Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Solve a Business Problem or Create a WBT?

I had an interesting chat conversation over the weekend with a budding instructional designer.
ID: I wanted to discuss about Instructional approaches

ID: Suppose there's a client who says " they have been using ILT that has not been successful, their mentors are not motivating enough& nw wants to change it to a WBT.......and target audience are senior &middle level managers well versed with sales, dealing with retailers etc.....

And I've to give them 2 u hv any ideas?

Me: why is their ILT not successful?

ID: their mentors are not motivating enough

Me: why do you believe wbt will be motivating?

ID: hmm.....It would give them the space of doing the training at their own pace and on their own

after all they are senior managers..who might not like to be trained

I mean not support trainings

Me: basically your instructional strategies need to remove the problems they are having with ILT

so if the mentors/trainers are boring, the WBT has to far far more interesting and interactive

ID: Yep.....

Me: so you have the answer...

unless i understood the question wrong

ID: and with just this information and the fact that I've to develop 2 approached based on level 2 interactivity.....

I needed some ideas

See.......ok, can you list down types of approaches......

one can be scenario based, case study based.....

dialogue based

Me: you should know more about the users, job profile is one, what about their other characteristics -- gender, age, race etc.

Me: also what kind of industry are they in?

ID: they are in sales industry

all senior and middle level managers


Me: basically sales guys travel a lot, they don't like to attend training

do they have PDAs etc.?

which country are we talking about?

ID: India

Me: what access do they have to computers and Internet?

ID: broadband

Me: from home?

ID: yes


Me: so the company is expecting the sales guys to take training from home?

ID: anytime they are free.......

Me: they are never going to be free

ID: they are senior level and middle level managers!

Me: are you expected to solve the business problem or just create a WBT?

my response will be different in each case

ID: just create a WBT

Me: :-)

Now I know this person is a budding, relatively junior instructional designer and probably is just doing what she has been asked to do. There was a sense of déjà vu for me. I know many a times, the client appears to be very clear about what they want and wants the vendor to "just create a WBT". Not all clients want to have a business problem discussion with the vendor. And not all instructional designers want to solve business problems. They are happy with creating a WBT and getting on with their jobs. Unfortunately that's a lose-lose situation for both clients and instructional designers.

My advice to instructional designers is to stay focussed on solving the business problems. Sometimes creating a WBT might not be the solution, even though that's what your company may have been contracted to do. Focusing on solving the business problem will help you add value in your interaction with the client and that will in almost all cases eventually lead to more business.

And if you are a client outsourcing a learning content creation project, my suggestion would be that you work with the vendor and collaborate on solving the business problem. There is no harm in having raking up more brains to solve your business problem. And if you are sure that WBT is indeed the answer to your business problem, then provide that information to the vendor so they can do justice to your project.


Clare Dygert on January 8, 2010 at 2:37 PM said...

Submitted on 2009/05/28 at 12:15am

I think the number 1 mistake that new IDs make is not realizing how important audience definition is. In my mind, without spot on audience definition, the training — no matter what the modality — will fall apart. In this case, the budding ID probably doesn’t have any clue what a mid-upper level sales manager is like, what her day is like, what her needs are. What are the business problems this audience has to solve? And don’t make the mistake of interviewing one person and then generalizing to the entire audience. You really need to talk to several people.

The second most important thing is, as you point out, Manish, to look at what is in place now and why it isn’t working. Because the mentors are not motivating enough? In what ways? Why? Is it the trainers or the content? WBT can be VERY boring — sad to say, but true. If you don’t know your audience well enough, you will end up developing what YOU would find interesting, which may completely miss the boat.

Interesting topic! Thanks for sharing it.

Yamini said...

Submitted on 2009/08/21 at 2:11am

Interesting conversation! Well, I accept your point that we need to focus more on solving a business problem rather than just converting a ILT to a WBT in this case.

I have come across situations, where I have felt a collaboration meeting with the client will really bring in more clarity. It could be with more than one person at the client-end at different levels (middle and senior) as Clare says and IDs at varied experience levels along with media artists to give suggestions on the feasibility of implementation. Sometimes the client comes up with a delivery mode but they aren’t too sure on why they need it. Still I feel it’s the responsibility of the vendor to get into the exact problem and come up with the real solution and also convince the client to take it. This really helps and did benefit with client retention. But, I’m not too sure if the IDs gets a chance to interact directly with the client in all cases.

In this scenario, I feel the client wants something the sales guys can take at their own pace and hence they have suggested a WBT. Well, they travel a lot, so it would be better if it’s something that they can handle during their travel time. Instead of considering a heavy WBT, breaking the learning to short interesting chunks (not a heavy file)will help. So it can be accessed with PDA without a high bandwith internet. With the advancement of technology, Mlearning, podcast or a video learning can also be considered. A blend will work better. These are some ideas that come up to my mind but analyzing the business problem will give the perfect solution.

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