External LMS Selection: How to Use Deep-Dive Demos to Find the Perfect Fit

Gordon Johnson
Oct 14, 2019, 11:42:04 AM

This is the third post in our series developed to help you select a new or replacement LMS for external training. The first post is: How to Develop a List of Requirements. The second is How Do You Find The Right LMS For External Training? Now, we bring you to the point of the deep-dive demonstration.

Central to the evaluation of any learning management system is the deep-dive LMS demo

You’ve reached a critical waypoint in your journey to the selection of an LMS for external training. Decisions made at this stage will have long-term implications. You and your team should be reviewing the responses to your RFP and down selecting to the top three best LMS vendors.

It’s time to schedule, prepare for and conduct the deep-dive demo, which is arguably the most important thing you’ll do to evaluate an LMS.

The deep-dive demo is a lot more than what you found on the vendor’s website and a lot more than an introduction demo. This is live and custom to your specific use cases and requirements and is meant to choose an LMS for exactly what you need it for. Here’s how to get the most information out of each demo.

It takes a team to find the dream LMS for external training

The same representatives of the departments and audiences that helped search for an LMS and develop the LMS requirements and short-list should be part of the demonstration process. Though, we do caution to only have key players participate in the entire process.

The team should be in attendance, along with your subject matter experts to handle complicated or technical aspects. Also, in attendance should be representatives of internal users – the people who will have to interface with the LMS.

There’s no doubt that one of your requirements is ease of use. We need users to be confident. Let them submit questions, attend and see for themselves.

Consider scheduling the attendance of your subject matter experts and end-users only during the relevant section of the demo.

The LMS deep-dive demo is an open book test

Here’s where you get to see the LMS attempt to do what you need it to do. The goal is to see, first-hand, how the features roll up into the benefits that solve your problems. Restated, it is incumbent on you to write the script for this performance. You must tell the vendors exactly what you want to learn, for instance, what are the questions and use cases that, as a minimum, must be addressed.

Having gone through the written RFP responses, individually and as a team, devise your questions both general and function specific.

Develop some use cases that illustrate problematic instances that have your requirements working together. For instance, show us how the system would handle online registrations from Canada, including tax issues. Or, walk us through the path of course authoring, approval and changes.

You may also wish to add business and relationship questions, such as support and customization. At some point everyone needs both, and usually a lot more than you think.

One likely example of customization is creating multi-portals – a separate portal for each strategic customer. Ask them what it will cost and how long it will take.

Compile all this and send it to each contender as the rules of the road for the demo. Everyone gets the same information. This is an open book test, so there are no excuses.

Schedule the LMS deep-dive demo

The demo should be planned for about 2 hours (It would probably take 20 hours to go through the LMS entirely). This will force prioritization, which is exactly what you want. Focus on your key requirements and use cases.

The demo should be conducted remotely, unless the vendor is “across the street”. Onsite demos from remote vendors have huge cost and logistical complexities that will expand your LMS budget, perhaps at pricing. Remote demos also help to level the playing field and give you a true taste of what support will be like once you purchase the LMS.

Consider scheduling all the demos as close together as possible to move the process along, over a 2 or 3-day period at most.

To be sure, there is a learning curve as you go through this series of deep-dive demos. You and your team will get better as you go on. Perhaps have what you think is the weakest candidate go first.

Divide the demo into 3 or more sections. Here’s a guideline:

  1. General overview of the platform, connectivity and ease of use, concentrating on addressing the “must have” requirements.
  2. Walk through 1-3 use cases.
  3. Address submitted questions, organized appropriately.

Of course, there will be follow-on questions which, for the most part, should be handled on the spot. However, if the question requires a long response, perhaps from one of the vendor’s subject matter experts, schedule a follow-on call.

It’s important to record each demo. So much information will be covered, it’s important to have the recording for future reference. Also, some of your selection team won’t be able to attend, so they can review the recording.

Be from Missouri 

Missouri is the “show me state” and that’s a good place to be. Missouri got this nickname because its people are focused on simple common sense. In 1899, U.S. Representative Willard D. Vandiver said, "Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri. You've got to show me."

If you don’t see it, it probably doesn’t exist. If it doesn’t look good in the demo, it’ll be worse in real life and could hinder your ability to grow your learning business. If it’s “on the roadmap,” then don’t expect it to be ready for over a year, if ever. If it’s something they’re “thinking about,” then it probably not going to happen.

Don’t be too nice. Be prepared, uncompromising, and be from Missouri.

Spend time in the LMS sandbox

Some vendors may offer a free trial period instead of a deep-dive demo. The demo is a requirement. They are the developers and the experts. It’s much better for you if their hands are on the wheel and they are navigating to the tune of your use case.

However, you should request a sandbox version of the LMS following the demo, assuming you’re still interested in that vendor. Their experts have shown you how it drives. Now you take it out on the road to see if it really is the right LMS for professional training.

And when you do, go the exact same route. However, do get them to give you a thorough orientation before diving into the sandbox. It will save you a lot of time and delay.

Outsourcing some or all the LMS selection process

As we have said before, finding and selecting the right training company LMS can be a long, complicated process with many variables. Some companies choose to engage an LMS selection consultant who is experienced in the external LMS market and has guided other companies to the selection of an LMS. They may outsource some or all the selection process to such a professional.

Unless you’ve gone through the LMS selection process before, hiring an LMS selection consultant is almost always a good call.

Thought Industries wants you to succeed

We understand the stringent process of selecting and evaluating a new or replacement LMS for external training. We know that the more informed you and your team are, the more successful you’ll be in finding the best LMS for your company.

To get you pointed in the right direction, our team put together 59 Questions to Consider Before Selecting an LMS for External Training. We’d like you to have it for free.

Another new resource that is also available to you for free is our eBook: How to Build an LMS Business Case for External Training. We think it will be of utmost value as you move along the LMS selection journey.

Thought Industries brings you these insights, tips and tools as our investment in your success.

59 Questions to Consider Before Selection an LMS for External Training 

Download this free guide will help you identify and prioritize the software features you'll need to maximize the success of your online external training experience.

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