Most learning professionals agree that the critical weakness of their learning management system (LMS) is reporting. In fact, a related study by Bersin & Associates determined that reporting is the number one challenge for legacy LMSs, and that nearly half of all learning professionals see it as a significant problem. 

In a training challenges study conducted by Training Industry, Inc., and Expertus, 84 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with their LMS reporting—naming a lack of standardization, integration, customization, and usability as the primary areas of discontent. However, the biggest reporting issue cited was limited or difficult access to information needed to support their business planning and strategy. 

If you’re involved in the management of an enterprise LMS, I’m sure you won’t find these statistics surprising. And if you’re getting numerous requests from executives who need complex, multifaceted reports on-the-fly, you already know exactly where the difficulties (or rather headaches!) lie.

The New Business of Learning Reporting 

Let’s face it… it’s hard to get accurate, reliable data that gives you quick visibility into the

effectiveness (i.e., the business impact) of your learning programs—let alone an understanding of where your money is going. and as training budgets continue to shrink, this functionality is becoming more and more critical to your organization’s success. 

Corporate learning is now widely viewed as a business service. So the vast majority of reporting is done for internal business customers, such as sales executives, call center managers and business unit leaders.

One VP of learning that we talked to said, “We have to move from measurements specific to training to those that are relevant to our business. Measurements, such as total learning hours, pages accessed, class registrations, completions and assessment scores have little or no value to internal customers or our business-focused learning executives.” 

Another senior director of education services concurred, “We can’t train just for the sake of training. We have to be able to answer questions about business impact. The Kirkpatrick model is a great theory, but it’s very expensive and time-consuming to get to level five. Practically speaking, you have to find a measurement system that uses what’s already in place.”

Three Inherent Flaws of LMS Reporting 

To better understand and appreciate new reporting technologies, let’s first drill down deeper into their genesis. following are the three inherent flaws of conventional LMS reporting.

Flaw #1 – Antiquated LMS Design:

  • With an old, transactional LMS architecture, reporting can create a huge load on your system and take hours to assemble one meaningful, summarized report.
  • With an old LMS database structure, desired data combinations are harder or impossible to access since this information resides deep within your transactional system.
  • With old LMS technology, your data isn’t available on-the-fly—i .e., you always need to run a report, export data, and use other tools like excel to rebuild the report. 

Flaw #2 – Limited Reporting Functionality:

  • Your system’s not intuitive; it’s hard to figure out how to get what you need.
  • You need to add third-party reporting tools (like Crystal Reports or Business Objects) that grow your costs and your solution’s complexity.
  • Your business leaders want meaningful operational and business reports, but your existing system isn’t designed to generate them. 

Flaw #3 – Poor Output Usability:

  • Your reports lack meaning in a business context and have to be reworked—costing you time and money.
  • Your reports need to be reworked because of data integrity challenges within your LMS.
  • Your reworked reports are hard and costly to repeat since they often depend on an individual’s knowledge, energy, and time to merge and massage multiple spreadsheets. 

Five Easy Fixes for Reporting That Work 

Chances are the three reporting flaws we just covered are all too familiar to you. So how do you fix them?

After many hours of discussion with the world’s top learning executives and experts, we’ve developed a list of the five easy fixes for effective training measurement: 

  • Fix #1: Use metrics that are meaningful to your customers.
  • Fix #2: Keep your metrics simple and practical, the fewer the better.
  • Fix #3: Identify all metrics upfront, not after the fact.
  • Fix #4: Communicate and explain your findings to customers and to senior management. don’t wait for them to ask.
  • Fix #5: Get the right technology! I know; this sounds fairly obvious. However, the right technology doesn’t come standard with traditional LMSs. But it does exist…and it’s ready to amend your most pressing reporting problems. 

The Right Technology 

Do you want to improve the visibility and output of your reporting system? Now’s the time to ensure you have the right technology. You’ll need:  

  • A dynamic learning platform that’s intuitive to use, provides easy data access, and leverages Web 2.0 technologies. 
  • A reporting system with precompiled procedures that are functional for business leaders (i.e., uses business language) and doesn’t require additional software licenses and training. 
  • A reporting engine that can drill up or down through a hierarchy of data to provide meaningful business and operational insights. 

Taking the Next Step 

Fulfilling what should be considered basic measurements needs is just not enough in today’s world. The challenges reach much further. At a recent learning executive think tank, CLOs noted that they were also concerned about the difficulties of measuring social learning, the need to efficiently correlate performance and learning and the technical challenges in pulling data from multiple enterprise applications, such as HR and CRM systems and other learning management systems. 

As for now, we can get to work on implementing efficient, effective and meaningful metrics to boost the success of your learning organization. And by facilitating discussions, gathering market data, developing the right technology, sharing our experiences and offering informational resources, we hope to do our part in moving the industry forward.