SaaS vs Custom LMS: Which is Right for Your Association?

One of the biggest challenges an association leader can face when choosing a learning management system (LMS) is figuring out whether a custom-built enterprise LMS or software as a service (SaaS) LMS is best for them. Both options have advantages and disadvantages, so it can be difficult to decide which is the ideal system for your organization. In addition, there are a few common misconceptions about custom-built enterprise learning management systems that can make the choice even more difficult!

In this article, we’ll go over each option, as well as give you some tips to help you choose: custom-built or SaaS?

1. Customization Options

First, we’ll be looking at the main draw of custom LMS compared to SaaS LMS: the customization factor.

Custom-Built Enterprise LMS

The term “custom-built LMS” is often tossed around in association circles as a catch-all for enterprise-level learning management systems. As the name suggests, this type of software solution is custom-tailored to your organization’s unique needs and requirements. In theory, this makes perfect sense. After all, why wouldn’t you want an LMS that fits your association like a glove?

Unfortunately, in practice, things are often not so simple.

A custom-built enterprise-level software solution is a complex beast, and it can be difficult to know upfront what exactly you’ll need, or what features will provide your members with the best learning experience. Scope creep is a problem that can lead to spending money on developing features that your members/users don’t end up using.

If you build an LMS that is complex and feature-heavy, you will limit user efficiency and diminish the benefits of having it custom-made. In order to avoid this problem, it is important to carefully consider your needs and requirements before embarking on the process of custom-building an LMS. An experienced and knowledgeable vendor can help guide you through these decisions, ensuring that you get the most out of your software solution without wasting money on features that won’t be used.

Software as a Service LMS

A SaaS learning management system is a “ready-made” solution that can be quickly implemented and deployed. Modern SaaS learning management systems offer a variety of features, including content management, reporting and analytics, personalized learning experiences, and mobile accessibility. They are also scalable, meaning they can be sized to fit the needs of any association or organization.

The main advantage of a SaaS LMS is its simplicity. Users can be up and running with the software in a matter of weeks, and there is no need for complex customization that costs money and takes time to implement. Associations should focus on configuration over customization when it comes to their LMS technology philosophy.

Configuration is key when working with SaaS LMS. The user interface should be intuitive and easy to use so that users can change security privileges, page layouts, and more without any difficulty. This focus on configuration over customization allows associations to get the most out of their SaaS LMS!

2. Cost and Speed of Implementation

Comparing the cost and speed of implementation of custom and SaaS learning management systems is another way to help you make your decision; sometimes, it all comes down to the bottom line, after all!

Custom-Built Enterprise LMS

Custom-built enterprise software is significantly more expensive than Saas LMS. Many associations learn this the hard way when they invest exorbitant time and resources into building a customized LMS.

Investing in custom-built can be tempting; however, these cost-intensive programs usually require additional setup fees, maintenance costs, and licensing fees–adding up to a hefty price tag! An industry-standard custom-built enterprise LMS starts at 1 million dollars. Yikes!

The speed of implementation is also something of concern when it comes to custom-built enterprise LMS; this option will take months or even years to implement. This makes sense, of course; it must be created from scratch. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Software as a Service LMS

SaaS LMS is a much more affordable alternative. With a SaaS LMS, you pay a monthly or annual fee to use the software, and there’s usually no need to pay for extra maintenance or support. As your business grows, you can easily scale your subscription up or down to meet your changing needs.

When it comes to implementation speed, SaaS also has custom LMS beat; a SaaS LMS can be up and running in just a few weeks, leaving plenty of time to test, update, and test again! User training plays an important role in implementation; typically, a SaaS vendor will ensure your staff is trained and comfortable using the new LMS before launch. By ensuring your staff is savvy with the new system, you can avoid many potential hiccups down the road.

3. Cybersecurity

Another important consideration when making your choice is cybersecurity. You want to make sure your organization is safe and protected!

Custom-Built Enterprise LMS

It’s crucial for organizations to implement effective cybersecurity measures to protect their data and network from threats like hacking, malware, and unauthorized access. Because of this, some key steps in improving cybersecurity for your custom-built enterprise LMS include using strong passwords, encrypting sensitive data, updating online security with patches regularly, and implementing two-factor authentication whenever possible.

Additionally, it’s important to monitor your network traffic and user behaviour to identify any suspicious or unusual activity; make sure to have an incident response plan in place in case of a breach. By investing time and effort into protecting your LMS, you can help ensure the security and success of your organization!

Software as a Service LMS

With a SaaS LMS, you’re limited to relying on the security measures of the provider. While many providers take steps to secure their platform, it’s important to be proactive and implement additional security measures yourself.

Ask your SaaS vendor what steps will be taken to protect your organization, and decide whether you judge their answer to be adequate. Some of the questions you may want to ask include:

  • What type of data encryption do you use?
  • How do you protect user data?
  • What type of security measures do you have in place to prevent data breaches?

Once you’ve gotten the answers you need, you can decide whether you’re satisfied with the protection they can provide. If yes, great! If not—keep shopping until you are!

You may also like: How to Protect Your Association from Cyber Attacks

So, which option is the best for your organization? The answer to that question depends on a number of factors, including your budget, organization size, and existing infrastructure. If you’re still not sure which option is right for you, or if you have any other questions about enterprise or SaaS learning management systems, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d be happy to help you make the decision that’s right for your association!

Once you’ve made your choice, it’s time to purchase and prepare your new LMS. Then–get ready for rollout!