How to Procure a Learning Management System

07/10/17

Here are some tips for any organisations that wants to procure a learning management system, either for the first time or to replace an existing system.

  1. Turn the procurement into a project and appoint someone to manage it. This may be difficult in a smaller organisation (although you could always hire a consultant) but it makes a lot of sense and will save you money.

  2. Get a timetable for the procurement and the subsequent implementation. Don’t leave it open ended but instead have a target ‘go live’ date and make sure that any interested suppliers know the date and can commit to meeting it.

  3. Get a bit smarter about the plan and think about a phased implementation. Can you rollout to one smaller team and then bring other teams on board later?

  4. Write down your requirements. This is an important step - talk to the people in your organisation who will be stakeholders in the new system and get them to prioritise the requirements - ‘essentials’ and ‘nice to haves’.

    Write the requirements down as clearly and simply as possible - use non-technical language, short statements and write from a user’s point of view (user stories). Aim for simplicity and don’t be tempted to create great long lists of requirements - the real underlying business case for the new system becomes lost in the detail and you end up with proposals from suppliers of learning management systems that have too many features.

    This step - talking to your team and understanding the real requirements - is perhaps the single most important part of the procurement.

  5. Set a budget and consider sharing it with interested suppliers.

  6. Work out how you’re going to score/assess proposals - devise a simple scoring system. This next point may seem obvious, but make sure that the scoring system does actually work and will identify the proposal that is the best fit with your real requirements - we have seen poorly designed, overly complex scoring systems give most marks to unsuitable systems.

  7. Invite suppliers to submit proposals. Don’t make life difficult for them - you want good proposals - so put thought into designing a proposal template that is easy for suppliers to fill in and easy for you and your team to read. Spreadsheet based templates that expect suppliers to write responses to large numbers of very detailed requirements are always difficult to complete, hard to read and difficult to score - the important requirements get lost in a mass of detail.

  8. Invite a small number to suppliers to present their systems. Give them real world scenarios (based on your requirements) and ask them to show you how their system works in those scenarios. Never buy a system without some kind of scenario based presentation from the supplier.

  9. Ask the supplier to walk you through a previous implementation of the same system at a similar organisation. What were the challenges and what went wrong? What tangible benefits has the system delivered? Remember, you can always get references.

It’s easy to underestimate how difficult it can be to roll out a new IT system. Clients are always surprised at the amount of effort required. The implementation really starts with the procurement - time invested at the start is well spent.