The dandelion in the room

I don’t often use examples from my own private life mainly because I don’t think people are that interested in hearing about how my weekend was. If I was Bill Gates or Nelson Mandela this would be different, but I’m not. Regardless of the fact I am still going to share my story with you. Actually it was more like a Eureka moment with a twist of humor.

Over the weekend I had every intention of spreading mass mayhem and destruction on all weeds that inhabit my acre of property. On the Friday afternoon I was out sizing up the battle field when my three year old came up and patted me on the leg. “Look at the pretty flowers”. I looked down to see her holding a massive fist full of white puffed seeded Dandelions that she was blowing a light consistent breeze over. She was delicately spreading millions of dandelion seeds across my entire lawn! She looked so happy and an awe with herself that I had to smile.

What struck me almost immediately was the ease with which this story could be transported across to the real world, you know the business world. Think of two departments/groups with differing objectives. Neither group has evil intentions, they just have different perspectives. Now think about the eLearning vendor, your IT department, subject matter experts, project sponsors etc… The dandelions have increased exponentially. In order to ensure success, we need to make sure that there are no dandelions in the room. Make sure that you analyze your objectives, goals and metrics for success. Now make sure that these stack up against other stakeholders.

See you thoughts it was just going to be a cute little story about my three year old. I guess there is a lot to learn, even from the youngest members of the human kind.

Offshore outsourcing

Just a couple of ideas regarding obstacles to offshore outsourcing eLearning projects. Not comprehensive by any stretch, merely a starting point…

Cultural differences: These differences may range from subtle to obvious. Some cultures shy away from any confrontation which means that your experts may not challenge you when you make a suggestion that is obviously incorrect or at the very least non-optimal. Cultural differences can also become a major issue if you are working with a team from a not native English speaking country. Even in cases where the project managers are English-speaking this may not be the case for the majority of the back office techies. This may impact the quality of your final product as spelling and grammatical errors may easily be missed.

Intellectual property protection: Some of the offshore suppliers are based in countries where the right to intellectual property is not very well enforced or understood. You could very well end up with a situation where your training is sold to another competitor.

Time difference: Are you able to work in the time zone where your vendor is based? For most eLearning project rapid feedback in real time is an added advantage that speeds up development time.

Transfer of content: How large is the files that you will be working with? Is it possible to transfer content to the web during the development phase or will CD’s be sent to and from the vendor. What is the cost/time involved with that?


Offshore eLearning development

As you can tell I have also been a little tardy in posting new entries in my blog. Although I wish I had more time to post entries I am also grateful that work has been keeping me busy. I am lucky that each project and each client’s needs are unique, so boredom is not an issue.

The uniqueness of custom development is actually the reason for this post. I was recently informed by a potential client that they have decided to use an eLearning vendor that has extensive resources available offshore. In fact the primarily development would be done offshore with project management on the US side. The primary driver is naturally the development cost/price per man hour.

Offshore development has been around for some time now and I’m sure you heard of this and maybe your company has tried it. What has your experience been? In my past life I actually worked for a software development company that used Indian offshore resources. Our experience was mixed. The price was great, but project management was very difficult. I suspect the main reason for the negative experience with project management was due to cultural differences and a lack of quality testing on the Indian side. Although the projects were a little cheaper than doing it locally we battled to meet deadlines and the project inevitable cost more than we initially scoped both in terms of offshore time/cost as well as US project management time/cost. I have heard similar stories from other folks and especially from smaller eLearning vendors that have outsourced segments of a project.

Don’t get me wrong I think that offshore development outsourcing can and is successful, but it requires a lot of thought, planning and process management to ensure a successful outcome. It is also A LOT easier if you have a blue print of what you want and you simply want the offshore company to develop based on that blueprint/storyboard/use case. The potential customer that I mentioned is actually entering the eLearning space for the first time and developing a new product. They are not 100% sure what the end product will look like and what the features and functionalities will be. This will surely add more pressure on the eLearning development company managing the offshore team.

What are your thoughts? Would you/have you tried using offshore resources for custom eLearning development? How would you rate the experience?