Working with E-Learning Vendors: Tips for Working with Vendors
Over the last few blogs, I’ve given some tips on how to find a vendor through a Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Proposal (RFP), and then how to evaluate the responses you get to select the best vendor to meet your needs. Now what? Here are some tips for you.
Get everything in writing.
If the sales person makes promises over the phone – make sure the promises are in the contract. During development, always keep your design document and other guidelines up-to-date with anything the vendor promised they would do.
Put protections in the contract for you!
If the vendor supplies the contract, make sure you are protected. Are there cancellation and privacy clauses for you, or just them? Are there late fees if you don’t pay on time, but no penalties if they don’t deliver on time?
Keep a single point of contact.
Negotiate for a single project manager and try to interview that person before the contract is signed. The sales person may be great, but might not be the person who will be helping you day in and day out.
Keep ownership of copyright, data, and source code.
For an LMS project, make sure you will always have access to your completion records. For custom-developed courses, make sure you retain copyright and negotiate to keep the source code. (You may have to pay extra for the privilege.)
Manage changes on your end.
The farther into a project you make changes, the more expensive it will be for you. Take the time to conduct thorough reviews on your end so you can request needed changes. (For example, make sure the marketing department sees the interface when you are in prototype phase instead of when you are ready to launch. Make sure the subject matter experts see the content in storyboard phase instead of when the online draft is posted.)
Have regular progress updates.
Whether you use written reports or weekly conference calls, take the initiative to stay on top of the milestones.
Make payments milestone-based instead of time-based.
If the contract has calendar-based milestones, you could end up paying for deliverables that haven’t been delivered! And always hold the last chunk of money (10% to 25%) until EVERYTHING is delivered. (Be good to your vendor, though. If there are long schedule delays that are your fault, find a way to pay the vendor for completed work.)
Be a good customer.
Customers tell horror stories about vendors. But vendors tell horror stories about customers! Be respectful of their time and efforts by honoring your end of all the agreements. Be realistic when expecting them to make changes and corrections because you’ve changed your mind or you missed something. Look for win-win moments as much as possible throughout the process.