In 12+ years implementing Learning Management Systems, I have worked with a lot of different customers. Their teams have fallen within a broad spectrum of experience and preparedness – from the less-than-ideal baseline (i.e. a team of one, with no LMS background, a full plate, and a few anger issues), to the so-prepared-it-was-scary end of the spectrum (the team with two project managers, half a dozen training, IT, and HR veterans, and a small army of testers).

Let me be clear: most LMS (and software in general) implementations which fail do so because of poorly selected implementation teams.

If you are a customer planning to implement LMS, your “perfect” implementation team will depend on a few key factors:

  • How will you use the system? If you’ll only deliver a few vendor-purchased compliance courses each year, the players involved should probably be pretty limited. On the other hand, if you’re planning to deploy in-house developed training for sale to customers via an eCommerce solution, for example, you’ll want to choose your team carefully since there are many more dependencies.
  • Will your Administration model be centralized or distributed? Will one or two people be in charge of everything, or will you have a system Administrator at every plant location or branch office, operating autonomously? If the latter, ensure you have project representation from those satellite locations, from day one. Not only does this build buy-in and a sense of ownership, but increases the odds that you take all necessary viewpoints into account when designing the solution. It’s far more efficient to accommodate all requirements upfront than to re-configure later.
  • How data-driven is your solution? Does your implementation involve converting large volumes of historical data for migration to your new LMS? Will you need to automate import of existing courses, curricula, registrations, etc., to ensure a seamless transition from your current system? Will setup of the user connector into the new system involve re-engineering or clean-up of employee data before it can be imported? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, ensure that you have the appropriate talent on the project – data management is a unique skillset. While your implementation consultant will guide you and support you in this effort, you ultimately own your data, and will have to live with the results.

Regardless of the complexity of your solution, it’s a good idea to have the following players on your team, when possible. Sometimes these will be dedicated roles; in other organizations, one person will likely wear several of these hats:

  • The E-Learning Guru: possesses knowledge of online courseware standards and common authoring tools. Has at least a basic knowledge of instructional design principles.
  • The System Admin: has experience with administering software solutions, and understands the day-to-day workflows involved in “living” with the system. Ideally, this will be an existing LMS admin, or if you’re new to LMS, somebody with a training and development background who will be responsible for ongoing operation of the system.
  • The HR Pro: has intimate knowledge of your employee data – can help interpret ways of targeting specific learner populations for training assignment or reporting purposes.
  • The IT Connection: knows the inside and out of your network and PC configuration, and can facilitate whitelisting of IP addresses, get all your employees’ machines on the newest version of required system software, and similar critical needs.
  • The Marketing Voice: serves as the public face of your project, facilitating change management and communication, up to and following go-live.
  • The Compliance Officer: helps ensure that compliance or regulatory training delivered via the LMS meets all legal requirements, and that all needs are being considered.
  • The Reporting Resource: when out-of-box system reports don’t meet all your needs, this person can help develop custom reports, or massage existing data to fit your requirements.
  • The Instructor: can speak for the classroom dimension, if you will use the LMS for registration and tracking of instructor-led training.

In summary, you will never be able to anticipate all resource needs prior to implementation. A good implementation consultant will understand this, be flexible, and offer guidance where needed. However, you should try to anticipate most needs, and staff the project appropriately. Ensuring that the right stakeholders and skillsets are represented upfront goes a long way toward setting your LMS up for success.