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“We need a Learning Management System!” Really?

Do you?

I’ve recently been reading over proposals for learning management platforms (2 separate initiatives), and a lot of them bother me.

There are multiple reasons why (more below), but maybe the main point is this: a LMS is now a utility, a means to an end.

What you really need is a sales force communication platform. A portal, if you will.

A sales force communication platform allows you to reach your field sales people with a variety of information and resources, SOME of which have to do with training curricula, assessments, etc. A full-service portal will also contain links to lots of other items of interest (personalized by role, sales force, development level, etc.), such as corporate info, forms, marketing materials, gaming, compliance stuff, software tutorials (EPSS), animations, and what have you. For field managers, there will be reports on reps, development opportunities, schedules, etc. LMS platforms, by and large, were not created around the business, training, and communications needs of pharmaceutical field forces. Therefore, they often feel like an ill-fitting suit.

Some LMS platforms kinda-sorta allow you to deploy other objects, but they are primarily there to, well, manage and track your learning. Boring.

And, LMS vendor proposals seem to reflect that. A lot of emphasis on technical and engineering details, but little attention paid to user experience. Data integrity is good, but how about easy administration and a flexible user interface? I saw the back-end of one big-league LMS recently, and it literally needed a technical resource to administer it. I wanted to throw up.

Learning management is a functional utility. It is not a destination, and as a metaphor for information access, it makes a poor interface.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in a lot of technical platform implementations, and I think a lot of the companies trying to support the behemoth LMS platforms (have any of them made any profits yet, at least by GAAP reckoning??) are going to get their lunch eaten by faster-moving, more responsive companies with simpler, client-focused business models. And with platforms that can look and feel a lot more like the portals we have all started to use on the web.

And here’s one hint for LMS vendors, while I’m spewing – if you’re going to submit a proposal, at least make sure that you have some basics like spelling and grammar down. I’m appalled at some of what I’ve been reading. Trying to sell a six or seven figure project, without the ability to write a coherent proposal?? And instead of endless flow charts about how your company is structured, or your problem escalation strategy, how about some effort put into defining the actual business need? And the user interface? Stuff all the geek-speak into appendices at the end, along with the endless lists of specs, and start talking about the problems you’re going to solve. Because it’s not about your J2EE programming and database migration schema. It’s about field users getting what they need, quickly, and enjoying the process.

Geez. No wonder I’m getting business writing RFPs and evaluating vendors!

P.S. Maybe the misspellers are using the same service that created this menu:

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