfunctional “chicken or egg” dance between developers and users in which the introduction of new features, whether requested by the user or simply added because the developer thinks it will create competitive advantage, leads to a desire for yet more features. As I have commented before, and most recently on Ellen Behren’s blog, I think the average RFP process contributes to this dynamic.
The second thing I’d like to highlight from Karrer’s slides is his top three common selection mistakes:
3. Not having differentiating use cases
1. Putting the wrong requirements in an RFP
In my mind, these three are very closely related, and I would actually put Karrer’s #3 at #1 because I think it leads to the other two. I have commented before on the importance of use cases. The fact that they are done poorly or not at all is one factor, in my experience, that drives both customers and vendors to feel that customization is needed when in fact it is not. And this, of course, is one of the factors that leads to wrong requirements in an RFP.
Karrer seems to assume that an RFP is an inevitable part of the process. As I’ve indicated in earlier postings, I disagree. I have perhaps become overly cynical, but I feel the average RFP process (at least in the association sector, where I currently do most of my work) is a boon for consultants and a crutch for organizations. Nonetheless, I realize they are not going away anytime soon, and I appreciate the fact that Karrer’s slides wrap up with a distinction between bad RFP requirements and good RFP requirements.
In general, there are good thoughts in this presentation and elsewhere in Karrer’s writing for those readers considering their first (or second, or third…) LMS.
P.S. Not also that Karrer is one of the speakers at the upcoming (and free) corporate e-learning conference.