I've launched a few LMSs in my career. And I've heard about many, many, more implementations. In my early days you really had no choice but to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, on a hardware/software solution supported by your internal IT department. But that all changed with cloud technologies and the massive shift towards Software as a Service, or SaaS, systems. And it's been no different for learning management systems.
With your LMS hosted in the cloud you eliminate massive overhead, and headaches. There are very few reasons left too not move your LMS into the cloud. If you've decided to make the move into the cloud, then you need start planning your launch.
There are many many factors that go into your launch plan. More than I will discuss here. But there are 2 strategies that I want to highlight: The Big Launch, and The Slow Rollout. Of course there are many others, and nuances to each. Hopefully these ideas will give you some basics to think about.
The Big Launch!
The basic idea of a Big Launch is that you load all courses, define learning paths, upload all users, assign access types, define teams, and maybe even "skin" the interface, BEFORE launching the LMS. It doesn't matter how big or small your business is. If you've decided that you need an LMS, then you're big enough to plan a formal launch. But keep in mind a formalized launch will require more resources committed to your success.
It may sound like overkill but with a big launch you need to treat it like a marketing campaign. If you're not familiar with marketing campaigns then just remember 3 things: communicate, communicate, and communicate more. The key to your success will be an extensive communication plan. Did I mention communication? And then one last thing: communicate!
A big launch will also require some change management skills. In a big launch scenario you may be migrating from an old LMS to a new cloud based system like Litmos. Or you may be launching your first LMS and so even the concept of an LMS may need to be explained. There are many change management strategies, and theories, you can discover on the internet. If you have some time, brush up on the basics.
If your big launch is for internal employees then you will also need to define your organizational structure. You will need this to define the type of access granted to each employee. You may have defined this already, but make sure to figure out how your org structure will match up with how the LMS structures user access. Or as you'll read below, you could just figure it out as you go.
And my personal favorite which is much less formal: The Slow Rollout. Actually the name only implies the possibility of a less formal launch plan. You could most certainly have a very formal, structured, strategy for implementing a slow rollout. I only assume a more informal approach as a contrast to the more formal issues discussed already.
This launch strategy offers the highest level of success if you have limited resources. For example, if you are a one-person training team. The basic idea here is to do a quiet launch of the LMS and then publish courses, load users, define learning paths, etc. only as needed. If you will allowing employees, partners, and customers to self-register then this strategy is also a good choice. It gives you the ability to provide courses, and learning content immediately as it becomes available (immediate value to the business), instead of waiting for a launch strategy to be defined.
The slow rollout is often more about publishing courses then about launching the LMS itself. I've launched an LMS in a day loaded with the modules for the first course, and invited users to take the course. It wasn't perfect but it gave me valuable data and feedback that I could use to prioritize next steps. This may not be an acceptable approach if your corporate culture is less tolerant of change/ambiguity. In smaller, newer companies, employees become accustomed to new systems going live regularly with little or now warning or communication. There is no right or wrong answer here. You will know best what your corporate culture will accept...or you'll find out soon enough.
The Best Launch Strategy is Up to You!
As you've been reading I'm sure you've been thinking about all of the other options. Ideas of mixing and matching the 2 strategies. Or even a completely different strategy because you can't see either of these working for you. As with most large projects, you will no doubt forget something during your planning. It happens. Don't sweat it. This is one of the benefits of SaaS based systems. You can make changes and updates as you go with no hardware concerns, or new last minute hardware purchases, adjusts, configurations, etc. Everything you need is in the cloud and the basic setup and configuration options are easily available to you as the administrator.
Whether you choose The Big Launch! or The Slow Rollout! a combination of both, or something completely different, I can assure you that moving to a SaaS based LMS will be the best decision you ever make.
Have you recently launched a cloud based learning management system? I'd love to hear about your experience. #TellLitmos @Litmos.