Should I Buy or Build my next Microsoft Teams LMS?

Selecting the right Learning Management System (LMS) for a company already using Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams involves critical decisions. This post will enhance your understanding of whether to buy an off-the-shelf LMS solution or build a custom one, with a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of each option, including integration with Microsoft 365, cost implications, and time investment.

Buy vs. Build: Understanding Your Options

When considering a Learning Management System (LMS) for integration with Microsoft Teams, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons of buying an off-the-shelf solution versus building a custom one. This choice significantly impacts factors like cost, customization, integration capabilities, and time to deployment. Here's a brief overview to help you understand each option in a nutshell.

1. Buying an Off-the-Shelf LMS:

A quick and reliable solution with pre-built features, ideal for immediate deployment needs.


  • Quick deployment: Ideal for urgent rollouts.
  • Professional support and updates: Ensures continuous system optimization.
  • Pre-built features and integrations: Access to a range of ready-to-use tools.
  • Scalability: Easily adapts to growing organizational needs.


  • Less customization: May not meet all specific needs.
  • Ongoing subscription costs: Recurrent expenses can accumulate.
  • Limited integration flexibility: May not perfectly align with existing systems.
  • Dependency on vendor: Reliant on external support for major changes.

Choose If:

You need a rapid, reliable solution with standard features and can manage potentially high, recurring "per user" costs.

2. Building a Custom LMS:

A fully tailored system offering complete control, suited for specific organizational requirements and long-term benefits.


  • Tailored to specific organizational needs: Meets unique requirements.
  • Full control over features and data: Complete autonomy over the system.
  • Long-term cost benefits: More economical over time.
  • Enhanced security: Customizable to your security standards.


  • Higher initial development cost: Requires significant upfront investment.
  • Technical expertise for maintenance: Needs dedicated IT support.
  • Longer development time: More time before deployment.
  • Risk of over-customization: Can become too complex to manage.

Choose If:

Your organization requires a highly specialized system and can invest time and resources in development and maintenance.

3. Using Power Platform for Custom Development (No Code)

A budget-friendly, customizable option within the Microsoft ecosystem, perfect for moderate needs without extensive coding.


  • Lower development cost: More budget-friendly than full coding.
  • Easier to modify and maintain: User-friendly for non-technical staff.
  • Rapid prototyping and deployment: Quicker to market.
  • Direct Microsoft integration: Seamlessly works within the Microsoft ecosystem.


  • Limited by platform capabilities: May not offer all desired features.
  • Potential scalability issues: Might not suit very large enterprises.
  • Dependency on Microsoft ecosystem: Limited to Microsoft-compatible tools.
  • Limited third-party integration: May not work with all external applications.

Choose If:

You want a cost-effective, Microsoft-aligned solution with moderate customization. If you'd prefer to build your LMS with the Power Platform, why not take a look at our in-depth Workshop training: How to Build A Custom Learning Management System (LMS) With The Power Platform or our Power Platform LMS step-by-step guide in this series.

4. Thrive Apprentice with WPO365 and WordPress:

A cost-effective, feature-rich platform leveraging WordPress's versatility, ideal for those seeking a balance of functionality and affordability. Learn more.


  • Very cheap: Lower overall costs compared to the ther options.
  • Rich feature set: Wide range of functionalities.
  • Easy integration with Microsoft 365: Smooth user experience with SSO.
  • Extendable to thousands of other workloads that WordPress supports such as public-facing CMS.


  • Requires WordPress management: Needs specific expertise.
  • Requires knowledge of the Thrive Page Builder to design customised courses.
  • Reliance on plugins: Dependent on third-party tools for extended functionality.
  • Hosting considerations: Needs reliable hosting for optimal performance.

Choose If:

You’re looking for a rich-feature, budget-friendly LMS with manageable maintenance requirements.  

Making the Decision: Guiding You Through Your LMS Choices

Selecting the ideal Learning Management System (LMS) for your organization is a pivotal decision that often brings a mix of anticipation and apprehension. Each option carries its own set of benefits and challenges, and it's crucial to weigh these against your organization's unique requirements and constraints. Let's address some common concerns and guide you towards making an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs.

Balancing Practicality and Aspirations

  • Cost Considerations: Budget constraints are often at the forefront of this decision. While off-the-shelf solutions may initially seem economical due to lower upfront costs, recurring subscription fees can accumulate over time. On the other hand, custom solutions, including Thrive Apprentice with WPO365 and WordPress, while potentially higher in initial setup costs, can offer more control over ongoing expenses.
  • Urgency vs. Customization: If rapid deployment is your priority, an off-the-shelf solution might be the way to go. However, if your focus is on a system tailored to your specific needs and integration requirements, then a custom-built solution or a platform like Thrive Apprentice could be more beneficial, providing a balance between customization and ease of use.
  • Integration and Familiarity: Seamless integration with existing systems, particularly Microsoft 365 and Teams, is a key factor. Solutions like Thrive Apprentice with WPO365 excel in this area, but it's important to consider the depth of integration offered by off-the-shelf options as well.
  • Future-Proofing Your LMS: Consider not just your current needs but also how your chosen LMS will scale and adapt as your organization evolves. Flexibility and the ability to customize are critical factors for long-term viability.

Addressing Your Key Concerns

  • Overcoming Technical Hurdles: Concerns about the complexity of implementing and managing a new LMS are valid. Off-the-shelf solutions often require less technical expertise, while platforms like Thrive Apprentice offer extensive community support and user-friendly interfaces for those with some technical background.
  • Security and Maintenance Worries: Security is a non-negotiable aspect, especially with integrations into systems like Microsoft 365. While custom solutions can offer robust security features tailored to your needs, off-the-shelf solutions also prioritize high security standards, albeit with less customization.
  • Where does your data live?: There's also the consideration of entrusting third parties with hosting and managing your data. Many solutions will require access to Azure AD permissions, raising questions about trust and data sovereignty. It’s vital to assess the credibility and security protocols of these providers to ensure your data's integrity and compliance with your organization's policies. Although WordPress also brings your data into it's own databases, you can self-host WordPress in your own Azure Tenant or using a trusted partner like Kinsta.
  • Meeting Diverse Feature Requirements: Are you worried that an off-the-shelf solution won’t have everything you need? Customizable platforms like Thrive Apprentice offer extensive features and the flexibility to add specific functionalities, but many off-the-shelf solutions also provide a comprehensive set of tools to meet a variety of learning needs.

Conclusion: Empowering Your Choice

Ultimately, the decision hinges on finding the right balance between cost, convenience, customization, and integration. If budget and rapid deployment are your primary concerns, an off-the-shelf solution may be the best fit. For those prioritizing specific functionalities, integration with Microsoft Teams, and long-term scalability, a platform like Thrive Apprentice with WPO365 and WordPress offers a middle ground, balancing customization with user-friendliness.

Consider your organization's immediate needs and future growth, the technical resources at your disposal, and how the LMS will integrate into your existing ecosystem. The right choice is the one that aligns most closely with your organization's unique learning and development goals. Stay tuned as we explore the setup and capabilities of these various LMS options, providing you with the insights you need to enhance your organization’s learning journey.

This majority of this series will focus on setting up an LMS using Thrive Apprentice, WP0365, and WordPress, providing a detailed guide on creating a cost-effective, feature-rich, and integrated learning environment with Microsoft 365. Stay tuned for an in-depth exploration of Thrive Apprentice and its capabilities in our next post.

Are you interested in learning how to build an LMS with the Power Platform?

If you'd prefer to build your LMS with the Power Platform, why not take a look at our in-depth Workshop training: How to Build A Custom Learning Management System (LMS) With The Power Platform or our Power Platform LMS step-by-step guide in this series.

Would you like to learn how to roll-out an enterprise-grade an LMS with Thrive Apprentice?

If you don't have Power Platform Skills on your team then you should definitely skip to this section in the series to learn how to build an LMS using Thrive Apprentice which can seamlessly integrate with Microsoft Teams.