I’ve had two client discussions this week that are leading me to write this blog post as a public service to all my professional training colleagues.
Please beware of getting locked into proprietary software platforms!
I have a long history with technology-fueled training, and I understand the appropriate place for software development. Many new systems had to be developed from scratch over the past 20 years, and I enjoyed being a part of that evolution when working with Pedagogue Solutions back in the day.
However – the software world has matured now, and when it comes to training applications and delivery platforms, if you have a fairly complex need, such as learning management, content management, on-line video training, event management, HQ-to-field information exchange – there are very likely some commercially-built solutions that you can license.
In the vast majority of cases, you do NOT want to have a custom shop (or internal IT people) re-invent the wheel for you.
One of my clients had some modules developed a couple years back into some kind of proprietary eReader software. Now, when it comes time to update it, what happens? They’re either stuck with the original supplier (with a very high price tag), or they essentially have to extract the content and have the modules re-developed using a commercially-available authoring tool so that it can be maintained and updated in the future by anyone they choose.
Another client told me about a pretty complex platform that cost an arm and a leg to develop from the ground up. After consuming all kinds of time and effort, it never really got off the ground in its intended form – while there were other commercially-available platforms that could have been quickly deployed, and would have been supported in an ongoing way.
Some thoughts, based on many years of experience in the industry:
- Developing new, complex platforms and applications is extraordinarily difficult and time-consuming. It should be left to companies that specialize in platform design and support. License what already exists!
- Training development companies that happen to also do some digital stuff are absolutely NOT the companies you want to take on the creation of an ambitious complex-system platform. They won’t have the resources to do it right, or to support it. I am especially thinking about overly-ambitious marketing/advertising agencies, who like to say that they can do anything.
- Every sophisticated software platform takes 2-3 times as long, and costs 2-3 times as much, as you and your development partner initially think. Trust me on this.
- Supporting a sophisticated software system custom-created for one client is enormously expensive. On the other hand, when a commercial software shop – say, a Learning Management System vendor – is spreading ongoing development and support costs across a larger number of clients, then it becomes a viable business model.
- It’s not just about the immediate need. You must think about sustainability.
One other thing: whatever software platform you choose to use for whatever purpose, make sure that it is written into the contract that you always have full access to all of your content and data, in a usable and industry-standard format, including the ability to completely remove your “stuff” and migrate it to another system.
I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve seen this lesson learned the hard way. And I’d like for you to avoid costly mistakes. So here is my offer, for any of my life sciences colleagues who are considering training software applications and platforms: feel free to reach out to me ahead of time and let’s brainstorm a bit. I’m quite serious about this. I don’t charge you anything for this kind of advice, and I want you to succeed.
Just send me a note: AskSteve@impactiviti.com. I’m glad to chat with you.
Fifteen minutes could save you…well, you know the rest of the ad!