How to select an LMS vendor that's here to stay Eóghan Quigley Published on May 5, 2016 Over 40% of our customers at LearnUpon already have learning management software in place when they make an inquiry. There are many reasons why companies decide to explore the highly crowded pool of LMS vendors and begin the task of evaluation. Some like to keep up with industry developments and regularly assess their learning management software against newer products. Many come with specific pain points they want to alleviate. But others find their hand has been forced when their existing platform exits the market. Hearing that your learning management software has been discontinued is traumatic. Whatever your relationship with your LMS vendor, it's difficult to find yourself pushed into an accelerated search for a replacement solution. And the eLearning industry is full of change. With dozens of vendors entering and leaving the market every year, many organizations find themselves in this unenviable position. At LearnUpon, we've helped many companies in this situation. Most recently, we on-boarded 6 customers who had been very happy with their LMS and wanted to replicate the experience as quickly as possible. Top of their priorities was a single question: how can we prevent this happening again? In this article, I'll show you how to skip the upheaval and select an LMS vendor that's built to last. Test the vendor's approach to product development Every search for a software solution should include time to fully vet shortlisted vendors. When researching sustainability, look for a balance between innovation and security. At LearnUpon, we show prospective customers ambitious development plans that are tempered by prudent commercial decisions. Two pieces of information, in particular, will help you to assess if an LMS vendor's development plans look sustainable. Analyze a product roadmap A product roadmap will show where the LMS has come from and, just as importantly, where it's going. At LearnUpon, we share our roadmap to demonstrate an active approach to product development, with new features released every 2-3 weeks. An ambitious development plan like ours proves that an LMS vendor is dedicated, not just to keeping pace with market requirements, but to exceeding them. You should also check that development is managed in a prudent manner, with priorities and resources carefully balanced. A product roadmap which shows that a vendor is active, consistent and accurate with projected deadlines, should reassure you that the platform is evolving steadily, with its value to your organization increasing in tandem. Ask if customers can contribute to the development You should also consider how the development process is managed. Development will ideally be based on customer demand. Customer-centric development balances innovation with prudent attention to the day-to-day operation of the system. At LearnUpon, we work hard to ensure that all development is fully resourced. Our customer support, customer success, sales and development teams all contribute to the planning of our product roadmap. Our success team uses regular check-in sessions to gather information about which developments are most in demand with our customers. Our customer support team regularly fields enhancement requests and our sales team are at the forefront of what our newest customers need from a platform. Our product team combines feedback from all of these sources to decide which features will be prioritized in the product roadmap for the next six months. This collaborative approach helps to ensure that, while our development team is working to enhance the best LMS in the industry, day-to-day maintenance is also fully resourced. Choose a vendor that will support you Assessing customer support should always play a role in software selection. In a rapidly evolving market like eLearning, it's especially important to know that, if the worst happens, you can rely on prompt and thorough help from your LMS vendor. Inadequate support is the reason most customers cite for choosing LearnUpon as a replacement solution. These customers usually received elaborate promises about response times from their previous vendor that failed to materialize once they signed a contract. Prospective customers sometimes overlook that the quality of support can be both tangible and intangible. While it's easy for LMS vendors to make wild claims about performance metrics, the experience of excellent support is more difficult to quantify. It's something we think about a lot at LearnUpon. We've become recognized as leaders in support because the service we deliver is superior to our competitors by some distance. Just last month, we retained our Best Customer Support title for the second consecutive year. That standard of support happens by design rather than an accident. It demonstrates that an LMS vendor cares about delivering the best possible product and service. Excellent support should do more than reassure you about your own experience as a customer. It's an indication that other happy customers will stay with the vendor, supporting the sustainability of the business. Choose a vendor that's human When I was recently asked to describe our customer support team on a ‘human level’, I thought it was a useful way to assess vendors. In this case, the question was a test to determine how connected customer support is to the other silos in LearnUpon. But the reality is that there are no silos. Customer support is just as important to the sustainability of the business as the technical excellence of the system or the dedication of our account managers and customer success team. I had no difficulty in answering the question. Because of the emphasis our founders, Brendan and Des, place on customer support in every area of the business, I can easily describe its personality and approach. As an account manager, that makes my life extremely easy. If I’m questioned about the quality of support, I can evangelize without hesitation or doubt. When assessing LMS vendors, take time to fully test how ‘human’ the advertised services are. True 24/7 support with no automated emails should be your benchmark. The ability to call a phone number at any time of the day or night and speak to a real person who really cares about the success of your training programs should be a given. Yet it's harder to find than you might think. The quality of the responses you receive should be just as important as the speed with which your query is answered. Companies hemorrhage customers if the quality of support drops. By maintaining a standard of excellence unrivaled in the LMS industry, and in the words of Brendan and Des “redefining what customer support really means”, you can be assured that LearnUpon will not only continue to win awards but retain customers through periods of rapid growth. A leadership team that drives growth To have full confidence in an LMS vendor, you should also research their leadership team. Ideally, these should be eLearning veterans who are driving the company's growth. Recent growth isn't just evidence of the platform's development. It's a sign that the leadership team is making smart decisions. It can also be a more reliable indicator of sustainability than the overall size of a vendor. An established vendor on a downward trajectory can exit the market very quickly. To assess which direction a vendor is heading, ask: How long have they been in the market? How have they grown over the past three years? At LearnUpon, our focus on growth is twofold. While we continue to acquire new customers, our success and support teams are constantly expanding to facilitate the mutual growth of existing ones. We’re happy to share details about our story with all who inquire. Since launching in 2012, we have developed a sophisticated yet easy-to-use LMS that quickly gained over 800 customers across the globe. We continue to add new customers every day while remaining focused on building our relationships with existing ones. That our growth has been largely organic, with a significant percentage of new customers coming through referrals and people changing roles, is another indicator that our platform has longevity. When I joined LearnUpon in 2015, I recognized that the company’s growth had been driven by a combination of industry knowledge and business acumen. Not only do we have a leadership team with over twenty years’ experience specifically in the eLearning industry, there’s a proven understanding of how to build a robust, scalable business. I was recently asked two particularly useful questions by a prospective customer assessing sustainability: Is your LMS the core business or is it part of a portfolio of products? How focused are you on making the best LMS in the industry versus adhering to a standard set across many different industries? Our answer is simple, everyone in our organization is focused solely on our learning management system. That focus, when combined with our development plans and investment in customer support, shows our customers that we are here to stay. It’s the least you should expect from your LMS vendor.