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Is Outsourced LMS Administration Right for Your Organization?

Jan 19, 2021

Is Outsourced LMS Administration Right for Your Organization

Learning management system administration is a big job.  

The skills, time, and effort it takes to manage the system may surprise newcomers to LMS implementation. During the evaluation and selection process, attention is on what the technology will do, not how it gets done. 

A new administrator may have a bug-eyed look of apprehension when an LMS is about to “go live.” The scope of responsibilities can seem enormous. 

Fortunately, LMS system vendors provide training and resources. The vendors we partner with have extensive libraries of online resources and customer communities, where you can get training and answers to your questions. 

Even with all that support, it can take months or years to become fully proficient.

What do LMS Administrators do? 

A sample list of responsibilities follows for an LMS administration team comprising an Administrator and team lead, a Technical Consultant, a Learning Analyst, and a Reports Specialist. In a large organization, you may have several of some—or a radically different structure. 

Every organization is unique, so this example may not be appropriate for your organizationYou may even have only one person managing all these functions. 

General Administration 

  • System maintenance 
  • Internal support system setup and maintenance 
  • System security 
  • User roles and security 
  • Learner support: Logins, system navigation, user status 
  • Resolving issues in configuration and infrastructure 
  • Trainer support 
  • Support services for customer or partner training 
  • Mobile settings 
  • Vendor management 

Reporting 

  • Report needs analysis 
  • Report creation, generation, and delivery 
  • Adding, updating, and purging reports 
  • Dashboards 
  • Report Naming Governance 

Learning 

  • Adding, updating, and removing training assets 
  • Enrollments 
  • Assisting learning staff with course management 
  • Recognizing and resolving issues in course design 
  • Managing internal and external learning delivery methods 
  • Maintain personalized learning paths 
  • Gamification settings 
  • Certificate management 
  • Adding, updating, and removing training assets 

Technical 

  • System setup (with implementation consultants during initial setup). 
  • System configuration changes.
  • Resolving technical issues internally or with vendor support.
  • Evaluating, testing, and managing updates.
  • Database maintenance.
  • Third-party integrations.

Structuring Your LMS Administration 

What skills, roles, and people you need to manage your LMS  administration depends on many factors. We’ll try to cover some of those considerations here to give you some structure in approaching the decisions. 

Can LMS administration be a part-time role? 

Some companies find that their resources can’t handle the LMS admin and another primary role. At times, like during a system update, the LMS can require constant attention for hours or days at a time. You run the risk of critical tasks going undone. 

In a small company with few internal learning needs, it may be possible to have one person handle it as a part-time function, but you wouldn’t want that person to be the only one who can(See the next question.) 

Do I need an LMS administration backup? 

We subscribe to Harold Hook’s Mack Truck TheoryAnyone can be lost to the organization at any time. It doesn’t need to be a permanent loss to be disruptive. What if your only administrator goes on parental leave next week? 

How do I know how many people I need to manage my LMS? 

We approach that question on a case by case basis. It would be easy if the only considerations were location and headcount, but the complexity of what you do, how critical it is to your business, and whether you have regulatory training requirements also figure in the analysis. 

Now that most organizations have adjusted to remote work and support in one way or another, the location may not be a deciding factor. 

Your users may not be tolerant of long delays in getting support. Imagine that you have worked hard to arrange your schedule and get some quiet time to finish a training course, only to discover you can’t log in. 

Should I outsource LMS administration? 

Hiring a managed services provider or an application maintenance contract (AMC) to handle some or all of your LMS administration could be a smart decision. Still, you shouldn’t make that leap without understanding and balancing the risks and benefits. 

Benefits of outsourcing include: 

Availability. You can have a dedicated administrator and support resources 24/7 or only during your operating hours, as you choose. You can eliminate worries about staff turnover over and leave. 

Expertise. Access to skilled specialists in every facet of your specific learning technology, plus a vendor with expertise in learning and development strategy, design, and delivery. If your staff is not up to your high standards or you don’t have the people to manage your LMS, you have a good reason to investigate an outsourcing agreement. 

Predictability. You will have a service agreement (SLA) in place that defines the terms of your service. Make sure your SLA includes all the services you need, including organizational changes and shifts in priorities. 

Lower Cost. It can be much less costly to hire a managed services provider, and your costs are predictable. Here are the salary costs for the roles we mentioned in our discussion about skills. 

LMS Administrator $56,128 – 72,813 Average: $63,393
Learning Technology Specialist $52,718 – 71,314 Average: $71,376
Learning Analyst $59,416 – 72,901 Average: $66,219
Reports Specialist $55,197 – 69,242 Average:$62,284


Training
. Your L&D staff will get training on managing each of their roles and responsibilities. 

Managed Updates. The right vendor will anticipate system updates, test them against your configuration and business processes, and prepare you to take advantage of new features. 

Data Management and Integrations. A vendor will be well-trained and experienced in data integration and data migrations, with the technical expertise to make any change smooth. 

Increased Adoption. Many customers find they enjoy greater adoption of their LMS and learning initiatives because of improved service for their people. 

Potential risks of  outsourcing are: 

Control. You may feel that you are losing control over your training, even if it is not so. A managed services relationship is not “set it and forget it.” Do business with a company that values your business, meets with you regularly and anticipates your needs. 
Data and Proprietary Information Risk. Data and information losses are rare, but even so, you must guard against those risks. Ensure your vendor has a trustworthy operations security plan and infrastructure and can back up a confidentiality commitment. 
Risk of Additional Cost. Ensure you understand what is covered in your SLA and the cost of services outside the agreement. 
Interruption of Service. What would happen if your vendor suddenly lost its cloud services? What if they went out of business? Make sure you always have an exit plan and access to your data in a secure backup location.  

Choosing the right solution for your LMS administration deserves as much attention and selecting your LMS itself. Assess the benefits and risks before you make a decision, and be sure you can change your plan when it is appropriate for you. 

Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.

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