Last updated: 29.11.17

Can outdated learning technology do your business more harm than good?

As with all facets of life, it's easy to get stuck in old habits when running a business. Getting an organisation up and running is a difficult, painstaking task, so it's understandable that many bosses prefer to keep things running as they are after a while, citing the old adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

However, this kind of thinking can backfire badly when it comes to technology, a field characterised by such a rapid pace of evolution that standing still for even a few months may result in your company getting left behind. When that technology is used to administer as vital a function as learning and development - itself a constantly changing market - then a failure to stay ahead of the trends can do your organisation serious damage.

As such, it's important to regularly review the status of your company's learning technology and decide honestly whether it's still fit for purpose. It may be what you're used to, but if you stick to what you know for too long, it can end up holding your entire organisation back, rather than improving its performance.

The risks of using outdated technology

Many of the potential risks of persisting with outdated auditing tools or learning management systems (LMSs) are the same as those associated with the long-term use of any piece of software - the longer you use it, the more likely it is to turn from an asset into a liability.

The older a piece of software is, the likelier it becomes that it will be susceptible to data loss or security breaches, as older platforms tend to be updated less regularly by the vendor. Users of antiquated platforms also frequently run into compatibility difficulties, as they find the newer systems and devices they purchase are not able to interface or exchange data with older software in as seamless a way as they would expect.

Bosses should also remember the negative impact that such outdated platforms can have on their workforce, as old or faulty technology can create a significant impact on efficiency and morale, especially among workers who are used to using the latest, fastest technology at home or in previous roles. This last point is particularly crucial, as it also hints at how ageing systems can harm your attractiveness as an employer.

Missing out on the latest learning technology innovations

For these reasons, being lumped with out-of-date technology can be harmful regardless of which departments are affected, but there are numerous reasons why this issue can be particularly damaging to learning and development teams.

Of the various IT innovations employed by businesses, the LMS is among the longest-established, with the earliest LMS tools rolled out in the early 1990s. This means this technology has evolved considerably over the last 20-plus years, with older models now lacking many of the features and benefits that more modern tools can provide.

Whereas traditional LMS platforms were relatively inflexible and monolithic, with little responsiveness to user feedback, the newest LMS offerings are highly connected pieces of software providing all manner of open collaboration and sharing tools, in-built analytics capabilities, and the ability to be accessed from any device at the learner's convenience. Persisting with an outdated model means missing out on all of these benefits.

Moreover, learning and development strategies require frequent updates by their very nature, as it's vital that training courses are constantly amended to keep pace with the latest policy changes and compliance issues. If your LMS isn't able to service these needs, there's little doubt that it will be doing more harm than good.

Deciding whether to upgrade or replace your existing system

If your in-house learning technology is starting to show its age, it's therefore essential that you make a priority of investing in a new solution at the earliest opportunity.

In some cases, it may be sufficient to invest in modular upgrades that address the key weaknesses of your current setup in a targeted manner; in other instances, a complete replacement might be the better option. This will allow your company to make a fresh start with a new off-the-shelf system that's built to cater to modern industry standards, or alternatively a specially-tailored bespoke solution that addresses the current needs of your organisation, rather than those of five years ago.

By taking these steps proactively, you'll be able to make sure your company is yielding all the benefits you expect from its training activities, and that your learning and development systems will be helping to reduce costs and increase productivity - not the other way round.

Summary: Organisations need to make sure they regularly update their learning technology if they wish to avoid being held back by outdated systems that are no longer fit for purpose.

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