Why L&D Contracting Is Probably What You Need
Every time a client asks us to provide them with a Learning and Development (L&D) solution, we have two fork-in-the-road options. We can take on the entire project as a fixed bid, or we can offer a solution that entails providing them a “talent” or two to handle their project as a small team, or in conjunction with their internal team, on an hourly basis.
We always look to provide the client with an L&D contracting solution that is better for their unique situation. But which is better?
The short answer is "it depends."
Imagine you have some remodeling work to do at your house. Sometimes the right decision is to bring on a jack-of-all-trades handyman, or perhaps an individual with a targeted skill set, like a plumber or an electrician.
At other times, the right decision is to bring on a general contractor.
The right L&D contracting option depends on the size, scope, and complexity of your project. Also, your budget and timeline, and how much you want to be directly involved, or not. Similar considerations come into focus when we advise a client on the best way to take on their L&D project.
Below are a few items to consider. But first, for clarity, let’s take a second to quickly define both options. There are many nuances to these definitions, but these will suffice for the purposes of this discussion:
- Staff Augmentation
This is when you bring on a Learning Consultant (or multiple) to work under your direct management on an hourly basis, typically for a fixed period of time. These consultants might be "augmenting" your internal team or functioning alone. And you might source this talent directly, or use a vendor to source the talent.
- Project Outsourcing
This is when you contract with a vendor-partner to take on a defined project, most often for a fixed bid. You will not directly manage the team on the project; rather, you will communicate with a few key team members, such as the Project Manager, and perhaps the Instructional Designer and Visual Design Lead. You’ll review milestone deliverables at predetermined dates (as per the project plan), and will be invoiced at these milestones as defined in your agreement with your vendor.
The question remains, though, when should you pick one over the other?
Now, let’s take a look at some vital considerations. It’s important to note that your decision needs to take all of these things into account:
What’s The Size Of The Project?
If you have an internal team that has the capacity to take on the project, but you just need one or two professionals to augment your team, it would make sense to bring talent on via staff augmentation.
However, if you do not have an internal team, or they do not have the capacity, and you need to get this project done by others, then the size comes into your L&D contracting focus.
If the project can be handled by one or two professionals working together, sometimes we suggest using the staff augmentation path. But, if your project is large and requires a lot of hands on deck (rather than what one or two people can realistically accomplish), we suggest you outsource the entire project at a fixed bid.
Can The Project Be Defined?
In order for a vendor to provide a fixed bid, the project needs to be clearly defined, and if it can be, outsourcing the entire project likely makes sense. That said if we feel a project cannot be fully defined, and it’s large and/or complex, we recommend that you first execute an analysis phase to carefully assess and define it. Then we can offer a fixed bid for the project.
But, sometimes, the nature of a project is simply not definable, so you need someone to research it and report back to you to decide the next move, and then the next. In this case, it may make sense to bring on an individual yourself or use a staff augmentation vendor.
Is "Good Enough," Good Enough?
For smaller projects, one or two jack-of-all-trades L&D professionals can take on every aspect of creation and production. These pros can do Instructional Design and Project Management; they are adept at using off-the-shelf authoring tools, and they can select all the stock photography. Such a small team can capably handle the necessary tasks of a small project end to end.
However, if your project is large and/or complex, or you need to push the envelope, you’ll need to outsource to a vendor. Your jacks of all trades, while competent, are not as good as the specialized talent that a vendor can bring to the table via engineering, niche instructional capabilities, User Interface, and Graphic Design, video or animation, gaming, Virtual Reality, and so on so forth.
The question is, what quality is good enough for your purposes?
Often, the quality that one or two jacks of all trades can produce, just like the handyman you hire to do some things around your house, is good enough for the circumstances, but if this project is large or high profile and requires innovation, L&D contracting with a vendor is the route to go.
What’s The Budget And Timeline?
If your project is smaller and "good enough" will suffice, and you have the time to be more involved with managing talent, staff augmentation is often less expensive and faster.
Why? There is no passing of the project back and forth; one person (or two) embraces the entire project and plays all roles with the mandate to get it done.
But, on the other hand, if your project is large, complex, and needs to be of the superior quality bar and push the creative envelope, outsourcing to an L&D vendor as a fixed-bid project makes sense.
As you can see, no one variable stands alone; they all go into this complex decision. While there are other considerations to make, the few covered here are elemental. Hopefully, this overview will help you when debating which path is right for you.
While most vendors usually offer either project outsourcing (taking on the whole project at a fixed bid) or staff augmentation (supplying you talent to augment your team or take on a smaller project independently), we offer both. This duality lets us better advise clients on the best path to take. Download the eBook Staff Augmentation For Learning And Development: The Agile Talent Solution For Modern Business to find out more about making this strategy work for your organization from SweetRush’s experts.