It's estimated that up to 75% of technology projects fail* – a significantly stressful statistic for any L&D team to look when facing a new technology system. Investing in a Learning Management System, or indeed any technology designed to support your people strategy, carries significant risk for both the business and your personal reputation. However, the reasons for failure often have little to do with the software itself. Here are 10 of the most common pitfalls of L&D technology projects you’d do best to avoid.
*Gartner research March 2016
1. Not defining clear objectives
Before embarking on the search for a technology solution you need to be clear about your objectives. What pain points are you looking to solve? What are you trying to achieve and how will you know that those objectives have been met? Starting a project without having clear, measurable goals can only lead to confusion and cost. Without having your goals defined and agreed from the offset, you open up your project to challenges and delay. Your project will never meet expectations if those expectations aren’t articulated and agreed.
2. Poor project management
If you have poor project management it can become very disruptive to your business. You need to dedicate the right skill, time and resource to a project to ensure its success. All too often existing employees are asked to contribute to projects on top of their normal duties. This can often lead to a lack of focus and stretching of delivery timelines.
Too often individuals are asked to project manage complex implementations as a ‘development opportunity’. Project management is a skill, and if you have an inexperienced hand on the rudder, the project plan can often be unrealistic and lacking in detail. This leads to reputational damage to both the project and those involved in it.
3. Thinking that technology will fix the problem
Most organisations already have a technology solution in place but all too often think that a replacement piece of technology is what they need to solve their problem. Projects that see technology as the solution rather than the enabler are doomed to fail from the get-go. Technology alone cannot fix all your problems unless your company’s processes and workflows are effective. If new technology is the right answer, all too often companies replicate existing processes within a new system, ending up replicating the way they work but just push different buttons to get the same result.
4. Over complicating your requirements
The factor that often stops projects from even getting off the ground is trying to deliver everything at once, in one solution. It’s better to adopt a phased approach to delivery to enable a building of comfort and competence in using the system before building any new functionality.
Building in too many customisations at the beginning can also slow a project down and build significant costs into the project. All too often organisations think that they need a custom solution because they have needs that are specific. But recent trends have seen businesses opt for ecosystems of out-of-the-box solutions. These are often tried and tested solutions that deliver a good return on investment. Custom solutions can often become obsolete as businesses and technology evolve, carrying higher and higher maintenance costs over time.
5. Insufficient training
Putting the time and effort into providing sufficient training and support during implementation is essential to any successful technology implementation. Many LMS projects are deemed to have failed because of under-utilisation of the platform. Training your learning and development team sufficiently in all aspects of the platform will mean that the technology is fully utilised and the most engaging learning experiences are created.
If learning experiences are poor, the knock-on effect is that user adoption rates drop off and satisfaction with the learning provided decreases. This sometimes occurs not because the training and support are poor, but because it is not provided in the appropriate format or at the right time.
6. Lack of communication to stakeholders and users
Identifying your key stakeholders and user personas at the beginning of project can help smooth the process immeasurably. A continuous stream of communication throughout the project, re-emphasising the scope and objectives throughout helps build a network of champions aligned around key outcomes.
Clear messaging throughout the lifetime of the project needs to be followed by an engaging campaign to the workforce when the project moves to launch. This will help drive interest and uptake. Many organisations feel the job is done there, but this often leads to plummeting engagement and awareness rates. The communications should be a continuous programme throughout the year.
7. Not spending enough time on data cleansing and set-up
Another reason for poor utilisation is incomplete or incorrect data. Often when implementing a new LMS, no work is carried out on ensuring that data is updated and cleansed. This creates a poor user experience and impacts trust in the quality of the platform technology, which in turn decreases user uptake and satisfaction.
A marketing function cannot run successful campaigns if data is inaccurate. The same holds true for learning. Make sure you spend the time checking and testing the data before you go-live.
8. Scope creep
All projects are subject to change once underway. The most disciplined of planners can’t always forsee everything that may crop up once work starts. Planning for change and establishing a process to handle that is the key to keeping the project within scope and budget.
Every single change made will have an impact on costs and time. It is essential to evaluate every change to determine whether the benefits outweigh the impact of including it.
9. Inadequate testing
An unstable platform that has been poorly tested is likely to challenge timely delivery or even if the platform goes live at all. This is particularly true of LMS solutions that carry significant customisation or numerous integrations.
As your LMS is a system that hosts employees’ confidential details, making sure that data security is sufficiently tested and is working as designed is crucial to any go-live decision. Neglecting the testing phase, or having a very light-touch testing phase can increase the risk of the LMS not performing functions well and lead to the dissatisfaction of those using the system.
10. Lack of follow up support
Finding the right digital learning partner to help you deliver your LMS is the most important decision you will need to make. All too often, a provider will help you deliver a technology solution but may lack expertise in learning design, training support or impact measurement. If they cannot understand your business and your learning objectives – the software implementation will be a failure.
Selecting a provider that can build the technology solution for you but the only provides a ‘fix and host’ service post implementation will only take you half way and will leave you short changed and unlikely to fully realise the benefits of your project.
Launching your LMS is only the first step – a great partner will support you with your training, communications and future roadmap. Choose wisely and both you and your organisation will reap the rewards.
Start with a guide
The reasons outlined are by no means exhaustive but are amongst the most common factors listed when it comes to the failure of LMS implementation. However, if you take action to avoid the traps listed above, it will go a long way towards a successful delivery.
To help you on your way we’ve compiled an easy to use guide to implementing and planning an LMS project, which is yours to download for free.
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