“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” ― Confucius

Content development is anything if not predictable in its annual, quarter or monthly resourcing. A calm sea of existing, scoped, planned and resourced projects can shift at any moment into a storm tossed confusion of reviews, deliveries, queries, SME’s and feedback loops.

It’s the nature of the business that projects are always the top priority in the sponsors’ eye and require immediate attention and preferential treatment against all other responsibilities. This is the knowledge and accepted norm for all content development companies and as such these companies maintain a scalability in their development resources.

Active PartneringWhat happens however, in a corporate (or other business) entity, where there is a team who can develop content but who do not have flexibility of quickly and easily adding resources to cope with unexpected spikes in work volume.

The simple suggestion in my opinion is for businesses to actively partner with one or a number of development providers.

Now I should elaborate on what I mean by actively partner. An active partnership is not just having the provider on your preferred suppliers list, or as is sometimes the case, inviting developers to quote on a project in order to keep your actual “preferred’ developer on their toes.

By actively partnering I mean getting all of your preferred suppliers to do some work with you and the company, this does a number of things:

  • It provides a fresh perspective of what can be done for all projects
  • It gives the provider a chance to understand your project culture and understand their part in your eyes, so that if a large volume of work does arrive you don’t have to spend time developing a working relationship
  • It allows you to judge developer strengths and weaknesses which makes for much quicker and less stressful allocation of future work
  • It keeps your developer partners on their toes more than a cheaper quote from someone else. If they are aware that work is being shared out they will automatically put their best foot forward

Ok so what types of projects would work well for such a relationship you might ask?

The most obvious answer to this in my mind, unless you have some existing small scale projects that need attention, is to get the developers to build your templates.

For most L&D professionals the development of high quality standardised templates, however important it is in providing a consistent learner experience, is one of the more boring, misunderstood, or difficult aspects of eLearning development. So why not farm these out to companies who need to develop new templates every day?

This way you really get to experience the developer’s style and way of doing things and you also get a useful and practical outcome.

But this is just the first and most obvious example of flexibility in content development. There are also options such as getting the developer to build the complete first course (In a series of courses) then using the source files of that initial course to build all of the remaining courses in house.

This obviously carry’s a number of significant benefits as well:

  • You get a fully built and functional course to go live with immediately
  • You will also get an understanding of the actual effort in development of a course end to end and as such you will be able to extrapolate that knowledge across the planning for your other courses
  • By getting the source files from the developer you can re-use all, many or some of the components of the original course as you see fit
    • It should be noted that as part of your developer selection criteria you should always make sure that at the end of the development project you receive both the published output AND the source files for the content. These are two very different things, two independent files.
  • The series of courses will be much easier to keep on theme if they are built from the once source piece of content.
    • Items such as fonts, colour themes and slide masters will keep all of the subsequent modules in graphic and thematic alignment

Finally of course you can have the developer build all of your content for you and essentially this allows you to focus more on the part that actually counts, ensuring the content is correctly disseminated for the audience and subject. This model requires the most trust in the developer as you will be reliant on them to understand you, your audience and your content for each piece being built. However if you team this up with the one or both of the previously mentioned approaches you have an opportunity to build that trust and to develop that relationship.

At B Online Learning we actively encourage this type of active partnership model since at the end of the day one of our key drivers is to build and maintain strong and ongoing relationships with all of our clients/partners.

Ben Saunders About Ben Saunders
For the past 10 years Ben has been immersed in the world of learning and communication (and training and development), from planning and design to build and implementation, from both the client and vendor perspectives. His experience bridges the gaps between business expectation, technology and learning theory, importantly this allows Ben to translate and articulate business needs into defined learner outcomes. He has experience with various LMS implementations including Moodle, Docebo, Plateau, SABA, DOTS as well as bespoke solutions. Ben is a Solutions Designer and Certified Articulate Trainer with B Online Learning.