Saturday, July 18, 2009

Penny Pinching but Valuable Client and a Unique, Challenging Project

\Low-Budget Project!!\

How would you convince a "penny-pinching but valuable prospect" (a phrase from Cathy Moore’s blog: the need for a training program you are recommending?

As you talk to the client, you realize the training is much needed and has a huge potential—both for you and the client i.e., business wise as well as true value addition.

Here's the real time scenario:

1) The client :

a) Is a valuable one with the possibility of becoming a long-term client

b) Expresses a tentative/possible need for a multimedia training program

c) Also mentions very clearly that budget for this program is minimal to non-existent

d) Requires the program to be attention grabbing and as “innovative” as possible

2) The training program delivery environment is challenging:

a) There would be no PCs for the learners

b) The program would be used to support the trainers in their ILT sessions

c) There would, in most cases, be no conference or seminar rooms for dissemination and training; the possibility of the program being shared in an open-air environment, in broad daylight with the help of a simple projector and a screen was very real

d) This, of course, led to a challenge in design, colour usage, font size, on-screen animation, and structure

e) The learner would have no control over the program in terms of being able to stop/play/replay…the trainer would have to gauge the learner’s reaction and carry out the actions as and when required

f) The program needed to have all the features that would attract learners with the psychographics and demographics mentioned below

g) To make things fun, the program was of a highly technical nature

3) The target audience is a very different set from the usual:

a) They have never been exposed to e-learning

b) Have rudimentary to non-existent knowledge of computers

c) Have minimal access to PCs and internet

d) Have low reading skills and poor attention span

e) Probably attending formal training of any kind for the first time

f) The English language could be a bit of a challenge for some

g) Would not be the kind at all to ask questions to clarify doubts

h) Would unquestioningly accept as gospel truth whatever was onscreen

i) Would need to quickly transfer the training to practical work

4) The business need of the program (our analysis):

a) To train mechanics in a country on the product maintenance where the product was being launched for the first time

b) To create a brand presence for the product in the international market

c) To act as support for their advertising campaigns (not yet suggested)

d) To instill confidence in customers of the product that they would get reliable after-sales and repairing services from trained mechanics, if required

e) To ensure trust in the product grows

f) Point b, c, d and e to act as drivers to boost sales in the country of launch

All of the above needs were to be addressed at a minimal cost but the client was an immensely valuable one.

5) What did we do?

a) We sat down

b) We discussed possible solutions that would be cheap enough for the client

c) We discussed solutions that would, most importantly, fulfill the needs mentioned above

d) We discussed solutions that would impact the learners

e) Most importantly, the solution should result in an ROI from the business perspective (point 4 above)

f) It should result in a feasible business deal for us as well

g) It should keep the client coming back for more such programs

6) Results of our brainstorming: (considering all the different parameters mentioned above)

a) The program would need to have a very strong and appealing visual design that could withstand open-air dissemination, support ILT sessions and still be relevant should it be taken on PCs by individuals at any given point

b) Content on screen would need to be minimal and simple

c) The voice over would need to explain the concepts clearly, simply

d) The graphics/images would need to have self explanatory animations, supporting voice over, smooth and easy transitions, few supporting onscreen keywords for emphasis and retention

e) Would have to be self running, yet at a pace that a majority of learners would be able to keep up with

f) Follow sound instructional strategies and structure that would:

i) make logical sense to the learners,

ii) build expectancy thus enabling the learners to predict what would follow helping the assimilation

iii) have a theme across all the topics that is constant (this would again be a support for point ii above)

iv) at no point be a cognitive overload for the learners yet convey all the important technical knowledge

v) enable learners to actually take the knowledge to the field by showing the practical applications (theory would be minimal in such a training program, appearing only to clarify/logically support a practical tip)

7) Addressing the low cost factor: (thought this deserved a separate point of its own as this became our biggest challenge)

a) We identified the constant/common elements across different topics during the content analysis and project scope definition phase

b) Created a structure that would hold true for a majority of the topics, i.e., could be repeated across the topics

c) Decided on the templates and animation flow and other design factors that can be standardized, repeated

d) Created a prototype course and evaluated it for effectiveness in the setting described above with the client’s involvement

e) All of this helped us to create a course design that was quickly implementable, had reusable elements (Learning Object driven) and succeeded in bringing down the cost

8) The final step:

a) We took our solution and analysis to the client

b) Posed our solution and showed the business benefits that could accrue—not only terms of training (that would become much less painful for the trainers) but the consequences of a training well designed and effectively delivered

c) The client was convinced…they will still continue to be penny pinching but we got the project! J

9) Our key learnings:

a) Carry out a very thorough needs analysis and delve into the root cause of the training need

b) Map it to the business and understand the business drivers very very clearly

c) Understand the audience and training environment with absolute clarity

d) NEVER hesitate to ask questions till you have all the information

e) Warn the client UPFRONT that this has to be a combined effort for the program to be successful and allow them to be involed even in the design decisions

f) This way, not only will you get their buy in but also their trust and respect

I would love to know if you have similar experiences and how you have dealt with them…

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