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You Need a New Learning Platform? Here’s How to Get It
The learning software industry keeps growing and developing at rapid-fire pace to stay in sync with the digital information world. According to the Skill Builder Training Study Report, 74% of companies use learning platforms, and 99% of the respondents say that their learning platform helps to increase the organization of the training content, the effectiveness of their training, and their employees’ performance.
It is no surprise that the market for learning software is predicted to grow from $5.22 billion to $15.72 billion by 2021, since high quality learning solutions make it possible for companies to provide the right content to the right people at the right time.
Why an RFP fails at the preliminary stage
Before going any further, we need to understand what RFP really means. Simply put, an RFP or a Request for Proposal is a document that you send to vendors. It includes your business needs and objectives, buying parameters, and requirements such as time frame, a disaster recovery plan, client references, etc. The problem is that RFPs are often misunderstood as an umbrella term that is confused with a Request for Information and a Request for Quotation. Though these terms have much in common, each has its own distinct features:
An RFI (Request for Information) is used by organizations that are not aware of the variety of options that potential vendors can offer, or the organizations don’t see a clear solution to their business challenges. An RFI is all about fact-finding.
An RFP (Request for Proposal) is used by organizations that know their current system and what is available in the marketplace. This document contains detailed specifications, and explains the company’s business objectives and everything vendors need to know to offer most suitable solutions.
An RFQ (Request for Quotation) is a more detailed document. In this case, an organization really understands its present situation and exactly what should be changed or improved. An RFQ doesn’t leave room for vendors to offer a creative solution. The RFQ requires vendors to respond to a list of detailed questions, showing how they can meet specific needs at specific times, and/or provide specific materials and equipment, and requires an accurate cost estimate with stated variances for stated situations (such as an increase in the price due to inflation), and discusses each vendor’s ability to meet requirements listed by the company requesting the RFP. It also includes pricing details, delivery information, and any additional terms and conditions.
Ten guidelines for an effective learning platform RFP
- Do you really need a learning platform? If you think that creating an online archive with manuals and slideshows will be enough to provide a decent employee training, think again. Today’s learning systems should include features that can be accessed by a smartphone as well as tablets, laptops and desktop computers, personalized learning paths, fast and easy 24/7 access to materials, training consistency, a human touch in terms of feedback and interaction, and result in improved engagement and employee performance, in addition to the overall facilitation of learning. If this is what you need, then you’re on the right track by setting up or creating a learning management system.
- Introduce yourself. Write a short and concise description of your company. Provide information about your products and services, your location(s), an overview of your corporate structure, your workflow (since smart learning platforms can adapt to a company’s workflow in delivering training to those who need it and when they need it), and include contact details. It will also be useful to briefly discuss your current projects or what you are planning to work on in the future (extending your business to new locations, launching a new product, etc.). This essential information will help training software vendors to better understand your needs. If you are considering adding some confidential but crucial information, simply include a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which the vendor must agree to and sign before receiving the RFP itself.
- Don’t forget about your learners! Make sure that training software vendors know enough information about your employees to offer you the best learning solution. Provide some material about your employees’ educational backgrounds, field experience, current skills and knowledge, and what knowledge and/or skills you would like to introduce, improve or focus on. Tell the vendors about challenges your employees have to deal with, whether it concerns engagement, the retention of information, applying information the employees have just learned, or allocating time for their training. What do they lack? Have your employees told you they don’t get a chance to apply new knowledge fast enough? Don’t forget to tell the vendors whether you’re planning to try the training program in certain departments or include all of them.
- If you need a learning platform, set clear objectives for training software vendors. While you are laying out the business goals you want to achieve with your future learning platform, make sure that the goals are measurable, realistic, and accurate. Assess your current training program, and define its advantages and pitfalls. Think of what you would like to change, add or improve. Specify the training objective (organizational, safety training, skills-oriented, etc.). List several key features you want to see in the learning solution and indicate specifics that you are expecting the learning platform to improve.
- If you already have a learning platform, think about a seamless transition plan. According to a Brandon Hall Group study, 44% of companies are planning to change their learning platform. If you think that your current learning platform doesn’t meet your growing demands anymore, it’s wise to search for other options. Staying faithful to a learning model that gets in the way of training progress will drag down your company’s business development. Ask potential training software vendors what their transition plan would be. Will they be able to seamlessly transfer your course content and its format (i.e. SCORM) or meet the specific needs of your company? Would they use a phase-in approach to transition from your current learning platform to theirs? Find out.
- List your training must-haves. When you see all the “cool stuff” training software vendors offer, think about its practicality and relevance. Do you really need it? Make a list of must-haves, and then compare features available from potential training software vendors. Depending on your goals and preferences, these features will differ, but don’t forget to include the following:
- User-friendly experience. Your employees should not need to take a course on how to use a learning platform.
- The platform must easily share data in all popular file formats.
- Will there be seamless integration between the learning platform and your company’s other systems (HRIS, CRM, ERP, etc.)?
- Does the new learning system support mobile learning via smartphones?
- Does the system offer interactivity and use the social aspects of learning (feedback, communication with colleagues)?
- Does the platform facilitate communities that mimic a company’s structure for training alignment?
- Ability to track your employees’ progress.
- Security. Who can access and/or modify data? How is a user authorized?
- Take care of your future needs. Chances are, you will outgrow your training solution sooner or later. Your business is not stagnant, and neither are your needs and goals. Find out how your potential training software and the software vendors adapt to changes. Do they implement new technologies that update existing technology or come up with innovative learning solutions? What kind of updates do they make? How often? If you have 500 employees now, will your training software vendor be able to deal with 2,000 employees in the future? Also, keep customer support issues in mind. Look into what kind of customer support training solution vendors provide:
- Technical support?
- How much of their IT will be involved/available for customer support?
- Customer success team that helps to define a plan and the structure of the learning program based on your KPIs.
- Customer support that helps with routine user inquiries.
- Don’t set strict limits for training software vendors. You’ve set clear objectives. You’ve thought through your future needs. You’ve created a perfect list of must-haves. Don’t forget to leave a place for flexibility and creativity. Your challenges can be resolved in many ways. In fact, training software vendors may be able to offer you solutions you didn’t even think of. Work with training software vendors in a collaborative way, and discuss various options that would meet your demands.
- Test the waters with a demo. You can ask your potential training software vendors as many questions as you want but you won’t fully understand the true potential of their training solution unless you try a demonstration of their product. Don’t wait until the final stage of making a decision. Preliminary demos don’t take much time to set up. It’s understandable that a demo may not be as customizable as the purchased training platform, but it will be enough for you to get a basic understanding of how it works and whether it will meet your demands.
- Keep your budget in mind. Be honest with training software vendors about how much money you are ready to spend on a learning platform. Provide them with your list of must-haves and ask whether they will be able to stay within that budget while including all the features you really need. Don’t be afraid of rejection. There are more than 700 training software vendors competing in today’s learning industry, and the cost of services is one of the things they compete on.
If you want to see an effective learning management system in action, feel free to request a free demo.
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