Craig Weiss penned an article on his blog, “LMS Stories – Fantasy or Reality”, which is a meandering stroll through a variety of LMS concerns, questions, and suggestions. One section mentions the ‘top five reasons’ that companies stick with their learning management systems despite dissatisfaction with the product. Let’s address some from our perspective…
Fear Factor (if you move your data it will be lost)
Craig claims that’s ‘hogwash’ and we agree. Any LMS is surely using a database backend, and databases are made for extracting data. There may be a charge to pull the data for you, but it should certainly be recoverable. Now, if your LMS has a content authoring tool, that may be much more difficult to pull out in any usable form…bit overall, data should never just be ‘lost’.
Time (don’t have the time to start over)
A valid point, certainly. Investigating whether an LMS meets your needs then getting in integrated with your systems and curriculum can be a challenge. Don’t let that ruin the potential for eLearning however. At minimum, plan to revisit the efficacy of your system and user satisfaction annually and plan for upgrades, updates, or transitions based on your survey results.
Customization (they fully customized my system)
As Craig says, “Virtually any vendor will do heavy customization for you – but there are additional costs to it.” It’s certainly a consideration that you’d rather not go through that time and cost again with a new LMS vendor, but perhaps the issue was the LMS was not a good match in the first place. It may not be possible to find an LMS that meets ALL your needs, but with such a large number of LMS products on the market, it shouldn’t be impossible to find a good match without requiring significant customization.
Customization was Free
This relates enough to the previous concern that it’s likely not a strong concern in itself, and you are paying for that customization one way or another. Can you compare another vendor’s customization cost and other fees to what was paid to the current vendor? You may find fees are more similar than you think. Additionally, free customizations could indicate either the feature was already present and it’s just been ‘tweaked’ to make it look custom, or its reliability may be questionable.
There may as many pricing structures as there are LMS products, but multi-year contracts wouldn’t seem to be a good deal in most cases. The exceptions may be where a customer needs to forecast pricing for logistical reasons, such as a multi-year grant, or perhaps where significant pricing discounts can be offered for long-term deals. It’s always wise to be wary of price increases, and locking into long-term deals may seem to be a good way to avoid such increased costs, however, you’re also then locked into the product and service…which may be fine, if you’re happy.