Are you wondering how to create an LMS RFP?
Whether you’re a school looking to get its IT department up to snuff, a big box store wanting to bring employees on board in a simple and painless manner, or a corporate office hoping to give salespeople or C-level executives the resources they need to help your company grow, learner management systems can help you get there.
But only if you choose the right one!
Luckily, an RFP is an excellent tool to help you sort the wheat from the chaff. Below we’ll talk about the main steps involved in creating one.
A Few Definitions
First, a few definitions. If you’re a company, you, most likely, already know that LMS is a learning management system, and RFP stands for a request for proposal. Let’s look a little more closely at each of these concepts.
Essentially, a learner management system is a type of software designed to administer elearning programs, training, and e-courses to a group of learners – be they students, employees, or business partners. Learner management systems also administer and document how each learner uses the system, track their progress and allow two-way communication between learner and administration.
A request for proposal, on the other hand, is a business process whereby you solicit companies to tell you why their product or service (in this case, delivery and possible maintenance of an LMS) is the best one for your company.
Why an RFP?
Wondering what this will do for you? And why you shouldn’t just pick through existing vendors and make the decision on your own?
For one thing, this bidding process allows you to tell companies exactly what you’re looking for and helps them craft a system that meets all your needs. Then you simply pick the one that is closest to your company’s needs. For another thing, when using an RFP process, an evaluation committee carefully looks over all applicable bids to ensure the winning vendor has successfully followed all requirements. This ensures less bias, more careful selection and a better LMS for your company.
Who to Bring On Board
Of course, this means you have to form that committee. Before selecting the members who will best represent overall company interests, it’s important to bring the major stakeholders on board. These likely include:
- The IT team, who will be responsible for administering the LMS to learners and possibly maintaining it, if that is not a service you contract with the vendor for.
- The procurement team, who will likely be responsible for purchasing the products and services from the LMS vendor as well as any other materials needed for successful e-learning implementation.
- Managers and executives, who will okay the RFP and the training process.
- Trainers and instructional designers, who may create the materials distributed through your LMS.
- The finance department, who will help ensure your budget aligns with the company’s vision for this year’s expenditures (as well as subsequent years, for that matter). Without their backing, your shiny new LMS won’t get very far.
Assemble your committee from these groups, as well as anyone else with vested interest in the process, for the best possible results.
Outline Your Goals and Needs
There are many different types of LMS.
- Proprietary or SaaS-Based LMS
For instance, you can either choose a commercial system, which is hosted internally on your own servers and typically managed by your IT department. Or you could choose a SaaS system, software-as-a-service, which is hosted on the LMS vendor’s servers and accessible from anywhere, not just within your building. The latter cloud-based system is often much more effective for companies with many workers on the go, for instance, because it can access e-learning content while traveling, or at home.
- Content Authoring
You can also choose between systems that allow you to create content from within the software platform, which is perfect for companies that don’t have instructional designers or other content creation experts on hand. If you do, however, then an LMS that simply tracks and distributes content, as well as enabling administrative abilities, might be enough.
- Integration with Existing System
Then there’s integration: Do you need your LMS to play nice with your currently in-use software applications, or is it okay for it to be entirely separate? Answering questions like this beforehand will enable you to craft a much more targeted RFP, one that reflects your company’s individual needs and goals
Describe Your Company, Learners and Objectives
This is subtly different from the step above. There, you were looking for physical aspects of the LMS system. Now you’re looking for aspects of the training itself. While the content of your courses doesn’t have to dictate which LMS you use, it’s always a good idea, because knowing your learners’ backgrounds will help inform the structure and administration of the course itself.
Let’s consider a few examples. If your learners are mostly high-school graduates with little to no college, they may benefit from a simpler user interface and shorter course modules. If they’re highly mobile managers and executives, on the other hand, your courses may be most effective if they combine a wide variety of content types – videos, webinars, interactive modules – and work well on phones and tablets.
Here are several other factors to keep in mind:
- Technological literacy: How familiar your learners are with technology will inform what devices you create it for, how much solo learning you can integrate, and the amount of troubleshooting you can expect.
- Age of learners: This too impacts the nature of your courses. Older learners are more forgiving of dry text, while younger learners lean heavily on interactive media.
- Objectives and outcomes: Do you want your learners to understand concepts at the end of the course? Feel confident selling a product? Operate a piece of machinery? Your learning objectives and desired outcomes make a huge difference in how the course is structured, and therefore which vendor is right for you.
- List any and all relevant information you can think of. It will only strengthen your RFP, because if you don’t tell vendors what criteria you’re using up front, you may get a whole lot of useless bids. Worse, you may get downright destructive ones, because you may start working with someone who lacks a crucial skill. Don’t let that happen.
Be clear about your criteria internally as well, and invite input from stakeholders beyond the committee.
Craft Your Proposal
It’s time to get writing. RFPs can take a few different formats, but here is an excellent one for you to model yours from. Here is another template in a slightly different format, but with more explanation for each section.
Important components include
- An overview of the entire project
- A little bit about your company, needs and goals
- Guidelines for the proposal that each vendor submits
- Scope of the project, including every ability the LMS should have
- Timeline stating when you want each part of the project delivered
- Necessary qualifications
- Evaluation criteria for the proposal
Appoint one person or a small team to draft this proposal. Too many cooks can spoil the soup; so, don’t attempt a committee-wide writing project; the result will be more hair-tearing than productive. Once you have a draft you (or your writers) feel is close, have other members of the committee look it over, first reading for content and then for style.
Below, let’s take a closer look at a few of the most important parts of the proposal.
Don’t Forget Timeline
It doesn’t do you much good to procure the perfect vendor if they’re not going to be done with the project until a year after you hope to put it in place, now does it? Therefore timeline is one of the more crucial aspects of your RFP.
Be sure to note the due date for when the vendor proposal must be submitted, when vendors will be notified of selection (or that they weren’t selected), and when contract negotiations will begin and end. You should also include dates for the completion of the initial project phase, implementation of the project and full delivery of the LMS.
Not all of your timeline needs to be reflected on the RFP itself, either. Some of that information is internal, such as:
- When you will be done writing the RFP
- When you will be done editing the RFP
- When you will distribute the RFP
- When you will select the top vendor candidates for committee review
- and any other dates of importance.
Talk Turkey Upfront
Here is another crucial aspect of your RFP. Again, the more specific you can be, the more likely you are to find a vendor you want to work with. Be very clear about what your budget is, not just for the whole project, but also for specific parts of it. Project Management Docs suggests the following breakdown:
- Project Initiation and Planning
- Market Research
- Site/Database Development
- Site/Database Testing
- Site/Database Deployment
- Site/Database Hosting
Being very clear about the amount of money you’re willing to pay overall and for each segment of project delivery will weed out weak or insincere bids and make your selection process much easier.
Other than that, all you need to do is make yourself available to vendors to ask questions before the submission date. This will enable them to craft their proposals more accurately, better representing your interests. Include a phone number and email address on the RFP so they can get in touch with the appropriate committee member or project representative.
Crafting an LMS RFP doesn’t need to make you crazy. Just follow these simple steps and you’re likely to get great results.