LMS Upgrades- Lessons Learned from ERP

In the March edition of Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), Robert C. Beatty and Craig D. Williams write:

One of the most important IT-enabled business innovations during the decade has been the emergence of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Lured by guarantees of improved business productivity, streamlined business operations and, and increased cost savings, organizations worldwide have launched initiatives to integrate ERP systems into their existing business environments.

I was struck by the similarity between the ERP systems and LMS (learning management system). A quick substitution of LMS for ERP and "learning" for a few instances of "business" and it could be the beginning of an LMS white paper. The goal of their article was to give ERP teams proven and practical recommendations for successful ERP upgrades. I think it just may apply to LMS upgrades too. Here are their 8 top-level findings:

  1. Build your business case on new functionality.
  2. Treat the upgrade like a new project.
  3. Keep the (original implementation team) team together.
  4. This is a business project, not an IT project. [emphasis added]
  5. Watch for hidden infrastructure costs.
  6. Un-customize customizations.
  7. Test like your organization’s future sucess depends on it.
  8. Don’t skimp on the training.

Of course we’ve got to like #8. But what about #6? It is so tempting to request customizations, ostensibly to improve the learning experience, but how detrimental are delays or additional costs to the learning experience? Beatty and Williams note that for ERP projects “Dealing with customizations requires approximately 80% of a software developer’s and 60% of a business analyst’s time and effort.“. They recommend that customizations be evaluated and considered for elimination during the upgrade process.

This article is definitely worth reading for any training manager or IT staff involved in an enterprise LMS upgrade.