So, you’ve decided your company needs a new learning management system (LMS). Whether you are a tech company with software development knowhow, or an enterprise company confident of your ability to create a new solution, your C-suite and IT teams will likely be facing a common dilemma: should you implement an existing platform available on the market, or develop a custom solution to meet your specific needs?
Whether you decide to build or to buy LMS software, there are benefits and downsides to weigh up. Cost, convenience, compatibility and the capacity to manage the platform are all key considerations.
But if you think building an LMS is the way to go, think carefully.
In this article, we’ll examine the case for and against, building an LMS. We’ll also explain how you can buy an LMS and still tailor it to your unique needs—at a fraction of the cost and hassle of building in-house.
The pros and cons of building an LMS
If money were no object, and you had all the time and knowledge you needed, building the perfect LMS could seem like the ideal solution.
But the reality is, building enterprise software is a huge undertaking, no matter how big your budget, or how much in-house software development expertise you can boast.
Before you choose to go that route, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of building a custom learning platform.
- Look and feel: It's your software and you can make it your own. Not tied to a supplier’s branding, you can offer users a consistently branded look and feel and user experience.
- Add what you need, not what you don’t: You can choose exactly the tools and features to include. You’re not paying for features you don’t want or won’t use. And you don’t need to compromise on the nice-to-have features.
- Full control: When it comes to administration and managing software updates and upgrades, you’re not beholden to third-party support. You’re in the driver’s seat.
- Lower risk: In the same way, all information and the associated risks are kept in-house and under your remit, rather than being outsourced to third parties.
- Upfront build costs: You will need back- and front-end developers, designers, quality assurance testers, and a project management team to see the process through from design to roll-out. Factoring in analysis, design, development, content creation, installation integration and testing, it will take hundreds of hours of the team’s time just to build the MVP (minimum viable product).
- Ongoing maintenance: The flipside of being in control of your LMS is that you and your tech team bear all the responsibility - and the associated costs - for managing and maintaining it. From general maintenance to ongoing updates and upgrades, from providing tech support to fixing bugs, this can all amount to 15% to 20% of the initial set-up cost.
How buying an can LMS save you time and money
Buying an off-the-shelf solution is cheaper and less time-consuming than building one. For one thing, you can install a SaaS (software as a service) LMS and get it up and running within weeks, following a supported implementation process.
For another, you’re not simply buying a product, you’re also paying for a service.
You are paying to not have the hassle and cost of all that maintenance, bug fixes updating, and tech support. Your service provider takes care of that for you.
So, how much does an LMS cost?
A cloud-based learning management system will typically include license or user fees, installation and set-up fees, plus costs for any additional bolt-on services you have opted for.
The cost of set up is dependent on the complexity of your project, but as a ballpark most companies can expect to see a range from £3,000 to £35,000.
And then license fees - which should not just cover access, but also hosting, tech support and software updates and upgrades - can range from £10 to £100 per year per user, depending on the breadth of the product and the number of users. Overall, markedly better value than building.
But what about that all-important flexibility?
For value and flexibility, buy a modular, customisable LMS
If you still need a bespoke, customisable learning solution, but the costs and commitments of building an LMS are making your eyes water, fear not.
Times and tech have changed. In the past, buying an off-the-shelf LMS or ERP meant compromising flexibility for convenience.
Today’s LMS vendors can offer flexible solutions that can be adapted to suit each user. The best modern LMS platforms come with plenty of choice for adapting to your needs and tastes. Think of it as creating an à la carte pizza with your favourite toppings instead of choosing from a set menu.
1. Choose your base
This is your core LMS platform and SaaS vendor. You’ll be relying on the expertise of your vendor to support you not just during implementation, but beyond. Who would make the best partner for your business based on factors such as alignment with your L&D methodology and strategic roadmap?
2. Choose your main ingredients:
What tools and features does your LMS absolutely need? These might include off-the-shelf eLearning, content creation and curation tools, assessment tools and reporting tools.
3. Choose your additional toppings
What optional add-ons will really engage and even entertain learners, so that they want to use it? This could be community management, skills mapping, you name it!
And the pricing is à la carte too. Learn Amp, for example, tailors its pricing based on whether you add social learning tools or performance management functions like OKRs and 1-to-1s.
For the best value-for-money LMS, buy and customise
A great learning platform goes beyond a simple off-the-shelf LMS. It gives you the freedom to choose from a menu of add-ons when and if you are ready to use them.
It should also allow you to integrate with ease into your wider HRTech stack such as HRIS and communication tools for a cohesive, all-round employee experience - without having to start from scratch.
How to find the right LMS for your business
But how do you decide which platform is best for your business?
One useful guide is the Fosway Group 9-GRID™. This compares learning systems and providers based on their potential, performance, total cost, market presence and future trajectory.
But all of this expert commentary is only useful if you are confident in your requirements. How do you know if you need an enterprise-scale HCM platform, a solid high performing L&D suite that can grow with you, or a niche specialist platform?
To help you think through all of this this, check out our guide to selecting a new LMS.
This provides a comprehensive roadmap to selecting, customising and implementing a learning platform—complete with checklists and a question bank for assessing LMS vendors.
And to find out why Learn Amp has been named the No.2 Learning System of 2023, talk to our experts.