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How to find the right system for your training management needs

December 17, 2018

Ready to take the next step in purchasing a new management system for your training business? Before diving into the endless sea of options, you need to identify what your specific needs are and make sure you find a system that fits.

First things first

LMS, SMS or TMS? By the time you start building a list of potential products, you should already be well aware of the differences between these three system types and the functions each can offer your business. Most commercial products on the market are actually a hybrid of two or more systems, compiling the most in-demand industry functions into one multipurpose solution.

However, what might be important to another training business isn’t necessarily important to you, so when considering pre-packaged options make sure that your necessities are included.

This is where things get tricky because it can be hard to find a truly end-to-end solution with everything you could ever want or need. With that being said, it doesn’t mean you should make sacrifices—even if you have to be the Goldilocks of management systems until you find the one that’s just right.

Many software companies offer customisable products where you can pick and choose which functions you need. Custom work is often expensive, so make sure you prioritise your must-haves and save the nice-to-haves for whatever is left over from your budget.

Bonus Tip: Never opt for a product based solely on a cheap quote. Compromising for the sake of your bank account will ultimately come back to haunt you in the long run when you discover that the system cannot handle all the tasks you require of it.

Choices, choices

Your management system should be a means to renovate and improve your overall business model. It should expedite processes in every department—not just AVETMISS reporting—so include leading staff members (especially your IT administrator) on the decision-making process.

Here are some basic questions to kick-start your investigation:

  1. What software applications do you currently use in each department to complete tasks?
  2. What are the apps’ strengths and weaknesses?
  3. How easy is it for staff members to use these applications?
  4. How thoroughly are the applications used?
  5. In each department, what tasks are done manually using spreadsheets, documents, or files on servers? (This includes letters/reports/certificates that must be repetitively done by hand.) These are tasks that your current systems can’t perform.

When researching management software providers, continuously refer to your list of requirements and stick with them. Embellishing your wish list as you consult your colleagues doesn’t hurt either! Just remember to prioritise the critical items, keeping them separate from the nice-to-have. Other points to consider:

Return on Investment (ROI)

You can calculate how much return to expect from a system purchase by comparing its initial costs against benefits like saved time, improved business performance, and an increase in clientele. In other words, determine how much time you could save automating a process that is currently performed manually and multiply that by the number of times the process is performed each year.

User-Friendliness

Staff, students—everyone needs to be able to use the chosen system without needing an expert to guide them every time they log in. An overly complex program would be counterproductive to your goals.

Compliance and AVETMISS Reporting

This may seem obvious, but if your RTO is not ASQA-complaint or there are issues with your reported data, then your organisation is at serious risk. Finding a system that can properly compile and report your AVETMISS data—as well as a provider who can advise you through the process—is an immeasurable advantage.

Integration

Perhaps you’re relying on multiple systems to carry out business processes (i.e. a separate finance system). In that case, some good advice would be to find out if a potential system has the ability to integrate with a pre-existing system. If it can’t, you risk the possibility of redundant data entry or other issues that might arise from out-of-sync systems.

Data Migration

If you need to switch from a pre-existing LMS, SMS or TMS, ascertain if your data can be migrated to the new system. Otherwise, you might have to re-enter all that information—a tedious process!

Web-Based or Self-Hosted?

If you’d like to be able to access the system and your data from anywhere, then web-based is the way to go. Data hosted on a web-based server is usually kept by the service provider, so be sure to ask about how your data will be stored and maintained.

Self-Editing Capabilities

Can you as the user make edits to information in the system? While most service providers these days allow for self-editing, there are a few who insist upon handling information changes themselves. This can be consuming and even costly if there are fees involved.

Fees and Contract

What is included in the purchase price and what will cost you extra? Also, what payment plans are available? This can be a deal breaker if you’re working on a tight budget since an upfront cost could be a huge setback for your business. Finally, what provisions are made in the contract about cancellations and refunds? Can you get your money back if you’re not happy with the product?

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Time for a test drive

With these points to guide your criteria selection, you should be able to cull down the list of potential providers relatively quickly. After that, you’re ready to start test-driving different options to see which one best fits your RTO!

Most system providers offer a free trial of their product or will happily give you a live demo. If you go with the latter, have a list of your questions and concerns ready so that you can better understand what the system can do for you.

Bonus Tip: Asking for case studies is also a good tactic – that way, you can get an idea of how organisations similar to yours have implemented the system under review.

Lastly, before making a final choice, ask around your network to gather reviews and opinions about the system you’re considering. Just as you wouldn’t hire a new employee without doing a reference check, don’t hire a new management system without first inspecting its track record with similar organisations in the training industry. Discussion groups for training professionals on LinkedIn are a good reference point, or you can ask the service provider themselves for testimonials from previous or existing clients.

Purchasing a new management system is a momentous occasion for any training organisation, and it can be an expensive investment, depending on the needs of the individual business. You should never rush the process; set aside ample time and consideration to ensure that you reach the right decision. Incorporate the opinions of your staff members, especially those who will be relying on the system the most, and ask industry peers for recommendations or reviews of products that have performed well for their business. You want to make sure it’s the right fit for you!

Most importantly, be firm about the must-haves on your list, though it may be tempting to make concessions for your budget’s sake. A system that meets every demand of your training needs will more than compensate for any initial costs, and you’ll end up spending less than if you choose a less-than-adequate but cheaper option now, only to have to replace it again later on.