Recently, Lance Simon, Blue Sky eLearn’s Senior Director of Business Development, was joined alongside George Duarte Lopez, Blue Sky’s Integrations Manager, and Liam O’Malley, Blue Sky’s Vice President of Association Solutions, to explain LMS-AMS Integration and discuss the three most common AMS-LMS integration options.
An overview of technical terms and technology concepts regarding LMS-AMS Integration:
- An Association Management System, or AMS, is the system of record for all data concerning your users, your members, your non-members, your prospects, or anyone that you’re interacting with and delivering benefits to
- IMS: Integrated Management System
- CRM: Customer Relationship Management, your user record management. AMS and CRM are often used interchangeably, due to being fairly similar terms.
- The Overall Integration structure is the primary integration: Integration with a member database
- Any valuable data to store in the AMS system allows you to read the information regarding your users such as authentication data, member active or inactive, product purchases, and financial transactions
What are the three key elements that we talk about with LMS-AMS Integration?
- Single Sign-On (SSO)
Integration #1: Single Sign-On
What is SSO?
The purpose of single sign-on according to Lance Simon, "is for your users to have one less username and password to forget." But the official definition is as follows: "SSO is an authentication scheme that allows a user to log in with a single ID and password to any of several related, yet independent, software systems."
Why is it important?
- Users: One less username/password to forget makes it easier for your users – users don’t need to look up another password, don’t need to remember different logins
- Enterprise security concerns: The more passwords users have, the increase in access points they have to different systems; this equals more points of failure you need to support and manage
- Support: Reduction of support calls
- One Place: The centrality of your member database system and website: Users believe they are getting the benefits of all the systems under one umbrella
- Branding: Branding the experience to your organization creates a seamless user experience, as if the organization created the system themselves.
The terminology you may hear with SSO:
All methodologies provided below are for achieving token-based SSO:
- Token-Based SSO: When a user attempts to authenticate, a token is generated, and then that token is either accepted or denied by the platform. This takes place in order to authorize the user to access the appropriate content that is available to them based on the system that they’re authenticating through.
- SAML/IDP – Security Assertion Markup Language/Identity Provider
- Oauth/OpenID Connect (Okta): Open Authorization
Important questions to consider with SSO:
- Are all users (members/non-members) in your AMS?
- Do you have a large set of seasonal workers or flex-members?
- Are you moving to a new AMS in the near future?
- Are all critical AMS profile fields accessible?
Integration Concept #2: eCommerce
What is eCommerce?
eCommerce (i.e., purchase) integration is the synchronization of purchases between the AMS and the LMS. The AMS is the “system of record” in which the shopping cart, checkout, and financial transaction take place. Purchases may be reflected immediately in the LMS or upon the user’s next sign-on. The product catalog (descriptions and pricing of courses, webinars, etc.) may reside either in the LMS or the AMS.
Why is it important?
- Bundle related non-LMS items with LMS items for purchase
- Pricing flexibility for members, students, non-members, etc.
- Centrality of your member database system and website
The terminology you may hear with eCommerce:
- PCI Compliance: Payment Card Industry compliance is, in essence, the digital version of not leaving people’s credit card numbers around on your desks.
- SSL: SSL security is a web-based browser security (it stands for “Secure Sockets Layer”)
- Payment Gateway: The payment gateway is who actually processes your transactions. If the AMS is owning the process, it’s going to be through the AMS’s payment gateway rather than through the LMS’s payment gateway
eCommerce: Important Questions to Consider
- Where is the best place for your catalog?
- Do your users purchase multiple eLearning items at once?
- Do you sell discounted bundles/packages?
- Do you need to support Purchase Orders, Bulk Orders, Phone Orders?
Integration Concept #3: Writeback
What is it?
Writeback is the process of transmitting activity completion records (courses, webinars, other activities) from the LMS to the AMS.
Why is it important?
- Users: Users can view their CE completions on the AMS/Website
- AMS reporting/analysis can use completion data
- Completion records can trigger actions in other systems: Marketing automation platforms and marketing campaigns, as well as, intelligent segmenting on who’s attended a webinar or who’s engaged in a course as a badging system
The terminology you may hear with writeback:
- Immediate vs. Batch Writeback: Immediate writeback is when the action actually happens versus doing it hourly, nightly, or weekly. Whichever method works best for your particular setup needs to be accounted for, and the data needs to be reviewed.
- Triggers: What actions can we actually send back? What are the things that we can pull out of the LMS to do the writeback?
- Value Formats: Value formats are the values that we can write along with that object when we write it into the AMS. What are the destinations in the AMS where we are writing this?
Important questions to consider:
- What information is most critical for AMS writeback?
- How do you want to use the writeback data? User profile? Reports?
- Do users have an activity record on your website?
- Do other AMS-connected applications need access to writeback data?
The webinar concluded with a live software demonstration of an LMS-AMS Integration, using a Path LMS™ site that’s integrated with the Fonteva system. Our presenters walked through the three components of an LMS-AMS integration.