Recently, several SiriusDecisions clients have asked about learning management systems (LMS) and how they should determine which one to select. For those who are not familiar with the term, an LMS is a software system that allows an organization to conduct e-learning training and/or education, as well as track and report on the activity of students who use the software. 

LMSWhen purchasing an LMS – or any other technology – an organization must first identify its needs, wants and requirements. I like to use the analogy of building a house: To build a house, construction workers require blueprints that show the building’s structure and how the different systems (e.g. carpentry, plumbing, electricity) work together. To plan and implement a LMS, create two sets of blueprints that depict the current and planned future state of business processes before vendor selection. This helps to remove guesswork, promotes critical alignment and serves as a beacon to lead your organization down the path to success.

When creating your blueprints, focus on the following functional and organizational areas:


  • Goals and objectives. A stakeholder’s interest in an LMS is typically related to his or her current goals and objectives. Determine both long-term and short-term (e.g. next six months) objectives, and to what degree these relate to the LMS project.
  • Use cases. Review all of the existing training content present within your organization. Determine which will be migrated as-is to the LMS, which requires updates and which content will not be migrated. Next, prioritize the new content that will be using the LMS. This exercise determines how much existing course content can be leveraged and supports the evaluation of content resources.
  • Reporting. Preparing for LMS deployment is not complete without understanding reporting expectations. Outline the reports, dashboards and metrics the organization wishes to include for each learning participant (and account). In addition, outline the dashboards, reports and metrics to be tracked, including the effectiveness of specific courses. Think of the reports that LMS stakeholders will require on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. The reporting insights the organization wishes to obtain will inform vendor selection.
  • LMS requirements. Requirements that are placed on a LMS vary by both function and role. They tend to fall into four categories: functional (how the LMS should interact with contacts in its user interface), operational (how stakeholders will use the LMS in its administrative and design interface), technical (technologies and processes the LMS must interact with or enable to optimize workflow) and transitional (implementing the LMS without encumbering the organization).


  • Challenges. A stakeholder’s goals and objectives may not fully correlate with his or her current or anticipated pain points. Outline the organizational inefficiencies and challenges that stakeholders see within their departments as well as in other departments.
  • Skills and understanding. Implementing an LMS requires a shift in traditional training and student interaction. Gauge stakeholders’ understanding of how a LMS can be leveraged with clients and within the organization for certification and skills development. Also ask about their past experience with LMS.

Next week, my colleague Amanda Jensen, SiriusDecisions’ Learning Practice Director, will go into detail on the administrative and course design LMS functionality you should focus on when evaluating technologies.