A simple checklist of what you should do before embarking on the sometimes painful journey of acquiring a new piece of learning technology for your business.
These are all the things you should consider before you event think about stuff like cost and length of agreement.
Why do we need this?
You’ve always got to start with why, right?
Challenge yourself to dig into what problem you aim to solve by buying a new piece of tech. You might surprise yourself and even find it solves nothing.
This is the exact reason we start our journey with why we need this tool.
Do we already have something that will solve the problem we have?
I find this is the least asked question during procurement stages and it’s the number one reason why organisations end up with bloated technology portfolios.
It might surprise you to know that you might already have everything you need to support workplace performance. Buying a flashy new and trendy piece of learning tech doesn’t guarantee anything. Well apart from a multi-year contract and yearly inflated prices that you might not get out of for a while.
If you have tools like Slack, MS Teams and SharePoint, I would strongly recommend for you to explore the features and functionality of these popular collaboration tools before running out and thinking you need to buy a tool because some supplier who slides into your DM’s on LinkedIn told you you needed too.
Pick a partner not a provider
If you’ve completed the above and still find yourself needing something to bulk out your learning tech portfolio, then let’s look at the criteria that’s going to help you pick the best product and partner possible.
I recommend you break your analysis across these questions when assessing suppliers:
Who are they?
It’s always good to know who the people are behind any tech you’re looking to buy.
I have a golden rule of picking partners and not providers, which means I look for people who know their stuff, are clued into the industry and can scale on my organisation’s journey.
So, you’ll want to know who is behind the product.
What team is in place that builds the product? What previous experience do they have with learning tech and the industry at large? Do their credentials allow them to truly consult and know what they’re talking about or are they another run of the mill salesperson trying to sell you a SAAS product with sub-par content and then disappear when you sign on the dotted line?
Do your research.
What is their subject matter expertise?
If it’s not from the learning and education industry, then what is it?
What products have they built before? Who uses them? And, have they been successful?
What’s their product roadmap?
Again, something I find not often discussed, what does the team’s product roadmap look like for the next 6 – 24 months?
How do they intend to improve the product over time? And are you able to feed into the roadmap with your own requests? This last one is very important for me. If you can find a partner who will let you contribute to the roadmap as your journey scales, then you might be onto a winner.
What do their clients say?
If you’re starting to get serious about a few suppliers, ask for client referrals.
But don’t just stop at the ones that the suppliers will share with you. Google is your best friend in these times and you can find a bunch of websites that independently rate and review learning tech.
The golden question: Can you see them as a worthy partner?
Look, some organisations just want an off the shelf SAAS platform to stick their logo on and kick out to their people. I get it, people have different needs and different cultures.
I’ve avoided this approach my whole career. I like to cultivate partnerships with those whose products I’ll use as part of any learning tech ecosystem with the orgs I’ve worked with over the last decade.
I talk to fellow learning peeps about this all the time. Don’t just pick a bunch of providers, find partners. Find those companies who will scale with you and even tailor features and functionality for you.
Some of the best I’ve worked with are those who have customer success teams that partner with me beyond the technology. I’ll often talk about strategies, new ways of thinking and creating new ideas. If you can find this, then for me, that’s a big tick in the yes column.
How will it work with everything else we have?
Interoperability with existing workplace technology is very, very, very! Important when it comes to making a purchase.
You must know if this tool will work with what you’ve already got. So, if you have an existing HRIS, collaboration (Slack, Teams etc) and other performance tools. Can this potential new purchase interface with these? If so, how simple will that be?
Don’t get caught in the death valley of new tech purchases where you’ve paid for your flashy new tool, only to realise it won’t connect with anything in your current workplace learning tech portfolio.
Again, do your research.
This is by no means a comprehensive list.
There will be other questions that might fit specifically for your needs but as a baseline, these are the questions I’d recommend you use as part of your criteria for any purchase.
You’ll notice I’ve not mentioned cost here, and that’s for a very good reason. You should only ask that question once you’ve completed all of the both. Price shouldn’t even factor into it until you know if you actually need something.
As always, these are just my thoughts but I’d love to hear what questions you’d add to this list? Leave them in the comments below.
And if you’re a supplier. No, answering all of these and sliding into my LinkedIn DM’s will not get you anywhere so save yourself the time and message count.
Before you go… 👋
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