New Client Top Ticket Items #2: To Customise or Not… 

We have the privilege of working across a huge range of sectors and organisations. So, it’s interesting that we often find new clients asking the same questions. In this series of posts, we’ll cut across the most common challenges occupying people’s minds.

Here’s another big one: Whether to customise or not to customise your LMS/LXP…. 

Learning Experience Platforms are the glue that holds learning experiences together. Without them, blended and social learning experiences would be virtually impossible to deliver. But learner engagement relies on a seamless, clean experience. So, it makes sense to customise the platform to get the best engagement, right? Wrong. 

We regularly see customers who have reached too quickly for the customisation option without understanding the consequences for the business. It’s almost like an archaeological dig, peeling back the layers of historical tweaks that have resulted in a bird’s nest of a platform that is unstable and virtually unusable. Worse, upgrade cycles become hugely expensive and challenging—every upgrade. Be wary of vendors whose business model is based around revenue from upselling customisations. 

In one case, we set about unravelling over 120 non-core plugins along with a myriad of code customisations. When we finished, we were able to remove 50% of them while maintaining or improving learner experience, reducing expected upgrade costs by around 50%. 

So, what’s the alternative? 

  • First, don’t assume a coding solution to a learner experience problem. Often, we’re able to think creatively about the real learner/business issue and find an alternative solution just by configuring the system differently, or rethinking the business process that sits behind it. 
  • Secondly, use core plugins and third-party solutions instead—ones you can rely on to work throughout the life of the platform. 
  • Be clear about the real cost and return from customising. Figure out the total cost of customising over time (not just the development cost), and make sure it stacks up against the business benefits that will flow from it. 

If you’ve followed this process, and it still makes sense to customise, then (and only then) it’s a good decision.

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