15 Aug Customised learning platforms: When bespoke isn’t best…
In this new blog, Client Director Chris Britton looks at the key differences between a bespoke or customised learning platform or solution… and how you know when one or the other is what you really need:
Whatever size company you work in, I guarantee you have heard about a huge project implementing a new learning platform, Learning Management System (LMS) or collaboration tool.
This is extremely common.
You probably have also heard through the grapevine that the project isn’t going too well, is behind schedule and over costs.
This state of affairs is absurdly common, particularly as these controversial projects usually only apply to the kind of learning platform where most people only log-in once a year to complete their mandatory training.
I love the idea of bespoke products, but in reality I hardly ever choose them. I recently refitted my kitchen with my own (once) fair hands. They are now scratched, bruised and have a drill hole in my thumb.
But I digress…
We had real issues trying to get companies out to quote for a bespoke kitchen and fitting. They were too busy, bad at timekeeping and really didn’t add much value than just ‘taking an order’ of what we thought we wanted. There was no consultation, assistance or expertise.
So we did what any (in)sane person does and went to IKEA.
Four hours later we walk out of IKEA an absolute mess. It felt like a long process, one I thought at times would never end. However, that was it. A single trip, and it was all over.
It was a one-time deal, and at the end of that afternoon we had a new kitchen. We didn’t have to go back in, we didn’t have to have weekly calls to clarify requirements, we didn’t have to push back the schedule due to availability of materials and resources.
Two weeks later, the kitchen was in our front room ready to be unpacked and built. I was able to build it in my own time, focusing on the things that were important to me, prioritising my own levels of effort and involvement to suit what I wanted and what was realistic.
For me, this is the difference that matters:
The difference between bespoke and customised. Our kitchen was customised for the floor space we have and the features and functionality we wanted. We were guided through this by IKEA because they are trying to up sell, trying to get you to think about the dream kitchen. And that’s great, it covered everything. And because they have a defined set of products, it makes it a lot easier for them to become experts.
Its the same with a collaboration tool, next gen LMS or learning platform. With big suppliers and big projects come big costs. Did you hear about Lidl recently setting free its half-billion, seven year-old white elephant?
I am shocked that after all that time working on an software project spending all of that money it got canned. But perhaps not as shocked as I should be – after all, I’ve seen it myself (albeit on a smaller scale). And I also know the way out.
The challenge is, every customer thinks their needs are completely different from other companies. In reality though, this is not true. There may be subtle differences like the branding, integrations etc. but ultimately it is the functionality and the UX that are the most important. And a significant amount of the time, these basics fall into standard parameters, project-to-project, instance-to-instance, and person-to-person.
So what’s your point?
Well the point is, if you go with a system that is customisable rather than bespoke you increase your odds of getting a better level of quality. You are more likely to be getting a mature, tried and tested product, with a single road map that then draws on feedback from all of those customers to improve it. The supplier know how to implement it, and as long as your individual needs are not too sci-fi, there’s no deviating on the price.
What you pay for is what you get.
I would also suggest you are likely to get a better level of service, as the supplier knows the issues, limitations and they know how to optimise engagement and impact. That is because they do it for all of their other customers. The processes are rigorously, ruthlessly tested, in real time by real-life use-cases. They are not wasting time creating bespoke workflows for a business case that doesn’t really exist.
Does the cost of this project really outweigh the benefit? Would a customised learning platform be better than a bespoke framework? Would working with a smaller, smarter business get us better service?
Worth having a think about, right?