Blog Post

How to Make the Business Case for an LMS

Dave Sliwinski
October 11, 2023
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Workplace education typically begins with individual training initiatives to fulfill immediate customer education needs. When it’s time to grow with more scalable learning content, like eLearning videos, courses, and help articles, a learning management system (LMS) helps education teams deliver cohesive educational experiences for learners with different goals.

As an education program manager, you understand what an LMS can do for learners—but getting company stakeholders to see its business value can be challenging.

In this article, we’ll share ways you can make a business case for an LMS, along with examples and a template to help you get all company stakeholders on board.

Consider All Company Stakeholders

Depending on the size and stage of your company, customer education is likely not the only department educating an audience. Stakeholders on teams like customer success, partner enablement or partner success, and professional services have different needs and ways to benefit from an LMS platform. 

Anticipate desires, concerns, and reporting needs by considering all applicable stakeholders below.

Executive stakeholders

Your executive stakeholders might meet with a customer advisory board and be uniquely privy to customer education desires. But at the end of the day, an LMS’s cost-effectiveness and impact on revenue will be the primary concern. 

Consider the following additional executive priorities:

  • Increasing operational efficiencies and scaling the business
  • Improving employee onboarding, engagement, and retention
  • Lowering training costs while enhancing training efficiency and productivity
  • Improving customer onboarding and reducing churn

Marketing teams

When it comes to the value of customer education for marketing, your marketing team will be interested in how an LMS gates content for lead capture, any SEO capabilities it has, and how they can connect learning activity to CRM data. 

When it comes to gating, they’ll look for something that has flexibility to partially gate content—meaning it’s possible to see some content without logging in, but to continue learning, the user must log in.

The product marketing arm of the team may want an LMS to support product enablement.

Customer success teams

An LMS offers Customer Success (CS) teams a way to measure learning effectiveness and inform training improvements that help customers reach their goals. 

A CS team may want access to a system that allows them to:

  • Assign learning to customers
  • Track how many customers are enrolled
  • See which customers are engaging with education content or earning certifications

Sales teams

The sales team is going to be focused on how an LMS can help them generate more leads and educate potential buyers. If you’re familiar with customer education programs like HubSpot Academy, you can use education to teach prospective customers about your proprietary methodologies and product before they buy. 

IT teams

IT teams will be evaluating your LMS based on available integrations and data efficiencies. If an LMS can help to consolidate your EdTech stack, that will also be appealing to your IT team.

Data for Making the Case

If you’re searching for an LMS, you likely have some education programming in place and have already achieved executive buy-in for customer education. Now you need the data to support buy-in for an LMS. 

You’ll want to have the following data points in your pocket:

Measures of success for your current program

If you’re asking for more budget to bring in an LMS, you need to prove the value of your current learning programs.

Data points on the benefit of an LMS

An Intellum-commissioned Forrester study found that of 300 customer education decision-makers surveyed, 90% achieved positive ROI from customer education. 

One trend uncovered was that the most successful programs were formalized and holistic customer education programs.

The study found that, on average, formalized customer education programs drove:

  • 6.2% increase in organizational bottom-line revenue
  • 7.4% increase in customer retention
  • 6.1% decrease in support costs

Another trend among the most successful programs was that training materials were provided in digestible, self-guided segments.

Using this data, you can make the case that an LMS will support your move toward a formalized education program to improve the business’s bottom line through strategic, self-paced customer learning. 

Potential efficiencies gained

A big benefit of moving to an LMS is time savings and efficiencies gained. Consider what those efficiencies might look like across team members, systems, and reporting. 

7 Tips for Building Your LMS Business Case

With those data points in hand, use the following seven steps to build your LMS business case. 

1. Understand your procurement process

You’ll want to make sure you’re building a case at the right time and involving the right people.

Some questions to ask:

  • When is budgeting season for your company? Often, this will take place in October, but each company and industry is a little different.
  • Who needs to be involved? This includes who needs to be involved in the vetting of a tool and who needs to ultimately sign off on the purchase.
  • When does it make sense to include an LMS in your procurement process? An executive sponsor can help you answer this question.

2. Make the benefits clear

Set the stage to uncover the measurable benefits an LMS can provide by:

  • Defining your objectives 
  • Aligning with each stakeholder’s objectives
  • Explaining the shortcomings of your current system (if applicable)
  • Showing how your LMS recommendation can address current problems and reach stakeholder objectives

3. Personalize to each stakeholder

Use what you uncovered in your stakeholder interviews to tailor your pitch to your audience. Speak to their specific needs, problems with the current state of affairs, and prepare to address potential questions. 

If you know ahead of time what features matters most to stakeholders, you can easily prepare for questions like:

  • Can it connect with Salesforce?
  • Is it SCORM-compliant?
  • Will the content be mobile-friendly?
  • What type of reporting is available? 

4. Prepare to overcome objections

It wouldn't be a pitch without some objections surfacing. This is your leadership team doing their due diligence! Come prepared to address common objections like the following: 

Common objection 1: It’s not worth the cost.

Implementing new software takes time and money—that’s not a secret. Your stakeholders will likely want to know: Is this investment worth it? How do you know? 

Consider ways to highlight the value and potential ROI of the LMS, like:

  • More efficient content creation and less time spent recreating content
  • Less risk of not meeting compliance regulations
  • Decreased customer and employee turnover, due to engagement and education
  • Enhanced efficiency across administration, scheduling, and enrollment
  • Fewer instructor fees, no travel or facility fees
  • Eliminated physical material costs and storage costs of materials
  • Less employee training time taking them away from their roles

Common objection #2: Our current training process already works.

It may be difficult for some stakeholders to see a need for change if it seems your current education process is working. In this case, you might want to highlight the cost of inaction (COI), or what happens if you stay with the current state. What problems persist if you don’t implement an LMS or switch to a new platform? What impact does that have on the business?

For example:

  • Customer success managers are spending time on repetitive onboarding and training, keeping them from more strategic activities on accounts
  • Trainer time is spent giving the same information over and over, instead of investing in new education opportunities
  • Customer success or onboarding managers can’t see which customers have completed training, leading to fewer trained customers
  • The absence of accurate training data makes it harder to determine which training activities are most effective for product adoption and customer retention
  • To increase the number of customers your company is serving, it’ll need to hire more trainers to deliver training (instead of scalable, on-demand training)

Common objection #3: It lacks a clear ROI. 

Executive stakeholders will want to understand how the new system will ultimately make them money over time.

To calculate the ROI of an LMS, you can look at revenue retention and growth. For example, if an LMS will allow you to train more customers, leading to greater product adoption and stronger likelihood to retain, there’s revenue tied to that. If the increased product adoption leads to expansion opportunities, there’s revenue there as well.

You can also look at time savings and efficiencies gained. Will this LMS replace and consolidate other tools currently used to schedule and administer training? Will it reduce administrative time, or free employees up to work on other activities?

With these insights, show how the LMS will directly impact the success of these outcomes. If you don’t have access to analytics that will help you answer these questions, show how an LMS helps collect and measure data to inform ways to improve them.

5. Discuss costs

Stakeholders want to know the total costs involved—not just the cost of the LMS itself, but the cost of any additional implementation services and internal resources that will be required for implementation. 

You’ll want to ask about the following to get an accurate understanding of cost:

  • All setup and ongoing monthly or yearly fees
  • Time required to learn the tool
  • Implementation fees, including but not limited to consultants, migration, storage, integrations, installations
  • Overages
  • Associated costs, like training to learn the tool, accessing tech support, or a dedicated customer success manager
  • Maintenance fees

You’ll want to consider all of these costs when you’re calculating potential ROI as well.

6. Plan an implementation timeline

It’s important to note that the amount of resources needed for an LMS purchase and implementation is often critically under-considered and causes implementations to be delayed. 

Think comprehensively about who else this implementation impacts and who needs to be involved. Consider if you’ll need support from engineers or developers, business systems architects, or IT.

Ask your prospective vendors:

  • How long does it typically take to set up and fully implement the platform?
  • How long does it take admins to familiarize themselves with the platform?

Consider the list below as you outline what needs to be done, then create your timeline with dates for each milestone.

  • Platform selection
  • Kickoff
  • Migration from current tools and resources
  • First course or program created
  • Full launch

Consider creating a visual timeline for your stakeholders to communicate the steps required to carry out the entire process. You can use this timeline to report on progress during the actual implementation.

7. Identify your top 3 LMS choices

There are a lot of LMS tools to choose from. Start by making a list of who you’d like to investigate further. You might use a list like the Top 15 Learning Systems from Talented Learning or consult a community like the Customer Education Slack Community for suggestions.

With your longer list in hand, you can start evaluating platforms. We recommend working with your stakeholders to define which features and functionality are most important to your LMS needs. You can use this list to evaluate platform features and functionality against your company’s needs. 

As you narrow down your evaluation, a request for information (RFI) document can help. An RFI is a document sent to vendors with specific questions about their product capabilities and services. Your team defines which topics are most important to your LMS needs and asks a question to find out how the tool meets your requirements. 

The following are examples of what to look for in an LMS

  • Learning paths: “Can I bundle courses within learning paths that are intuitive and easy to navigate?”
  • LMS reports: “What sort of pre-built reports and visualizations do I have within the LMS? Are they actionable?”
  • E-commerce: “Can I sell training courses?”
  • Content authoring: “Does your LMS integrate with content authoring tools for an inline experience?”
  • Customization: “Can I white label the LMS?”
  • Personalized learning recommendations: “Can I customize the in-app experience based on custom user data?”
  • Integrations: “Do you integrate with our other platforms (CRM, HRIS, Web Conferencing, Data Warehouse)?” 
  • Data extraction: “Can I easily extract data from the LMS to use in my BI tool?”
  • Authentication: “Can I use the SSO method we use with other platforms?”
  • Scalability: “Will your LMS perform as we scale to larger and global audiences?”

Important note: Take advantage of any demos, sandboxes, or free trials available for your chosen tools so you can speak to the benefits and shortcomings of each system firsthand. 

When you come to your pitch for an LMS, present your top three options. Make a recommendation of which you think works best for your business and why. Show your homework—it’s easier to sign off on a purchase when you can see it was well vetted by multiple stakeholders.

Make the LMS Pitch

Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to make the pitch. 

Follow these steps to present your pitch:

Create a proposal or slide deck for executives and stakeholders to consider the key details. Use an appendix for extra info, but focus on what’s most important in the main part of your deck. If you can find case studies on how your recommendations helped similar companies improve their education programs, include them. 

Be ready to speak to pain points and overcome objections. Prepare using the tips above.

Run through the pitch with your executive sponsor. They can help you iron out the kinks and ensure nothing is missing from your pitch.

Schedule the meeting. Invite all stakeholders who have a say in the purchasing decision. If possible, share the deck in advance to give stakeholders time to review.

Come to the table prepared with data. Now for the fun part. Here’s where you get to take all the information you collected and bring it all together to make a business case that’s relevant for each group of stakeholders. During your presentation, speak to those stakeholders’ pain points and show the value an LMS can bring to your company and learners.

Make your recommendations. Present your top three LMSs, share the costs, and highlight the features, benefits, and drawbacks of each. Let the group know your top choice and why you recommend this tool over the others. 

About the Author

Dave Sliwinski headshot
Dave Sliwinski
SVP Solutions Engineering
Dave Sliwinski has over 20 years of experience in the software services industry and managing LMS platforms and L&D programs. He joined Intellum in 2016 and serves as Intellum's SVP of Solutions Engineering, a trusted source of technical product expertise and platform best practices for clients and prospects.