Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

Learning management systems (LMS) have become a critical tool for organizations to train and develop employees. But the process of selecting and implementing an LMS involves more than just comparing price tags. To choose the right platform, you need to understand the full costs beyond the licensing fees.

An LMS purchase should factor in customization effort, integration standards, data migration, user onboarding, and ongoing maintenance. Taking the time upfront to understand the total cost of ownership will pay dividends in ending up with the right solution.

Breaking Down LMS Pricing Models

LMS solutions come in different pricing structures, each with pros and cons:

Subscription-based: Users pay a recurring license fee, usually annually or monthly. This allows flexibility to scale up and down as needs change. However, costs can rise as usage grows.

Perpetual license: A one-time payment for permanent software access. While this avoids recurring fees, upgrades and maintenance are not included. Perpetual licensing works best for stable usage.

Pay-as-you-go: Usage-based pricing where you only pay for specific features used. Provides flexibility but can become expensive as needs expand.

Open source: The platform code is free, but organizations must handle setup, maintenance and customization. Open source works on extremely tight budgets but requires more effort.

Evaluate your situation to pick the best model. Subscription plans provide the simplest path for many organizations today. But perpetual licensing can work for those with budget for a large upfront investment and predictable needs.

Accounting for Key LMS Expenses Beyond Licensing

While licensing costs are central, organizations must account for non-monetary factors that impact the total LMS investment:

Customization. Will your LMS need modifications for specialized use cases? Unique integrations or custom branding requires IT resources and time.

Data migration. Moving learning content manually from legacy systems is slow and risky. Automated tools reduce migration effort.

Onboarding. Training employees on the new LMS and enrollments take resources. Smooth onboarding boosts adoption.

Support and maintenance. Upgrades, troubleshooting, and ongoing platform management has costs. Factor these into long-term plans.

These areas often get underestimated during LMS evaluations. But taking the time to understand requirements upfront makes for smoother implementations and helps control total costs.

Tips for Assessing Your Organization’s LMS Needs

Follow these best practices when starting your LMS search:

  • Document must-have customizations or integrations. Will you need tailored reports or connections with HR systems? Unique needs influence cost.
  • Estimate user counts for now and future. Plan for both current and projected learners so you can scale appropriately.
  • Set a realistic budget range. Weigh one-time licensing versus ongoing subscriptions against needs.
  • Identify necessary security and compliance factors. Industries like healthcare have strict standards that not all LMS support equally.
  • Outline preferred training approaches. Do learners need mobile-friendly or offline access? These options can drive costs.

By doing your due diligence gathering requirements in advance, you can zero in on options that best fit your budget and avoid unexpected costs down the road.

Getting Employee Buy-In for Maximum Impact

Selecting the right LMS is step one. You also need users fully on board to achieve the desired business impact. Employees are more likely to adopt new tools when:

  • They are involved in the process. Engage teams to understand pain points and how an LMS can help.
  • Leadership publicly endorses the change. Employees look to executives to model buy-in for major initiatives like an LMS rollout.
  • Peer collaboration is encouraged. Facilitate social sharing and learning, so colleagues can help each other navigate the new system.
  • Recognition keeps participation active. Highlight and reward teams and individuals embracing the LMS for knowledge sharing.
  • Training is structured around roles. Customize onboarding based on each user’s needs instead of one-size-fits-all.
  • Quick wins build momentum. Identify some easy initial activities on the LMS – like setting up a profile – to get people comfortable.

With the right level of communication, training, and support, your organization’s learners are primed to take full advantage of the new LMS capabilities.


The LMS selection process involves more than comparing vendor price tags. It is imperative to account for customization, deployment, onboarding, and the ongoing care and feeding of the platform. Taking a holistic view of expenditures in terms of time, human resources, and hard costs leads to picking the right solution optimized for value.

With clear requirements gathering, realistic budgeting, and engagement strategies focused on user adoption, your LMS investment will pay dividends for years to come. The platform becomes a hub for continual learning and development across your organization. Approach LMS evaluation as a strategic investment in your people, and you will maximize the benefits for both employees and the business.

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