Crafting the Perfect LMS RFP: A Step-by-Step Guide
September 22, 2023
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A learning management system (LMS) is no longer a nice to have; it’s an essential tool for up-leveling your teams and creating a positive customer experience.
However, choosing the right platform can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of vendors and different configuration options within each software. It’s enough to make your head spin.
One of the best ways to get clarity is to let LMS providers create it for you. Your organization can use a Request for Proposal (RFP) to get quotes and details from multiple vendors. With an LMS RFP, you can collect critical information and compare platforms side by side and feature by feature.
But here’s the plot twist: to get the best information, you need to create a thorough RFP.
Knowing how to write a clear, targeted LMS RFP will help your team make the right decision and maximize your return on investment. Don’t just dip your toes in; dive headfirst into the LMS vetting process, starting with an LMS RFP.
What’s an LMS RFP?
An RFP shares your criteria to decide between LMS options. Before creating an LMS RFP, your stakeholders must agree on your L&D goals and what LMS features best meet those needs.
Vendors need to know two things:
- How will your organization use an LMS, based on your business goals, budget, and success criteria?
- What details do you need to make a decision?
Keep in mind that LMS RFPs are generally less than 10 pages, so it’s vital for the information and questions to be succinct and focused.
Benefits of using a request for proposal for an LMS
Why go to all the trouble of creating an RFP instead of researching vendors and getting demos?
First, it helps your team by defining what you need and how you intend to use the LMS. Going through the RFP process also gives you clear success criteria to show ROI to stakeholders and leadership.
Second, it allows you to vet different options by comparing key features. It removes bias or favoritism and makes choosing the best learning management system easy. An RFP also helps ensure that the chosen vendor is within your budget and can meet your timeline.
Finally, an RFP allows you to filter through hundreds of LMS options and quickly narrow down the vendors that can meet your needs. And you can do this without spending dozens of hours doing your own research — you’re allowing the vendor to provide the information for you.
How to write an LMS RFP
Once you have clear goals for an LMS and know your budget and critical features, it’s time to create your RFP.
Missing sections or details can lead to incomplete information and a longer process, so it’s essential to get it right the first time.
Include these considerations and critical components in your LMS RFP.
Organizational background and structure
Help vendors understand your organization’s needs by describing your company.
There’s no need to give an entire history of your organization; instead, focus on important information like:
- Your industry and products and services
- The target market and differentiation from competitors
- Your current tech stack
- Previous platforms you’ve used, if any
- What you liked and disliked about previous LMS solutions
Helping vendors understand what your organization is about will enable them to better understand your goals.
Learning and business objectives
Next, help vendors understand how you plan to use the LMS. How many users will you have, and what types of training will you be doing? How will users access the system?
For example, you might want to focus on sales enablement and how a learning management system can help. Or, you might be building an employee development program and looking for an LMS that supports that.
Of course, the best LMS options allow you to centralize your training needs on a single platform, so that might be one of the objectives you list on the RFP.
When it comes to learning and business objectives, be sure to describe:
- The timeline for deployment of the LMS
- The types of training your organization wants to create
- Who the learners are and how tech-savvy they are
- What kinds of training modules you want: microlearning, hybrid training, asynchronous, etc.
- What types of materials you want to include in training modules, such as video, images, games, quizzes, and more
- How many training courses you will start with
- How often you plan to add additional training modules
- What compliance reporting you need (if you use the LMS for regulatory training)
Vendors will look over the RFP, and if they can’t meet your needs, they generally won’t submit a proposal. This helps narrow the field so you can focus on ideal LMS solutions for your organization.
Criteria and metrics for success
It’s important to know upfront what metrics you plan to measure and how you’ll show ROI.
Sharing these metrics with vendors will help them understand how to focus the project and which features and configurations might be best for your company. Also, you can ask in the RFP how specific KPIs are reported and where to find those numbers within the platform.
The goal of an RFP is to connect with LMS providers that have a solution that fits your organization, and making your success criteria clear will help unqualified vendors move on rather than spend time on a proposal.
Initial input data
Input data helps vendors understand how many people will use the LMS at any given time, storage requirements, and additional user data.
Let vendors know:
- How many learners will use the system, including active users, each day or month
- How many users might access the system simultaneously
- How many courses you plan to have available to learners at one time
- What types of media you want to include in the training modules and store in the LMS
- If learners need to access training materials remotely, and if so, how many users are expected to be remote?
- When there might be spikes in usage, for example, if you do compliance training at specific times of year
By including this information, you can ensure that the LMS solutions you compare can handle your training capacity.
It’s important for vendors to understand your organization’s technical requirements. For example, are you an Apple office, or do you run with PCs? If employees need to access training on their mobile devices, are those iPhones, Android, or both?
Include your expectations for growth and whether you need the platform to scale with your organization. Finally, include questions for the vendor about data migration and security so you can choose a solution with a smooth onboarding process and strong security protocols.
What types of roles will you need within the LMS, and what should they be able to do? For example, account managers generally have full access to the LMS and can assign permissions to others.
You may also have administrators who create training content and can edit existing content. Managers might need to assign training paths or courses to learners based on their development goals. Finally, regular users simply access and complete training and don’t need to use any behind-the-scenes features.
Describe the roles and responsibilities LMS users will have so that the vendor can describe how their solution meets those needs.
It’s vital to establish and communicate critical deadlines in your LMS RFP. This ensures vendors understand the urgency and time constraints.
One of the most essential critical deadlines is your deployment schedule (more on that below), but you should also consider things like integration and adaptation, implementation, and scalability.
- Integrations and adaptation. Ensure vendors understand the importance of a seamless integration process and specify any non-negotiable deadlines for system adaptation.
- Implementation. Timely implementation of an LMS is intricately linked to your ROI.
- Scalability. Communicate the need for user training and adoption timelines within the RFP. Additionally, consider scalability as part of your critical timeline discussions. If your organization anticipates growth or changing needs, vendors should be aware of the timeframes within which the system must be adaptable to accommodate these developments.
Expected deployment schedule
Vendors need to know your expectations for rolling out the LMS in your organization. If you want to move quickly, you need an LMS that’s easy to implement immediately.
Knowledge Services struggled needed to deploy a solution as soon as possible for their L&D program. With the Learning Cloud from WorkRamp, they launched Knowledge Services University, and within a month, they had 46 prebuilt courses imported and an average of five course enrollments per employee.
Laying out your deployment plan and critical deadlines will help a vendor understand what resources they may need to devote to helping your company onboard and begin training your team.
The second half of the RFP is the vendor response. First, have the vendor share some basic information about their company. How long has it been in business, how many people are on the team, and who are their primary customers?
Next, list the specific functionality you need. Remember to focus on what you want to do rather than how it’s done because different solutions have different approaches.
As you describe the features you’re looking for, group them into categories. Decide which functions are critical, important, and nice to have. This can also help you score the vendor answers you receive—you can assign a heavier weight to critical features, a middle weight to important ones, and a lower weight to nice-to-have functions.
Next, make a list of technical features that are essential for your organization, such as API support, SSO and other security features, and more.
Ask the vendor what their implementation plan would look like and who from your organization would need to participate in each step. You can also ask if they have any customer training to help your organization get the most out of the solution.
Finally, ask the vendor to outline the budget you’d need for their platform. This should break out the cost of the LMS, implementation or migration, training, technical support, and updates.
Best practices when using an LMS RFP
Using an LMS RFP can help streamline the process of choosing training software, but only if it’s designed well.
These best practices will help you create a thorough RFP and get the necessary information to make a knowledgeable decision.
Give yourself and the vendors enough time
An RFP outlines the information you need to compare options and make the right decision. That means it’s important to build enough time into the RFP process for vendors and your team.
Vendors need time to answer the questions, and they might need to contact your team to get clarification on parts of the RFP. A timeline of at least four weeks gives vendors time to complete the RFP. Consider setting a specific week that your team is available to answer vendor questions well ahead of the RFP deadline.
Once you receive the answers, give your team time to carefully review and compare answers. You can create a scoring system or rubric to help your team determine which LMS is best for your organization.
Prioritize which features you need
All features are not created equal. Understanding which features are the most critical, depending on your goals is vital.
For example, you might prioritize a platform that can meet multiple learning needs, from customer education to employee training. When you can use the LMS for multiple types of training, you’ll get far better ROI.
Ensure your scoring metrics for the RFP include weighted scoring so that solutions with your top priorities stand out.
Make your RFP as detailed as possible
The more details a vendor has about your company, training needs, goals, and current tech stack, the better they can do at answering the questions in the RFP.
Also, vendors with solutions that don’t meet your needs are less likely to spend the time answering the RFP, simplifying the decision-making process.
Ensure it reflects current status and future business goals
An LMS is a significant investment in budget, time, and creating new processes to ensure you maximize the value. That means it should meet the organization’s current needs and future goals.
An LMS that can scale with your company can help you with current training needs and the programs you implement as the company grows. For example, you might not have a customer education program now, but this may be something you develop in the future.
In creating the RFP, keep current needs and future program goals in mind.
Have clear evaluation criteria
Knowing how your company will evaluate the RFP is essential for vendors and your team.
Vendors can showcase features that mean the most to you, and your team won’t waste time debating which details are most important.
It’s best to involve stakeholders in creating clear evaluation criteria, including weighted scoring that emphasizes crucial elements and how written responses within the RFP will be evaluated.
Know your budget
Finally, knowing your budget is vital because it will be a deciding factor in which solution is best for your organization.
Is there flexibility, or is it a fixed number? What budget do you have for a monthly fee vs. one-time implementation and data migration?
An RFP will include a line about your budget, but you may need to get a more formal pricing proposal from your top choices to ensure everything will fit your budget and timeline.
Choose the best learning management system
A learning management system can help your organization create a culture of learning, provide development opportunities for employees, and even retain users through customer education programs.
However, to reach those goals, it’s essential to choose the right platform. The Learning Cloud is an all-in-one LMS that can scale with your organization and address multiple learning needs, from sales enablement to employee development to customer education.
Discover how The Learning Cloud can support your training needs, contact us for a free, personalized demo.
Complete the form for a custom demo.
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Anna SpoonerFreelance Writer
Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action.
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