So you’ve purchased a new Learning Management System (LMS) and you are working with the vendor to determine the best way of getting it fully implemented across your organisation. All of the technical aspects are done. So, what comes next? “In most companies, learning is decentralised and many people have a stake in how well it works every day. That too often leads to a single point of decision by the L&D organisation, or many points of decision by different departments.” (Grebow, 2014) These complexities and how they impact your LMS can make it challenging to identify the best way to both implement and administer the system.
One of the most important components of any LMS project is determining the governance and management of the system once it is in place. Grebow (2014) defines governance as “A structured way for the brightest and most experienced people in each area of the organisation to come together to make collective decisions.” When determining your governance model, then, it is critical that you accurately evaluate the business needs of your organization with respect to the LMS and how it will be internally managed. There are some basic considerations to evaluate that will help you determine the most effective governance structure, whether centralised or decentralised and distributed. These include your organisation’s structure, system configuration, the need for standards and customisation, how you will handle change management, and the security needs of the system. An appropriate governance model ensures that the LMS implementation stays true to the needs of the broader organisation, while ensuring that the needs of separate groups are met as well. When effectively structured, “governance establishes appropriate representation from all stakeholder groups and provides a structure for decision-making.” (Foreman, 2013)
Organization Size and Structure
The way your business is defined and structured plays a critical role in influencing the best arrangement for system management. Some of the fundamental questions to answer include:
- Do you have dedicated resources within the organisation to support and manage the LMS, or will these responsibilities need to be distributed across multiple teams?
- Is the LMS implemented for a multi-site, multi-region, or multi-national organisation that requires broad technical support across a wide range of time zones?
- If the plan is to have a decentralised model, do staff in the different teams have requisite technical capabilities to effectively perform LMS management tasks?
- Does the organisation have specific security concerns that lend themselves to limiting administrative access to the LMS to protect content, data, or reports?
Configuration and Data Feeds
Integration of multiple data systems is an inherent part of an LMS project, and one that can lead to significant confusion if there are differing expectations across the organisation. As you configure your system, it is important to think about what data and systems will be connected and how that will be accomplished. A fundamental step in this process is to document the data and integrations.
As well, to make system implementation as smooth as possible, you need to consider all of the LMS configuration settings you will put in place, including access and authentication, user account and profile settings, security roles and permissions, and metadata taxonomies. Determining how these systems will be configured will help establish your path forward with respect to your governance structure.
The need for standards can significantly drive the choices you make about how you manage your LMS. In this space, standards generally refer to policies, procedures, guidelines, and conventions related to how you manage courses and learners. Standards ensure that all administrators and stakeholders are using the LMS in a consistent and uniform way, which in turn improves its usability and manageability. (Foreman, 2013) Whether your organisation wants to create overarching standards that apply to all groups, or allow for group-specific standards will further guide the choice of governance for your system.
Another consideration when creating your management model is the degree to which you will need to customize the LMS. While it is often easier to standardize how your LMS is deployed across the entire organisation, customisation may actually provide significant benefits to your internal groups and external customers.
This customisation can come in a variety of forms, including:
- Development of distinct landing pages or user interfaces for individual teams or customer groups
- Creation of custom reports or dashboards to respond to specific data needs
- Definition of specific rules for releasing courses or content to particular groups
Finally, as you are thinking through how you will oversee your LMS, both during and post-implementation, it is useful to plan out your change management strategy with the following questions:
- Does your organisation serve diverse customer groups, and will the system need to provide custom content, reports, or feature sets for each?
- How often will you be making feature requests or requests for services from the vendor?
- Will change requests typically be organisation wide or will individual groups have specific needs?
- What is your relationship with the vendor and their support team, as defined by the statement of work – does it require a single point of contact or is it more efficient for each group to have independent arrangements?
An appropriate LMS governance plan takes into account a variety of aspects of your business. By keeping these concepts in mind, you can identify the best management structure for your organisation that suits all of your business needs in the most effective manner.
Grebow, David. (January 22, 2014). The importance of governance for LMS success
Foreman, Steve. (September 9, 2013). LMS Operation and Governance: Taming the beast
Written by: Chuck Sigmund
Chuck Sigmund and Tracy O’Connor will be presenting in the free seminar: Using ThinkingCap in a Global Organisation: Strategies for Decentralised Management of an LMS on Thursday, Nov 28 at 12:00 in room Pavillon Theatre 2