One of the main purposes of your learning management system is the automation of tasks. Does your learning management system “talk” with other enterprise data systems? If not – you’re missing a golden opportunity to maximize your return on investment and minimize your data entry tasks. Integration of your LMS with other key business systems can greatly increase efficiency.
Even if you aren’t in the process of acquiring or changing LMS providers, consider the benefits of integrating your LMS with other systems.
IT & Central Authentication
Many information technology departments use a central authentication service (CAS), commonly known as “single sign-on”. This keeps your users from having to remember separate user ID’s and passwords. If a user is currently signed on to the network, the computer passes that information to your LMS. If a user is not signed on, they are directed to the CAS page; once they log onto CAS the proper user information is passed to the LMS.
There are other types of authentication that can be used as well. If you’ve logged into a site using a Google™ or Facebook™ password, then you’re using a form of central authentication. One strength of central authentication is that the end application (your LMS) provides a seamless transition for the user. With the implementation of CAS best practices, this can also be a very secure solution.
Payment, Accounting & Finance
Does your training center charge for training? If so, integration with a payment processing service such as PayPal should be high on your list. In today’s world, people are fairly comfortable using a trusted payment processor. By using a processor, your potential customers may be able to pay using more payment methods as well (such as BillMeLater™ or direct bank draft). Another benefit is that you never actually have or see the customer’s credit/debit card numbers – reducing the potential for security breaches. Most payment processors store common payment methods to expedite checkout and transaction processing, which can improve customer experience.
For larger training centers and systems that support corporate universities, consider integration with your internal accounting and budgeting systems. Do you have a single department that occupies a disproportionate number of seats for every training, relevant or not? Many training groups use an internal charge-back structure for training taken. Your LMS should integrate seamlessly with any internal accounting systems, whether QuickBooks™ or a legacy system.
Many LMS system administrators work with employee data daily. Adding new hires, updating job titles, or applying training requirements to individuals takes valuable time. Integration with your human resources information system (HRIS) can automate some of the manual entry tasks. Take the new employee – when they are entered into HRIS, he or she can have the appropriate information populate into your LMS. How much easier would it be if a job change was processed automatically, and the new role’s training requirements populated?
Information that can come from your HRIS might include:
- Employee name
- Telephone numbers
- Job title
Integration with HRIS should be done in a manner to maintain the security of information. Your LMS should not open a “back door” to payroll or other personal identification information. Be sensitive to your human resources professionals concerns, and be willing to address them.
Your LMS vendor should be well-versed at integration with other systems. When talking with your vendor:
- Know what products your company is using in these other areas. Provide details on version, release dates, patches, etc. Many web-based software products use application programming interfaces (API’s) to communicate information between programs. Providing detailed information on the products you are using helps your LMS vendor identify opportunities for integration.
- The more customized your other systems are, the more complex and costly an integration can be.
- Move toward integration in steps. The tools and methods to implement CAS are fairly standard – many vendors include single sign-on with the purchase. Identify simple integrations and document performance or efficiency improvements to help justify more costly integrations.
- Integration between systems that are used daily can be a challenge. Use “sandbox” sites and test during non-business hours. Expect there to be hurdles. Ensure each system is backed up before testing so that you have the ability to revert to a known working configuration.
- Always test software updates and patches before applying them to the live site, to ensure integration processes aren’t affected.
Integration is a great way to reduce manual entry and ensure your data is current. Once the integration is complete, little to no maintenance is required. The process is a great opportunity to build relationships with other groups in your organization.