Solve stakeholder challenges and gain buy-in for new learning technologies

December 14th 2020 | By Morten Bonde

There are two major challenges  when you start introducing modern learning technology in your organisation: proving value to stakeholders who own the budgets, and developing buy-in from stakeholders who have no or little interest in quality user experiences and user-led learning.

Don’t ignore the challenges, and don’t try to solve them by showing flash new systems. This solves nothing. Instead, bear in mind that a technology selection process will only be successful when everybody gets behind it. Those who are concerned often work in IT, Risk, Security or Finance, and it is their responsibility to keep their company safe.

So how do you overcome the challenges whilst at the same time selecting a technology that works for both the users and the business? It can feel a bit chaotic at times, but by no means is it impossible. However, it does get a whole lot easier if you follow a good methodical process.

Thanks to Kenny Temowo for his article about the things he wished he knew before becoming a consultant, which inspired me to share some insights based on my own experiences as a learning consultant.

1. Secure business sponsorship

Let’s face it, without senior sponsorship your technology selection project will capsize at some point. Over the course of time new organisational challenges and problems arise and priorities change. You will need somebody with influence to fight your corner when this happens.

2.  Gather requirements

Typically, companies start their requirement gathering process by speaking to IT or compliance. This is (not always, but often) where dreams die. Instead, why don’t you speak to those who will actually use the technology? Your key stakeholders are the users, their managers and the learning designers. Once you have an idea about what you need, speak to IT and find the best way of integrating or cloud hosting new technology.

3. Write specifications

Translate the requirements into functional and non-functional specifications. List and group these in a spreadsheet, and add columns describing the priority, quality of the UX, and also a one for adding up scores. Agree the priorities with your key stakeholders.

4. Market research, RFI and RFP

Carry out some initial market research to get an idea about which platforms meet most of your requirements. Update your specifications if needed. Use Google, or get inspiration from reports from for example Gardner, Deloitte or Fosway. Take a deep breath and reflect on the vendor ratings whilst considering things like influence and marketing budgets. Then make a choice and narrow your search to a few technologies. Invite the vendors to respond to an RFI/RFP and arrange a product pitch. You can generate the RFI document based on the specifications you created – just take out the score and priority elements.

5.  Sandbox/light-touch test

Now, if you during the end of the previous phase suspect that a great sales pitch might not translate into an easy to use platform, ask the vendors for (sandbox) access to the technology. Invite a few key stakeholders to help you test these and use the specification score sheet to take notes and calculate scores for each functionality grouping. This allows you to compare the technologies. At the end of this process you will find that one or two stands out.

6. Detailed pilot and testing

It is crunch time! This is where you get most of the information for your business case and develop a groundswell of user support. Ask IT to test integrations, security and hosting. Support your learning professionals with developing pilot learning program(s) and gather their feedback on things like speed, ease of use, support from the vendor etc. Finally, ask your users to test the platform and the learning programs. Gather their feedback online and via focus groups. If it is a social platform, get them to contribute to the program by sharing their own content and engaging the other users etc.

7. Business case and platform selection

Analyse the answers from the previous phase and complete a technology recommendation in a business case. Unless you have been really fast, it is likely that politics and challenges have changed since the project kicked off, so get help from senior stakeholders and the business sponsor to position it. Bring the complete business case to the decision makers and get the approval.

8. Implementation

No platform is a success until it has been implemented. This takes a lot of effort and time (seriously, this can take years). So have a clear plan, include the key points in the business case, and start executing. This really is a topic in itself, so if I get enough requests, I will share some insights in a later blog


Worth considering

Throughout the process, remember to use the platforms as they are meant to be used! There is a VERY BIG difference between the functionality and design of LMS/LXPs built for informal or formal learning vs. comms (portal/intranet) vs. social platforms vs. AI/ML content curation and recommendation engines.

At the moment there are no systems that can deliver on all of the above, so if you need functionality in several areas, you will have to select multiple tools.

This article was originallly publishd by Morten on LinkedIn on February 7th 2019.

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