I was looking at some of the comments and experiences shared on LinkedIn groups about eLearning offshoring. I found a mixed response – some have figured out how to make most of it while others are still grappling with the pitfalls – due to a few bad experiences and wrong decisions. Let me share some of the concerns that L & D professionals or training managers have when it comes to eLearning offshoring.
Expertise & Quality:
How can one assess the capability of a remote service provider? This is truly difficult but not impossible. Vendors may stake claim to capabilities that they are not equipped with in reality. This could result in serious drop in the quality of the work delivered. It is certainly not what you want.
However, in the days of Skype and Google Hangouts, it cannot be such a difficult task to assess the capabilities of the team that is going to work on your project. Ask for a virtual meeting with the team such as instructional designers, project managers and technology experts who are going to be closely involved with the project. Get them to present some samples or develop prototypes based on your inputs. A combination of these efforts should enable you to judge the expertise of the vendors and the quality that you can expect from them.
Control Over Timelines and Deliverables:
Some people have concern about control over timelines and deliverables. They feel like this: we struggle with timelines and deliverables with internal team members, how can we manage and expect on-time delivery form external teams? They do have a valid point in feeling so. Nonetheless, there are remote teams working on projects in organizations and eLearning outsourcing is no different. What is important is the work ethics and pedigree of the outsourcing partner.
You need to ensure that you are working with an eLearning company directly and not a contractor who in turn outsources to various other independent vendors. In such cases, there are too many variables involved and your project timelines are likely to be in jeopardy. However, work with an organization that has a full-fledged team of in-house instructional designers, visual designers and multimedia experts. Also, see how the organization responds to your Request for Proposal (RFP) and enquires even before the project has been given to them.
The extent to which outsourcing partners can be trusted with in-house training material is always an area of concern for organizations.
Check to see if the organization has a strong Non-Disclosure Agreement. If not, you can make one of your own and get it included as a part of the service contract. That way, they are legally bound to ensure that your content is not misused by the organization.
Somehow we tend to feel if team members are physically closer to us, we are more likely to be under control. We feel in relation to remote service providers, it is easier to handle a team closer home. However, think of the times that you were helpless even with in-house teams.
The success of any project depends on exacting processes and procedures. Look for a company that has set processes and procedures in place for each of the activities involved in eLearning development. Ask for them and evaluate them. Check if they have assigned a Project Manager, who becomes your single point of contact to address all your queries. She/he will be your “go to” person who monitors and controls each and every step of the project. She/he ensures adherence to quality, budget, timelines and timely deliverables.
Communication and Cultural Differences:
Another concern is that how would an external vendor understand our organizational learning philosophy and goals? What about communication and cultural differences? This could indeed pose a great problem when dealing with an offshore eLearning development partner. There are many service providers and not all would have the necessary expertise to deal with multinational clients.
Therefore, it is essential to understand the profile of the organization, their ability to service multinational clients and a profile of their exiting clientele. Additionally, it helps to have a written understanding of expectations on both sides to avoid any miscommunication in terms of deliverables. Typically, professional organizations that have had the experience in handling projects of large organizations in your region would not have any problems understanding your requirements. Similarly, if the organization is a ‘learning organization’ where the senior management has a background in learning and training, they will be able to understand the organizational learning philosophy accurately and translate the same to course development.
The concerns about partnership are not unique to eLearning as such but are the same in any partnership business. E-learning offshoring requires establishing a long-term relationship with your eLearning partner. It needs investment of time and effort in the initial stages when the partnership is being established. Once, the foundations is built many levels of courses can be developed easily and confidently.