6 Expert Tips to Make Your LMS Implementation Successful

It was a long buying process, but you finally found the learning management system (LMS) that best fits your organization’s needs. It’s time for you to sit back and let the vendor take care of implementation, right?

Not exactly.

Planning your LMS implementation is just as critical as finding the right solution. Without creating a step-by-step implementation plan, you risk running into numerous challenges that can cause the project to take much longer than anticipated.

Successful Implementation Steps

We sat down with Mike Statmore and Nicole Riegl, the CIO and Lead Project Manager of Progressive Business Publications, to discuss the six main steps to creating an effective project implementation plan and timeline.

Step 1: Define Success

When starting any project, it’s important to get your core project team to agree the end goal.

The key to doing this is starting with the end in mind, or as Statmore said, “The perfect goal is not perfectly implementing [the LMS] – it’s perfectly implementing it and having it fully adopted.”

To figure out the desired outcome, you may want to ask your implementation team questions like:

  • Will the LMS be used for a specific department’s training, or the whole company’s training?
  • Are you going to sell the courses created and stored in the LMS?

Pro-Tip: Riegl suggests starting the discussion by having each member of the team write an answer to the questions “What is the end of the project?” or “What does success look like?” on a notecard. Then have the team leader display or read each response. Doing this in the beginning will get the whole team on the same page and help everyone throughout the implementation process.

Step 2: Identify the Current Workflow

Identifying and documenting how your company conducts training seems like a tedious task. However, this step is key to looking at your end-goal from all angles, and it’ll help you avoid setbacks. Some factors include:

  • What actions you are trying to streamline or improve
  • What configurations will need to be made to the LMS
  • What systems the LMS will need to be integrated with

Pro-Tip: Some of these factors may have been determined during your buying process. Look back at your documentation for guidance.

Step 3: Review Vendor’s Template

Ask the LMS vendor for its implementation template. This will give you an idea of what tasks are necessary for the specific solution you’re implementing.

However, use common sense when reviewing the vendor’s template. Don’t be hesitant to add steps or ask the vendor to switch around the order of steps to meet your organization’s needs.

“The caveat of the template is it’s a template. It’s not a religious tome, and it’s not rocket science where everything has to be done in the same order. You can challenge everything,” advised Statmore.

Pro-Tip: When reviewing the vendor’s implementation template, Statmore’s rule of thumb is, “If it really seems wrong to do, or doesn’t make sense to do – that [task] is the thing to question.” However, it’s important to take the vendor’s knowledge and expertise into account when making these decisions.

Step 4: Define & Prioritize Key Tasks

Deliverables are the core tasks necessary to complete each step of LMS implementation. These actions can include testing the data migration programming or inputting learning materials into the LMS.

To figure out your deliverables, start with each broad implementation step and whittle it down into the tasks that must be executed. After this, it’s time to determine which of these tasks depend on the results of other tasks, also known as dependencies.

Dependencies must be completed in a specific order so implementation can proceed. For example, you need to check that your learning materials are in a format compatible with the new LMS, then enter them into the system.

Defining the deliverables and dependencies will make it easier to prioritize the tasks in your implementation plan.

“The key is bringing back all the people who are working on this and figuring out the dependencies.” Riegl said.

Step 5: Assigning the Whats, Whos and Whens

After having all the tasks and actions plotted out, you can assign resources to execute each action – also known as the “Whats, Whos and Whens.”

For each action, consult with your team to answer,

  1. What will be done?
  2. Who is going to do it?
  3. When will it be done?

Once this exercise is finished and documented, you’ll have a timeline for your overall implementation project plan.

Pro-Tip: Don’t assume you know how long an action will take. Consider the vendor’s advice on the duration of tasks, as well as input from the person assigned to each task.

Step 6: Define a Communication Plan

Creating a communication plan is the number one priority for LMS implementation, and it can happen anytime in the planning process.

Statmore suggests a communication plan that addresses three key questions:

  1. How often will status updates occur?
  2. Who will deliver the status update?
  3. Who is the audience for the status update?

Most likely, there will be multiple types of updates given to different groups of people (e.g., the whole organization, the core implementation team, the vendor, C-Level executives, etc.). Document the communication plan to hold people accountable.

Beyond Implementation

During the planning process, you may want to think about the life of the LMS beyond implementation. Talk to your IT department and chief business users to determine:

  • How to train new users on the system
  • Who will maintain the LMS post implementation
  • What formatting is needed to keep learning material consistent
  • What the permissions are for LMS features and data

Download our useful LMS Implementation Checklist to create a complete project plan and ensure a smooth learning management system implementation.

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