To Build or To Buy (an LMS) - that is the question

To Build or To Buy (an LMS) - that is the question
Overall summary / TLDR
The case for building own LMS can surely be justified for the scenarios where your learning needs are unique and an off the shelf LMS would not serve the need.
Our Suggestion
Do trial out one or two LMSs that are relevant for your industry and build your own only if you think that an external LMS does not meet your needs (and an internal one would).
Are you in the middle of deciding whether to build or buy your Learning Management System (LMS)? Below is a handy list of considerations, with some suggestions.
Customizability

Key factor to consider

  • How unique are your learning needs compared to others in your industry.

In case your organization's learning needs are extremely unique and would not be met by any off-the-shelf LMS, it makes sense to develop the LMS in-house. Do note however, that most LMS providers offer some amount of customization capabilities.

But in case you think your learning needs are not very different from other companies of your type, it would make sense to try out an off the shelf LMS first.

Time to deploy

Key factor to consider:

  • For own LMS - overall time includes time to develop, test, configure and rollout
  • For off the shelf - overall time includes time to configure and rollout
  • Off the shelf LMS is normally simpler and easier to deploy

Explanation

This is an area where off the shelf LMS clearly wins. Typically it takes a few days or a couple of weeks to get running with an off-the-shelf LMS. Building your own LMS means factoring all the time it would take for the software project and then getting into the deployment phase.

Note that the readily available LMSs that have been deployed with multiple customers would have already faced and resolved many hurdles that come with live deployment. When you build your own LMS, you will have to spend time on resolving those problems.

Cost

Key factor to consider:

  • Consider the total Cost of Ownership.
  • Budget and schedule overruns are normal in software projects.
  • Off the shelf LMSs are available in a huge price range - from very inexpensive to very expensive.

Explanation

If you are inclined to build your own LMS, think of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). It is easy to miss out on the overall costs extended over the lifetime of the product. Do factor in the time of the L&D/training stakeholders who would be providing the requirements and reviewing the project. Also be aware that a large percentage of software projects overrun their budget and schedule (see here for some stats).

Note that LMSs are available in a big price range based on the functionalities they offer. Modern LMSs are cloud based and the vendor companies have developed the software once to serve all their customers. It would not be easy to build an effective LMS cheaper than a comparable one in the market.

Technology upgrades and maintenance

Key factor to consider:

  • Is LMS software development in line with your main line of business?
  • Will you get sufficient tech team bandwidth in future for ensuring constant upgrades?

Explanation

As technology evolves, you need to continually upgrade the LMS. Also, as you learn from your deployment, you would have new feature requests. So your tech team bandwidth would be required well into the future.
For a cloud based LMS, not only are the technology updates taken care of, but the LMS provider also keeps improving the product as it is their key line of business.

If you would like to have an objective discussion with an expert on whether it makes sense for you to build or buy an LMS, please reach out to hello@nittio.com .


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