If you lead an enterprise software training function (aka, education services team at a technology company), you probably have a learning management system (LMS) to help you run your training business. Whether you run your training business as a profit center, a cost center, or with a cost-recovery model, you do have training courses that need to be developed, delivered, and tracked. In fact, it does not matter what the business model is because a business model is unique to the needs of a business. Which ever model you choose to run your customer education function, there is a fundamental process of designing, delivering, and tracking customer training.
In most cases, an LMS is needed to do this effectively.
The problem with LMSs (even the good ones) is that they cannot address all of the needs of all organizations. In other words, no LMS can do everything. Anyone who has every evaluated LMSs would agree with this.
The question is how can one choose the right LMS when no LMS addresses all of your needs?
One approach is to simply prioritize your needs and choose an LMS with covers only your most important needs. Another approach is the App approach which says that you should select an LMS based on its core features and then use third party applications to address the rest of your needs.
I know, most people don't think is using Apps in an LMS, but most high performing customer education teams use add-on apps all the time. To help you understand these training Apps, we looked into our customer data and found the most popular apps in the enterprise software ecosystem and came up with a list for this post.
Below I describe five training services App categories used by leading enterprise software training teams.
Virtual Classroom Apps
One of the most popular apps in the training ecosystem is the virtual classroom. When it comes to offering training that is scalable but maintains the benefits of a live instructor, nothing beats the virtual classroom (properly used). Apps like GoToTraining, Webex, and Adobe Connect are the most popular. But consider others including ON24, BlueJeans to name only a few.
These apps can hook into your LMS so that when a student registers for a course, a session can automatically be created in the virtual classroom app automating that process for the student and the LMS administrator. If you do this your LMS administrator and training coordinator will love you.
If you are delivering remote training with an instructor, the virtual classroom is a must have app in your LMS.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Apps
If you sell training, you need a CRM app in your LMS. There is no getting around this. Even if you don’t run your enterprise software training function as a business, you need to keep track of your sales, and you want to send those sales transactions to your CRM. You want to do this for several reasons. First, to keep track of closed opportunities so sales and finance teams can forecast bookings and billings and revenues. This is a critical function in planning. Second, your sales team will want to see training sales transactions because many of these are possible leads for future business, whether for new product, renewals, or upgrades.
If you sell your training at any level, make sure you can use a CRM App in your LMS.
Payment Gateway Apps
If you are selling training courses on your website through your LMS, you need a way to accept payments. The must have app in this scenario is the payment gateway. If you want to accept payments by credit card, purchase orders, offer coupon codes your LMS needs to handle these services or allow you to add a payment gateway app like Stripe, CyberSource, PayPal Pro, Verisign, or Authorize.net.
Sales Tax Collection Apps
Continuing on this theme of selling training, it is important to understand that selling anything requires knowledge of sales tax collection in jurisdictions that require it. There will be some jurisdictions, including those of foreign countries that require sales taxes be collected on the sale of training courses. A sales tax app, like AvaTax from Avalara, will keep you in compliance with sales tax collection rules where ever you sell and deliver training.
Testing can be used in software training in a variety ways. It can be used in low stakes quizzes for the purposes of reviewing materials and reinforcing what was learned. Or it can be used in high-stakes certification testing, so people can demonstration proficiency and earn a recognized credential.
In either case, testing is a common app used by enterprise software companies in their LMS.
Although most LMSs have testing functionality, few, if any, have the functionality of testing services that specialize in building testing apps. Your LMS should offer the ability to add a testing apps, like Classmarker, Kryterion, and TrueAbility, so you can use your testing service of choice.
Build an LMS Knowing It Cannot Do Everything
This is a list of popular apps that leading education services teams at early stage enterprise software companies are using to run their training businesses. Next week, I will share a list of apps that are less popular today, but are becoming more critical each day. The learning management system market really is not that different from other platforms in that most companies cannot anticipate all customer needs. But what I company can do is a build a product knowing that it cannot....and allow customers to add apps that solve specific and unique problems.
One of the most popular questions I get from enterprise software training professionals relates to creating and running certification programs. The questions are either about how to write/create certification exams or what apps to use to deliver them. The answers to these questions are different for each organization. However, there is a way of creating exams that test proficiency rather than memory. It is called performance-based testing. Performance-based testing is misunderstood and underused. I'd like to change that because multiple choice tests can only take us so far.
We are running a webinar on Tuesday, October 6 to discuss what performance-based testing is and how to create them. I hope you will join. If you cannot join, sign up anyway, you will receive the recording.
Call for comments
- What apps do you use in your LMS that are not on this list?
- What app can you not live without? Why?
- What app do you wish you could add to your LMS? What would you do with it, if you had it?