Should You Outsource Your Learning Platform?

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Empanda has been supporting an outsourced digital learning platform since 2017.

This came about almost by accident, when one of our clients needed to host a learning programme that we had developed, and we realised that our internal system could be more. Since then we have learned a great deal, evolving our service to support a growing variety or organisational needs. 

Part of this process is supporting the most important, up front question of all: Should we outsource? Or, should we invest in our own LMS? The right answer to this question varies, depending upon the organisation, or even the part of the organisation. 

Companies are Rushing to Implement Digital Learning Platforms

As we enter 2021, we are seeing a growing number of organisations rush for the outsourcing answer. Why? Well, it is the need, the need for speed. Many training programmes have been disrupted since March. Face to face training  was stopped dead in its tracks. As we wake up to a brave new year, we are looking to deliver with immediacy. We desperately want to support our people and get back on track fast. 

More haste, less speed.


Take a Structured Approach to Enable a Good Decision

Considering whether to adopt an outsource solution or do it yourself is an important decision. Changing your approach later is costly and will slow your progress. At Empanda, we believe that it’s vitally important that we onboard clients that are an authentic fit for an outsource model. To support this process we’ve distilled our thinking into a very short diagnostic that can help to set you on the right path. 

First let’s consider three key options: 

  • Keeping it completely in house
  • Technical platform outsourcing
  • A managed digital learning service

Each of these options has its own unique benefits and disadvantages. 


The Internally Owned Learning Management Solution

Whilst an inhouse solution ensures best control, it also requires the highest level of skill and knowledge. It also puts an onus on ongoing development and maintenance. Clients can find themselves in protracted negotiations for budget and IT support, often competing with other business functions that are more directly aligned to revenue. Large organisations often benefit from an internal LMS because it integrates at a very deep level with wider HR systems such as recruitment, talent management, and performance management. Owning the system can be the best way of meeting onerous IT compliance and data protection requirements. Success Factors, Workday, and Oracle’s Peoplesoft solutions have heavyweight functionality and performance. They are likely to be the right answer if you are trying to manage thousands of learners. The holy grail in these situations is integration. 


Transparency and connection is more than sharing real time data across systems; it’s about skilled training needs analysis, collaboration with wider business stakeholders, the constant stewardship of a multitude of requirements, and reporting; understanding whether your  learning programmes are working to deliver your critically needed business outcomes.

The slow and steady pace of evolution can be frustrating, but these are very big ships.



The Pure Technical Cloud Based Solution

For other companies, a best in class pure digital solution is the right answer. Often the companies that opt for this have a strong digital culture. The company conducts an analysis of the LMS platforms available where they check features, performance, and cost and then subscribe. This generally works well when there is a good skill blend available in the learning and development team, combining technical, authoring, and facilitation skills. These solutions trend toward an environment where learning can be largely digital because employees have high IT literacy, good internet access, and access to ICT equipment. It is particularly effective for remote and office based businesses where learners are high functioning and motivated to succeed. Modern LMS features such as gamification and devolved content authoring are more evolved in bespoke cloud training platforms, adding value to fast-paced companies that want to take an agile approach to learning. 

The capacitated, fast, innovative organisation will flourish with a pure technical outsource.



The Managed Digital Learning Service

For companies that are doing a transition toward a more digital learning approach it can be best to consider a managed digital learning service. This is especially the case where the business does not have a complete blend of inhouse skills across technical, authoring, and online facilitation. It can also be of benefit where there is a large body of content to be developed. The benefit of a managed service is that the technical aspects of the learning platform are managed for you, mitigating a learning curve. Your business gets to focus on it’s core educational strategy, needs analysis, learner engagement, and performance. 

A managed digital learning service can also offer the benefit of scalability by offering authoring resources, including instructional and graphic design, which can be applied when needed. This also helps when there are  fluctuating learner volumes, allowing the learning facilitation process to expand and contract as needed. 

The rapidly evolving organisation that seeks to compliment its skills blend benefits here.



How to Consider Whether an Outsource LMS Will Work for You? 

Most of our clients go through the process of developing a business case for outsourcing. This is a great precursor to planning the change. It helps to align internal stakeholders, build commitment to the approach, and ensure that the required budget and resources are in place. 

A business case can address key questions like how to optimise cost, manage legacy systems and course catalogues, nurture the right internal skill blend, define resourcing volumes, and scope how innovation should be paced. It can also provoke core questions about your learners, their needs, and what it takes to motivate for performance and engagement. 

We have taken these considerations and blended them into a short diagnostic that considers three important questions: 

  • Is our learning platform core to your business?
  • Do you have the internal blend of skills and competencies you need?
  • Does your organisation have a managed learning services mindset?

We hope that this can offer you useful insight on your journey. 


Click here to go to the diagnostic



We’d Love to Connect With You

If you are intrigued by the managed services option, or if you are seeking advice on another pathway, we’d love to hear from you and would be happy to chat further. We have significant experience supporting clients across all three options in both the private and public sector. 

We find that our commitment to conversations about innovation pathways keeps us sharp, fueling our passion for educational strategy that translates into solutions that help our clients to engage, enable, and evolve learning pathways.


Christy Hunter-Chapman, CEO of Empanda

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