Hitting the Mark for Learning Project Success: Quality-Schedule-Budget
I’m famous in my family for finding a recipe, customizing the ingredients, and ending up with a delicious dish. The bigger trick, however, always seems to be, can I make it again? Pulling together a project can be like cooking the perfect recipe. You have to get the ingredients just right, but you also have to be able to do it over again.
So what makes a project successful? Recently, I was part of a very successful project to create a custom e-learning course on employee health and wellness for a utilities company. The project had the perfect blend of ingredients, so in the end, it hit all three measures of success: quality-schedule-budget. What was in our recipe?
For starters, the client team was open to bringing a lot of people to the table to ensure the course would be relevant to all employees. While it’s true that sometimes “too many cooks in the kitchen can ruin a meal,” the client was thoughtful about who to include — learning professionals, subject matter experts, data analysis experts, sales and marketing, and target-audience representatives — and why.
Focus groups with company leaders, who represented the target audience, had an important distinction in that they evaluated subgroups (supervisors, managers, and directors) separately within the target audience. Why do this? Because these distinct subgroups had very different perspectives regarding what the course should address and what tools were needed to successfully support direct reports in this initiative.
Another factor contributing to the quality of the initiative was its structure — it was rolled out in two parts. The first part was a company-wide launch, followed by leadership training and support materials. An evaluation between the company-wide launch and the development of the leader materials identified gaps after the initial rollout. The gaps were addressed in the leader training by preparing leaders to respond to employee questions related to the course.
The client had a soft deadline, but we treated it as a go-live date. This gave us the urgency needed to keep things moving. Surprisingly, it can be easy when working with a client to be “too flexible” trying to accommodate reviewer availability. While the development team could accommodate the schedule shifts, the client appreciated the reminder that an extra review day here or there would continue to impact the deadline. In the end, the client team said that they appreciated this push to the finish line.
To keep the schedule (and budget) on track, we blocked a one-hour spot on the calendar for weekly status meetings. This weekly touch base was key to keeping everyone on the same page.
We were also intentional about keeping technical specifications – what customizations were nice to have vs. must have – in mind. Both the ILG and client tech teams were consulted when project parameters were impacted by design changes, so there were no surprises when it came to production timing or integration with the learning management system (LMS).
The client had a healthy budget that allowed for some flexibility in the development process. The budget was monitored weekly to ensure it stayed on track. In addition, there was open and honest communication between the teams, and when ideas were presented that would impact the budget, they were discussed immediately. ILG provided options, so the client could make informed decisions. For example, use Articulate Rise to create the course given that it is mobile-ready and programming friendly when it comes to editing, or use Articulate 360, which allows for more customization such as custom drag-and-drops? And which one would allow for better tracking in the client’s LMS?
Sometimes the decision was to move forward as the cost impact could be justified, and other times it wasn’t realistic, and so the option was tabled. This type of open discussion kept the creativity flowing and encouraged out-of-the-box thinking, yet eliminated the frustration of overpromising and kept the budget in check.
In the end, this course received rave reviews. The base recipe was solid from the start, and with just the right amount of customization along the way, we were able to ensure the perfect balance of quality-schedule-budget. I’ll be using this recipe again!