Author Topic: Choosing between bespoke or off-the-shelf solutions  (Read 1030 times)


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Choosing between bespoke or off-the-shelf solutions
« on: April 19, 2017, 11:57:46 PM »
Choosing between bespoke or off-the-shelf solutions

 One choice you'll have to make is whether to use an off-the-shelf solution or create a custom version, also known as bespoke. Any choice should first go back to the work you did to identify the business outcome that needs to shift and the behavior change you need to implement. But once you're clear on that, you may discover that another provider already has built the perfect solution, and you just need to roll it out. You could be purchasing online video training, like this one, or hosted webinars, or virtual simulations, et cetera. Then there's custom, or bespoke, solutions. There's a little overlap between them, so this is more of a continuum than a dichotomy.

Many providers will offer some level of customization. This can range from adding your organization's logo to shifting some language or terminology to more closely match your internal culture to using examples and details that are specific and unique to your organization. And then there's completely bespoke, which means the training was built specifically for your organization and the issue you're addressing. This can be contracted to others or done in house by your team, but it will only ever be used by your organization.

One is not inherently better than the other, and I've used all kinds to great results. Several factors influence your decision, including your learning needs, the size of your organization, the audience who will use it, your budget, and whether the delivery requirements meet your current structures and resources. I've been both a purchaser and a provider of learning solutions, which gives me a unique perspective. I recommend that you consider a few questions to help you make the best choice.

Does the solution demonstrate best practices in adult learning? It should honor different experiences and ways of learning. It should meet the learners where they are, and move them to the level of skill and knowledge you're seeking. Does it map to your organization's needs for both the Greiner Curve and the specific behaviors you're trying to shift? Consider the five levels of evaluation and how you'll measure impact in ROI. It's likely that a solution won't match your needs 100%, so what is your window of tolerance, and how can you supplement it to fill any gaps? Since it's likely that you'll need to fill a gap, ask what flexibility the provider allows for you to create derivative or add-on materials in learning events.

I find this is an important aspect to negotiate in the contract because it allows you the ability to tailor the solution to meet your needs. This will bring you to the world of copyright, licensing, and intellectual property. That can be a whole course by itself, but you'll want to make sure you understand these aspects of the contract, especially what you can modify and what needs to be used in exact and specific ways. Seek legal counsel to review any contract. What level of customization is provided and at what cost? The more you can make the solution look and feel like part of your culture, the better.

Usually, there's a range of fees affiliated with amount of customization, so look into your options. Does the solution demonstrate best practices in learning design? One thing to look for is that there's a processing activity every 15 to 20 minutes, since this is optimal for both short and long term retention. You also want to make sure that it's driving the specific behavior change you're seeking. There should be opportunities to practice the skill, thus building the neural pathway and starting the habit. Is there a good story arc to the learning solution? Does it cover the why and the how in addition having the opportunities to try? Now the reality is that a lot of learning solutions are missing some of these key best practices, so you may need to think about how you can add them yourself.

You can do this through blending the learning solution with other elements. Perhaps a video, like this one, or a case study that's specific to your organization. There's lots of options in your palette or toolbox, so feel free to augment as needed. And, of course, you can flip the classroom and have people do some of these elements as the pre and post learning to the main event. Finally, you want to explore the format and channel of delivery. It should meet your learners' needs in terms of flexibility and accessibility. If it doesn't, it probably won't get utilized.

You may need to involve your tech team to ensure that you have the technology elements to use and deliver the solution. To help with this crucial assessment, I've created a handout in the exercise files. It allows you to rate these questions and add comments so that you can assess and compare several possible providers. And you can add your own questions to really make it work for your organization. Look, choosing between off the shelf and bespoke isn't always cut and dry. But if you use these guidelines, you'll have a better chance of finding the best solution that your talent needs at this time.