This was originally posted on eLearning Industry on January 8, 2019.
What To Focus On Before Working With A Training Vendor
You’ve hired a vendor to create some custom training for your organization. You can’t help but feel excited as you sign the contract; you tell yourself that everything is going to turn out amazingly, no matter what.
But then development begins. Things seem to get off track. Your vendor isn’t staying on top of all the changes you’re sending after each round of review. What’s the deal with all of these placeholder images—didn’t we send over a bunch of branded assets? And why did they push the deadline back or contact you to discuss a scope change? Why are they insisting on dashing your training hopes and dreams?
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, then you’ve likely had a negative experience working with a training vendor. Like all external work, collaborating with a vendor on a training project can be tricky if you don’t have much experience. Here are 4 things you need to know in order to make the development process go more smoothly.
1. Meet Your Deadlines So Your Vendor Can Meet Theirs
At the beginning of development, you probably signed a contract. The contract should specify that any delays on your end will result in delays on the vendor’s end.
For example, if the project timeline specifies that you’ll provide content on March 5th, and the vendor will then use that content to make a deliverable for March 26th, you can’t give the vendor the content on March 21st and still expect turnaround on March 26th. Because you took 16 extra days to provide content, the deliverable will likely be delayed by 16 days as well. It may be delayed by more if your vendor’s resources are booked for something else now or if major holidays fall around that time.
Even if that language isn’t included in the contract, it’s generally good business to take responsibility for your own delays. It wouldn’t be reasonable for you to provide content on March 21st after agreeing on the 5th and then still expect delivery on the 26th. The timeline shows that the work is expected to take three weeks, so that’s what you should plan on.
“But my deadline is important!” you cry. Your vendor understands, but since the content wasn’t provided in a timely fashion, meeting the deadline is no longer possible.
2. Know That The Design Phase, The Scripting Phase, And The Media Phase Are Usually Separate
Generally, a training vendor will break the Instructional Design process into multiple phases. The design phase always comes first, sometimes even before any contracts are signed.
During the design phase, you should give comments on the design only. Colors, shapes, fonts, the User Experience; those are all game for your review. If the vendor has provided sample text in the design mockups or prototypes, please do not critique the text. You’ll focus on that in the scripting phase. Likewise, you shouldn’t comment on any media except as it affects the fundamental design.
Once you’ve approved the design, the design phase is over, and the scripting phase begins. The design is now off-limits to revisions unless:
- Your contract says otherwise
- You request a change order for a scope change
- You arrange a special deal with your training vendor
And so on and so forth. During the scripting phase, you should focus on the script only, not on the design or on any media. You’ve signed off on the script and moved on to the media phase, so your comments going forward should be only about media. Once the media phase is approved, everything should be perfect. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have approved the materials at each phase, right?
3. Verification Rounds Are Necessary For A Quality Project
It’s very likely that, somewhere in your contract, a verification round is mentioned. Verification rounds follow a round of client feedback. This round is your chance to look at the changes you just requested and confirm they were done the way you wanted them to be done.
It’s not your chance to ask for more changes that weren’t previously discussed. That’s not what a verification round is for. Save additional changes for another round of feedback, or, if you’re at the final round of feedback, consider not bringing them up at all as they will then exceed the project scope.
Similarly, some contracts don’t explicitly mention verification rounds but do limit you to X number of rounds of feedback. If, after X rounds of feedback, the vendor sends your course back to you, you should only verify that past changes were correct and not add any more changes. Otherwise, you’ll exceed your allotted rounds of feedback, which means you may exceed the expected hours scoped for making changes, which means you might have to get a scope change.
4. If You Want Something That Exceeds The Original Contract Scope, You’ll Need A Scope Change
It doesn’t matter if it’s more images, an extra round of reviews, an additional page of text. If it’s not in the contract, it’s not going to fit within the slated budget unless you cut something else out.
“But I don’t want to cut anything out!” you say. “I need everything in the contract, I just need this other thing too.” you insist. Well, that’s a scope change.
A scope change means that you agree to pay an additional price, not in the original contract for some additional work that’s also not in the original contract. Your vendor should be more than happy to explain why they’re pricing the extra work the way they are but know that they do have a reason.
If you’re not used to partnering with a vendor, you may be intimidated or have a hard time adjusting to the way things work. Now that you’ve read this article, you have an idea of what to expect from the process. We hope you feel confident in moving forward with the training vendor of your choice!