Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Relaunching, Revamping or Replacing Your LMS

Your LMS has been in place two years and the shine has gone off it a bit eh?  Remember when you first put it in place and the buzz and excitement that surrounded the new and gleaming product.  How fresh the pages looked and how inviting the courses were?  Or maybe it wasn't like that at all with your LMS.  Maybe it was like that in the pre-talks but the reality was and is that your LMS is somewhat of a ghost town? Maybe your LMS is nothing like either of those but just needs to generate more interest or more content to get things going?  Okay, whatever your angle here it seems like if you have an LMS for more than 12 months you'll want to schedule a make-over for it some time soon..
 I'm one of those guys that likes to reorganise a bit.  I set up my living room the way I like it and all is well and good for a while.  Then one day it needs to change, it has to change and that's because there is definitely a better way of arranging things.  Actually that's not quite it, it doesn't have to be better sometimes it has to be 'new'.  The simple truth is I have a short attention span (hence the rambling blog pieces) and need constant visual stimuli in my life from my lounge to my LMS.  When I've rearranged the lounge it all feels a bit different but that's part of the attraction, I have to rediscover things - sometimes these things are annoying and you realise it was better before you meddled, but often as not you introduce new things and they make you realise you were suffering before!  (now I can see the TV from the kitchen, hey that's great, I love cooking!)
So my living room is a great example on a personal scale, if I need to change it I do and if it works that's great.  The family have a say but I'm clearly the head of the house.. okay, that bit may not be true, but I've got nearly equal say and definitely as much as the kids and more than Milo (that's the dog you remember from Loving and Letting Go..).  But when your family is your organisation and you really are a few rungs from the top of the ladder (if not a few rungs short of a ladder) then does this change your ability to make changes at will?  I guess it does, it certainly means that we're at our first step:

Getting authority to change it
You may already have this but I guess that depends on the level of change you're looking at.  If you're trying to get a new LMS in place because your old corporate LMS is costing tens of thousands more than a better performing Open Source LMS like Totara then you should have great motivation to take to the powers that be but you'll still need a business case and proper scoping.  If you're looking to improve functionality on the current platform again this could come down to money and you'll need the all important sign-off (have I mentioned Open Source to you yet?).  A facelift maybe something you can do yourself, but many LMSs don't allow you to change the look dramatically without paying out for it.  If it's just about content then you've missed part of the picture.  That's like me buying a new TV and just putting it in my living room where the old one was.  Unless the TV is significantly bigger than the last you still wont see it from the kitchen at my place unless you rearrange and let people know.  I've over-waffled this bit, but the short truth is if it costs then make sure you can afford/justify it before committing to the change.

Plan it out
I guess it almost goes without saying but don't just wade in there and find that there's no power socket for your new TV where you planned to move it or the aerial won't make it.  In LMS terms that means making sure that you're not breaking links or removing functionality unintentionally.  Early in the piece you want to be putting together your communication plan to ensure everyone knows what is happening.

Revisit or get new champions
So you had these champions when you launched, how much have you spoken to them since?  Re-engage with the people who put time and effort in to promoting the LMS first time round (not the ones who didn't help or even hurt).  You'll also need to find new people to help - that leads me to the next point..

Take on some new challenges and fresh ideas
If you really want to get people interested again in their e-learning then look to engage a new area of the business with some keen people who can provide you with something fresh and new.  Bring these people in and get them enthused by what they're going to bring in. I think a challenge here is important if you're trying to reinvigorate.  Challenge the new team to do more than is already in place or stretch their own capabilities.

Celebrate success
Just like with your initial launch, celebrate every success and make sure everyone knows about it! 

Use some of those 'locked down' features
It's all well and good having all those nifty web 2.0 tools but isn't it about time you actually used something beyond the single forum you currently have in place?  Perhaps look at releasing or encouraging greater usage of these types of tools; forums are a great start but what about a live chat session or voting or even a wiki to try and get people interested?  You can also start to spread the love a little more by giving more people a higher involvement.

Expand your content
Oh that's an easy thing to say but how do we actually go about adding more content to our LMS?  Chances are if you're actively adding content it's happening in one of three ways; external help (bespoke, custom or off the shelf content), internally produced trainer content (rapid e-learning tools or LMS tools) or you have your own e-learning development team.  If the answer is the latter.. err.. well.. firstly you're in the minority and secondly use them quickly before they vanish into thin air.  If you're using LMS tools consider investing in some rapid development tools.  My pick here has always been between Adobe Captivate and Articulate Studio; be aware of the new kid on the block Articulate Storyline - some are calling it a game changer and I think it certainly tips the balance towards Articulate being the weapon of choice for the rapid developer.  If you're going external look at seeing if your provider is interested in a partnership type production where you do some of the work rather than all them - it's a great approach, really cost effective and often a better end product as you have more internal investment.  If they don't do that sort of thing drop me a line and I'll get someone from Kineo to talk to you :)

Communicate it..
This is the easiest but most important way to invigorate your LMS but most often missed out.  Get out there, get the message across, involve others, present, send newsletters and updates on your intranet; but don't let all your hard work go unnoticed.  Blokes know about this, it's why we (rarely) empty the dishwasher or clean (anything).  We want the recognition and make sure our better halves know about it; same is true here, make sure people know that your LMS is back and better than ever (even if it never went away)!  Walk the walk too.  Use the tools in your organisation and the LMS itself and involve as many key people and enthusiasts you can.

Okay, that's enough for this episode, I've got to go and cook dinner and watch TV at the same time.  Actually that's only a partial truth, I'm gonna watch the NBA playoffs on my iPad whilst I cook; maybe I didn't need to move that TV in the first place?

As usual all opinions expressed are entirely my own and not representative of what anyone would probably say if they stopped and thought about it.  I'd love to hear what you have to say so either place feedback or hit me directly through twitter @NigelKineo or linked in Nigel Young or email :)