eLearning Outsourcing: Why Consider It?

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Some months back I had posted (based on a research report by ValueNotes) about eLearning outsourcing to India doing well and looking to grow handsomely in next 3-4 years. With over 100 clients in 12 countries, Upside Learning has been offering offshore based eLearning outsourcing development services and solutions for 6 years. Last year we were recognized as an emerging leader in training outsourcing. There are many benefits that eLearning outsourcing offers and we feel in this business environment it is important that your firm considers outsourcing as an option – especially if it has never done so. In this and next few posts I intend to cover why to outsource; how to find a vendor; some best practices etc.

This post deals with the benefits of eLearning outsourcing.

Why outsource?

Significant cost advantages
Undoubtedly, this is one of the key reasons for you to even consider outsourcing. Outsourcing arrangements enable you to reduce fixed costs and leverage the scalability of the service providers. This study by Bersin Associates – Offshore eLearning: What Works, estimates savings between 20-40% by outsourcing to India. It could be even more in some cases. Whether you are a corporate or a training company, you could gain from outsourcing (parts or full) projects to India. Of course you would need to choose a good vendor (I will discuss how to do that in a subsequent post).

Scalability without headaches
Outsourcing could help your team to be scalable – on demand. You could engage a team of 5 or 50 or 500 depending on your needs without having to worry about hiring, retention, firing etc. The vendor would manage everything including their training and providing replacement resources. This is hugely important for smaller companies given the kind of business environment we find ourselves in. It also helps in starting projects quickly, ramping up the team much faster, sometimes even putting the project on hold without much additional costs.

Better quality through innovation
Your eLearning vendor is better placed to deliver better quality – assuming you selected a good vendor to start with – on a consistent basis. This is a natural outcome of the continuous improvement that happens as your vendor’s team handles more projects of different kinds for diverse clients. That experience helps them anticipate problems in advance, troubleshoot better when needed, and also propose value added inputs based on their previous experiences. Chances are you can rely on your vendor (much more than you can on your internal team) to be ready with cutting-edge solutions. It is their business and they would (well, should) invest in innovation.

Reduce project risk
When outsourcing, you need to define your project very well to get RFPs ready. That reduces the risk to a large extent as everything you need is in one document – most probably has agreement of key stakeholders as well. The development process is better managed by the vendor including proper documentation (specification sheets, test plans, project plans, IDD, storyboards – with proper versioning etc.) and pre-defined delivery / sign off process (prototypes, Alpha & Beta deliveries) ensuring success of the project. You could even consider risk diversification by distributing work between multiple vendors i.e. if you have significant volumes of work to justify having multiple vendors.

More reliability on project completion
Often the company that you outsource to does only eLearning development as its core business. Consequently, all its processes and systems are specifically defined and well geared up to deliver eLearning products / projects. There is almost no chance of those resources being diverted to some other ‘more important’ tasks. That’s common when working with internal project teams. This reliability could mean a lot for certain critical training programs.

Focus on core / strategic goals
Though I list this at the end, this is the most important benefit you would get from outsourcing. Outsourcing helps bring greater focus to the core or strategic tasks of your training function – without sacrificing quality or service. You would better spend your energies on planning for future about how the organization and its business is changing, what skills are required now (& in future), and how best to make those skills available; evaluating success of training programs mapping them against business results, improving the whole training and development function to align it with business needs; and implementing organization cultural change plans to get it ready for the coming decade. These are tasks which only you can perform.

If you have outsourced for any other reasons we would love to hear from you. Please do share any other thoughts too.

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