What is a Training Management System (TMS)?
What is a Training Management System (TMS)? A Training Management System (TMS) is a system used to manage training activities. This system is usually software. Systems of this type are sometimes also called Training Content Management Systems (TCMS). The term Training Resource Management System (TRMS) is less common. The training activities can be those of a state educational institution (e.g. at a school or university, public or private educational institute). However, it can also be that of a private training provider or a department within a company, e.g. personnel development.
In detail: A Training Management System
The TMS supports people who use the system to manage training courses and the associated data and information in their tasks. Some of these tasks have to be done digitally in the system or the digital representation of activities in the “real world”. A digital process is z. B. maintaining training content for a catalogue. A process that takes place in reality but has to be mapped digitally is e.g. B. Providing equipment in a meeting room for the needs of an event.
That’s why there are also systems called “Training Resource Management System”, which have exactly this aspect in their name. Systems that specialize in training content are also called “Training Content Management Systems”. The naming after the training content sometimes creates confusion, because there are also so-called Content Management Systems (CMS) in the IT world. They even say in their name that they manage content. Most CMS specialize in providing media content such as images and videos, especially for web publishing. Of course, this can also be content that is used for learning. But in order to sensibly manage training in terms of processes, it usually requires far more information and functions than a CMS provides.
Which of these topics the focus is on depends on the type of training company. But also from its processes and how much they are already digitized or can be digitized.
A training management system functionally supports end-to-end processes
The extent of the functions of a software depends of course on the supplier. However, a commercially available TMS usually tries to map the administrative processes for the education portfolio. This contains:
- the (digital) generation of training content
- the provision of this information
- Use in the form of bookings but also e.g. information to the building services
- if necessary offsetting
- Portfolio optimization
- all possible further steps
That means it takes care of the complete end-to-end process of a training company. Therefore, a TMS can assume the meaning of an Enterprise Resource Management System (ERP) for a company.
Comparison of requirements with functions necessary
But similar to an ERP, it may be necessary to use accompanying special tools or optional modules to support this process even more specifically at strategic points. For example, through a Customer Relation Management System (CRM) (German: customer relationship management) to manage customers in a sales company.
That is why TMS are usually very good at integrating or connecting to other systems in the IT landscape. Unless they take on the tasks themselves anyway.
When doing research to select a TMS, you quickly learn how big the market is. This makes it all the more important, on the one hand, to be clear about what functions software of this type offers. And on the other hand, the company’s own requirements as to which tasks should be taken on. For example, whether you have more content to manage, more resources or whether the focus is on delivering the learning content, which in turn is the actual task of a learning management system (LMS).
Due to the focus of the TMS on the processes to be implemented, the examination of specific functions should be given high priority. In terms of design, there are variants that are rated positively or negatively depending on taste. But while the interface can be easily customized, missing functionality is less easy to add.
What do companies use a training management system for?
To the question, “What is a training management system?” The question usually follows directly, what for. Partially hidden behind the question: “Isn’t that also possible with Microsoft Excel?”. What a company uses a TMS for depends heavily on the importance and scope of the training activities in a company. In principle, a distinction can be made between two purposes of use by companies. On the one hand companies in which training processes form a sub-process, such as in personnel development or product training for customers in the manufacturing, which are usually assigned to after sales. Or companies where training processes represent the core process because the product of the company is training.
Training Management System as support for sub-processes
Small and medium-sized companies can usually still sensibly manage the training efforts for their employees with Microsoft Excel. It is also more difficult for small and medium-sized companies if they *have* to do training based on regulations. Because then they are also legally obliged to prove these training measures. This means, for example, being able to show which employees took part in which training and when – possibly even with what success. If you are subject to such obligations, the effort to ensure that all legally required training courses always take place on time increases.
Factors for the complexity in training management
How much the effort increases depends on the amount of training: the complexity increases with the size of the company and the number of employees. The number and variety of training sessions also increases the effort involved. Another factor is whether these training sessions are independent of each other or are contextually dependent. The latter increases the administrative and documentation effort exponentially. If a catalog with training courses is also to be offered, this is an additional component to be managed.
Above a certain size, the training courses are no longer created and carried out internally, but training service providers are involved. This creates additional administrative work and gives supplier management more weight. In addition, the process of selecting a training provider can usually be an interface with purchasing.
Another level of complexity arises from the management of resources. Resources in the training environment are internal and external trainers or internal and external training rooms and any physical equipment that may be required. This is particularly the case in the area of product training. The search for free capacities and the experience-based process of optimizing utilization are the supreme disciplines here. The following fact does not necessarily depend on the size of a company. In all cases – whether employees, customers or trainers – it is personal data. These are to be processed with due care. A market-ready TMS should meet this as a basic requirement. In addition, there may be co-determination bodies in companies that should also be taken into account.
A TMS functionally covers this dimension of administration. It should also be noted that these are only the basic requirements regardless of the domain of a company.
Training Management System as „ERP for training provider“
The above statements are basically also true for an education provider. However, it must also be taken into account here that the training process is the core process of the company. Accordingly, the information technology support of this process is critical to the company. It is all the more important that all expected or required functions are available in the required quality.
In this context e. g. to emphasize the commercial handling. Since training providers earn money with their knowledge, a TMS should also offer functions for commercial processes. Or – if not – be able to communicate via interfaces with the systems that take over the processing. In addition, when working with customers, the sales process is given a higher priority, which emphasizes the technical requirements in the CRM area.
These functions can also be relevant for sub-processes (e. g. in product training for customers), but not to the same extent as for a core process.
Summary of the question “What for?”
At the beginning we asked “What is a training management system?” – the answer to the question “why?” is one facet of the answer: A company must ensure that potentially business-critical processes are digitized. But in such a way that it can complete its tasks cost-effectively and time-savingly while complying with data protection principles. An additional level can be that legally required training can be proven to be auditable. For this purpose, it makes sense to select a TMS with mature processes.
Who uses a Training Management System?
Part of the question “What is a training management system?” is also who uses it and how. Beyond the question of which companies use a TMS – as seen in the previous chapter: both companies that have training as a core process and companies in which training is a sub-process – there is also the question of which roles and positions people play in a company companies that use a TMS.
Before this question, however, there is an even more detailed definition of which companies use a TMS and how.
What kind of company deals with a training management system and how?
Training management system for training employees If a company creates a TMS, e. g. B. due to its size and the number of its employees, it is usually used in the human resources or HR department or a sub-department assigned to it. The objective is then to ensure that the company builds up or keeps up to date the skills among existing employees that it will need for the future.
A special form arises when employee training is primarily driven by regulations (e. g. in aerospace and aviation, pharmaceuticals and medicine or in the financial sector). In this case, there are additional processes such as the preparation of audits and reporting obligations, which a TMS should meet.
In the context of IT networking, this usually means a connection to HR systems and use via the intranet.
Training management system for training customers
If a TMS is used for training for customers, this often has a sales character, as mentioned before. In this context, commercial issues must therefore be taken into account.
In the context of IT networking, this usually means a connection to CRM and ERP systems and use via the Internet.
Training management system for training employees and customers
In individual constellations – especially in the area of product training – both employees and customers or external employees (e. g. in free sales) are trained in the same system.
The complexity begins here with the variability of the source systems (HR and CRM) via billing (internal billing models combined with commercial processing processes mostly via ERP) access via the Internet and intranet. There are also procedural questions as to whether there are joint or separate pools of training. Whether employees and externals are allowed to take part in the same event and much more.
Asked from this division: So who uses a training management system?
The following are the roles and positions in the company that use a TMS – Administrator:in is actually self-evident and should always be planned for when introducing an IT system and is actually only listed for the sake of completeness. The roles of product manager and organizer are the absolutely classic roles in the system. The other roles depend on external criteria such as the size of the company and the function of the system in the company; are therefore only relevant under certain conditions.
Depending on the size of the company, administration can be divided into functional and technical administration – or remain combined in one role. This primarily means the administration of the system, which – depending on the system – is required via programming and customizing or is made possible by the TMS provider. The scope of the administrative tasks can differ significantly depending on the TMS and in consultation with the supplier.
In the case of training for employees, this strategic task usually falls under the leadership of the HR or personnel development department; in the case of product training, this can be portfolio or product managers. However, those responsible for quality can also be affected by regulation.
You are responsible for ensuring that the training courses meet the needs of the company and the regulations and that they address and reach customers on the open market. You need to analyze how the needs and the market are changing and adjust the portfolio of training content.
Regardless of the type of company, these people are entrusted with the operational business. You maintain all the necessary data for training events, make bookings and, if necessary, settle accounts.
Depending on the objective and the division of tasks, it may be that trainers themselves are responsible for maintaining individual content or descriptions in the system. Then you need corresponding functions.
If agreed accordingly, a co-determination committee will also have access to the TMS, but this is only relevant when training the workforce.
If the system has commercial relevance, it may need to be used by different stakeholders in the process.
Who doesn’t use a training management system?
In order to make the distinction from other systems even clearer, here is the list of users who *do not* use the TMS. Depending on the software product and the functions of other systems that it offers, it is possible that they work in your software product, but according to the definition do not use TMS functions.
Probably the most confusing piece of information if you haven’t read our differentiation of TMS vs LMS. But the learning, delivery and use of the content is part of the learning management system. Certainly nobody offers a TMS without at least rudimentary LMS functions and vice versa no LMS without at least rudimentary TMS functions. Accordingly, learners then use LMS functions and not TMS functions.
To create an eLearning, authors used an authoring tool. An authoring tool may or may not be integrated with a TMS or LMS.
Summary of the question “Who?”
Initially we asked “What is a training management system?” – the answer to the question “Who?” is another facet of the answer. A TMS must support the roles that a customer already knows during the requirements phase – and therefore needs after the introduction of a tool – in their tasks.
The number of bookings of a training provider is a metric for evaluating the success and the scope of a learning activity. During their lifecycle, bookings permanently have a status, so that reports on bookings always allow precise information about activities and results.
Functional list of a Training Management System
So what belongs on the list of functions of a TMS? As already described, this depends very much on what exactly needs to be solved for a task.
Accordingly, there are functions that simply cannot be missing, no matter in which context of use.
But there are also a number of functions that are optional because they depend on whether or not they serve the business model and the task.
The absolute must-haves:
What every software should have:
First of all, there are must-haves that also apply to *any other* software. These are:
- a roles and rights concept with which you can control functions and data views
- a data security concept – part of which should also be a deletion concept that customers can adapt to their requirements for GDPR compliance
- the ability to create/use interfaces to other systems
- Traceability functions to be able to track what happened before in the event of malfunctions and errors.
These things are simply assumed by many customers. They are all the more shocked when a provider doesn’t have a solution – sometimes not even concepts! – is available for this.
The core functions of a training management system:
These are the features that define a TMS and therefore *must* be there
- Catalog management: Structuring and sorting of the training products or learning content for later display in the LMS
- Product management: Maintaining learning content and presenting it clearly, is sometimes also called course administration or course administration.
- Event management: necessary if the training is not fully digitized, but training with trainers is also being carried out. In this case, appointments must be planned for trainers and learners to come together.
- Booking management: Book, rebook and cancel participants on the products – i.e. all operational activities related to participation
- Cost management: Management of the costs of individual training elements, such as daily rates for external trainers, travel expenses, room rental and more.
- Participant management: Administration of the data of organizations (internal e.g. departments – external e.g. companies) and people (participants)
- Trainer management: Management of the data of training organizations and trainers as well as their skills
- Communication processes (e.g. mail traffic)
The usage-dependent – and therefore optional – functions of a training management system:
When used as a tool for internal training:
- Interface for employee data: Depending on which HR system is responsible for which data, this interface must potentially function bi-directionally. It should be able to be expanded from manual to fully automatic, which depends on the capabilities of the TMS and other HR software.
When used as a tool for training with regulations:
- Qualifications management: Mapping the current knowledge and skills of learners and planning the knowledge and skills to be achieved
- Authorization management: This represents the transition from “learning” to “doing”. For particularly critical tasks, tests may be necessary. For each task to be assigned, the TMS checks in real time which employees have the necessary qualifications for the task. Only these people are then systematically authorized to take on this task.
When used as a tool for external training:
- Interface for customer data. Interfaces can come from a CRM or ERP or can also be maintained directly by the customer himself when using an online catalog with a registration process.
- Registration management: If customers can register externally manually, the quality of the data stocks usually still has to be ensured by checking.
- As an alternative to a CRM interface, CRM functions can also be available in the TMS.
- Revenue management: Administration of revenue per booking or event. If necessary, also a comparison of the costs.
- Order processing:
- Internationally, order processing in the B2B environment is basically the same: the customer’s request is followed by an offer from the supplier. If the customer confirms the offer, an order confirmation follows. An invoice will follow before, during or after the (training) service has been provided. Depending on national law, individual steps may be omitted (e.g. in Germany for online sales the re-sending of an offer – especially in the case of digital content that buyers can consume ‘immediately’). A TMS should be able to map this process in a documented and legally secure manner. Ideally, individual steps should be optional in order to be able to react flexibly to variants in the requirements.
- In B2C business, the requirements for this process differ more internationally. In Germany, it is particularly important to pay attention to the GDPR regulations and, especially in the case of digital content, to take into account the right of withdrawal in distance contracts.
When used as TRMS – i.e. with a focus on resource management:
- Resource management:
- Maintaining the various resources such as trainers, rooms or physical equipment
- suitable functions to manage, such as a resource planner
- Absence or non-availability documentation
When used as a TCMS – i.e. with a focus on content management:
- Content management: Functions for the central creation of content (from images to videos to PDFs and in the context of learning also eLearning) and for global use.
When used in larger teams with division of labor:
- Internal collaboration tools:
- Generate lists to process
- Tasks/to-dos with forwarding and substitution regulations etc.
These are functions that are only required in very specific constellations. There is sometimes also dedicated special software for them, which can be purchased in addition to a TMS and should then be integrated via interfaces.
- Does your company have its training activities e.g. B. according to departments or is it a group with subsidiaries? It can then make sense to divide the system into clients for various reasons.
- A client can then only see and use a section of the overall data. Depending on the capabilities of the software, a client can also offer different role and rights schemes or even a different range of functions.
- If your trainers and/or participants are accommodated in a hotel, managing these external hotel rooms is enormously helpful
- If you even manage your own overnight accommodation capacities, room/bed management makes sense
- There is special software for these functions – called “hotel management software”. Due to its specialization as individual software, this is usually more powerful than a solution integrated into a TMS. However, you then use two systems and two data pots. These must be connected to each other via manual or digital interfaces in order to have correct/same information everywhere.
- If you end your training with a certificate of achievement, your LMS should offer functions for the exam. On the other hand, the TMS should also be able to show the success of the learner in a booking
- When checking an IT system, it is important to distinguish whether it is “physical” or can be done digitally. Because in the first case, the results have to be entered manually in the system; the system cannot issue any information about success or non-success beforehand. Digital exams lead to a result that can be evaluated immediately by the system itself and then leads to an automated conclusion (e.g. certificate).
- There is dedicated software for exams called “exam software”. Due to their specialization as individual software, these are usually more powerful than a solution integrated into a TMS. However, you then use two systems and two data pots. These must be connected to each other via manual or digital interfaces in order to have correct/same information everywhere.
- The German dual training system – unique in the world – can also be meaningfully integrated into a TMS. You can map the training plan, block periods at vocational school and practical phases and map assignments to departments and supervisors. There is dedicated software for training management.
- Due to its specialization as individual software, this is usually more powerful than a solution integrated into a TMS. However, you then use two systems and two data pots. These must be connected to each other via manual or digital interfaces in order to have correct/same information everywhere.
- In order to operate a TMS that can also be used internationally, there are a few technical requirements and functions that must be in place. On the one hand, this includes the possibility of displaying several languages and therefore being able to maintain them in the TMS.
- Some foreign languages require a completely different character set, which on the one hand has to be able to be processed technically, but on the other hand has to be planned conceptually in order to prevent the barriers between cross-border teams.
Short comparison: Training Management System vs Learning Management System
If you sum up the direct comparison between a training management system and a learning management system, the phrase “two sides of the same coin” probably sums it up best.
What you create administratively in the TMS is delivered via the LMS. But a pure administration tool (TMS) makes little sense without the option of displaying it. But a delivery-focused tool (LMS) would be of little value without an administration component. LMS and TMS are therefore complementary, their focus is opposite in the sense of: support of the administration (TMS) vs support of the user (LMS), but complement each other perfectly to form a whole.
This overall picture also makes it understandable why the term LMS has emerged as the generic term for both systems on the German market. Because even in markets where the terms TMS and LMS are differentiated (e.g. the US market), there is practically no software tool that does not have components from both.
So how should you decide which tool to buy?
That depends very much on the requirements that you have for the tool. The strengths of TMS clearly lie in administration. This definitely makes sense for companies that have a lot to manage: many training products, trainers, rooms, physical equipment, face-to-face appointments.
It also makes sense for companies in which training is the core process, simply because administration is one of the business-critical processes and should therefore not be too weak (in the sense of: “TMS as ERP for training providers”).
An LMS focus is far more relevant for organizations that have little to “manage” other than any number of digital training sessions. This reduces the administrative effort considerably – and makes the delivery all the more critical.
Short Comparison: Training Management System vs Learning eXperience Platform (LXP)
A direct comparison between a training management system and a Learning eXperience Platform shows that an LXP works additively to a TMS. Especially if the TMS already offers good LMS functions. Especially in this case, the LXP can take over the remaining/missing functions and take on the cooperative, personalizing aspects.
The aim of such a tool cooperation would be the democratization of the educational process, with the TMS offering the learners the content pre-planned by L&D or HR and the LXP the mix with UGC (user-generated content), third Party content (German: content from third-party providers) such as e. g. YouTube, LinkedIn Learning etc. enriched. In this way, the company can combine a mixture of legally required or strategically relevant content together with acutely necessary content for learners.
Accordingly, the choice at this point is usually not an “either – or” but an “as well as”.
However, the important question is whether you need all of these options (read our article: “What is an LXP?”, in which we also provide a list of functions). If you only need some of them, the question is whether you need your own tool or whether you can find this function in a TMS.
Short Comparison: Training Management System vs Learning Record Store (LRS)
When comparing a training management system and a learning record store, one quickly notices an overlap: namely in storing the information of things that a learner has already trained.
However, an LRS claims not only to save the information of the company tool for this list, but also e.g. B. also from third-party providers, on the one hand to offer the most complete educational history possible, but on the other hand to provide the largest possible basis for analysis purposes.
Based on this data z. For example, an LXP shows how existing knowledge, interests and inclinations can be combined in order to personalize the educational offer in such a way that the learner gets good suggestions.
This raises the question to what extent an LRS offers added value to a TMS. It is certainly a good basis when using an LXP – although even then the information in a TMS can potentially be sufficient.
Here it is important to weigh up the value of an additional tool.
Finally: Development of Training Management Systems
Historically, training management systems were used as early as the late 80’s and early 90’s. The development started in the context of HR suites. These software systems tried to bundle all the necessary functions for the HR department in one software in one system.
With growing appreciation of employee development, the demand market grew, but with the increasing development of technology, so did the supply. In addition, special tools that offer concentrated expertise for a dedicated problem (e.g. authoring tools) also want to conquer other markets after securing their niche and develop functions around their tool that also map TMS or LMS.
When the CBTs (short for “computer-based training”; German: Computer-based training) increased in importance and became much more freely available through the Internet and cloud technologies under the meanwhile more widespread term eLearning, the market got a further boost.
Last but not least, the COVID-19 pandemic has given digital and online learning another boost.
Gartner currently (as of 07/2023) lists around 400 LMS for corporate learning. The comparison platform Capterra, which also belongs to Gartner, lists 1,219 LMS products globally and still 50 for LMS from providers based in Germany. On closer inspection, however, some are not equipped with the extensive functions to also be considered a TMS, while others are entire HR suites.
In general, companies that offer a TMS on the market often follow digitization and gradually develop their TMS with additional functions to mature LMS. It is therefore reasonable to assume that LXP and LRS functions will also find their way into TMS (and LMS) over time.
It is all the more important to be clear about what kind of software or tool you need to meet your own requirements and then to make an informed choice.
Is cimoio a Training Management System?
After you have found out what a training management system is, you naturally want to know: is cimoio a TMS?
To put it bluntly: we see cimoio as a system that fully integrates TMS and LMS. We will go into more detail on what this means for us in an article that will be published later. You can currently find our point of view on this in our article on “What is cimoio?".