NEW: Scroll to the bottom for your free download. All of Laura's top strategies to avoid a change of scope—packed into one handy checklist PDF!
We had an eye-opening webinar recently about common problems that can hinder or stall eLearning development projects and the processes the eLearning Brothers custom department has put into place to prevent or minimize these issues.
Our expert, Laura Doerr, is the Senior & Lead Project Manager for the eLearning Brothers custom team. Essentially, she manages the project managers who manage our custom projects. It’s a big job, but she manages to juggle everything with ease. So how does she do it?
Watch the webinar recording below to find out all our eLearning project management secrets.
Laura goes into detail on our key secret—the Readiness call. As you watch, or read the following Q&A, remember that a Readiness call is NOT a project kickoff call! Readiness happens before the project kickoff. We didn’t get to all the audience questions during this webinar, and Laura kindly answered some afterwards for us.
Let’s dig in and find out all of Laura’s project management secrets.
Q: I have found clients don't know what “final content” means...
A: This is very common and you are not alone. During Readiness we try to really dive deep into that. If you recall I mentioned that "Storyboard/Content" is typically the longest discussion point during Readiness. We spend the most time discussing content as it is the #1 Showstopper in projects.
I try my best to really get into the weeds, and use phrases like:
- "Are you sure this is final?"
- "We can start with this file?"
- "No one else needs to review this?"
- "This file is approved by anyone and everyone in your organization?"
Or we use one our favorites at eLearning Brothers, the "house under construction" analogy.
"Do you understand this content is like the blueprint for building a house? It's really costly to add a basement and an extra bathroom AFTER construction is complete."
I also try to not only ask questions but give them real world stories and scenarios where this has impacted other clients, and ask, "How can we make sure this doesn't happen to you?" I wish we had that magic wand to make content issues disappear. We really just rely on very good and clear communication, as well as sharing personal real-world stories, the impact of changing content later, and documentation. If we hit a content issue later, we then try our best to recall those conversations and re-visit the impacts/project consequences we spoke about.
Q: What is Alpha vs. Beta?
A: This is purely terminology. At eLearning Brothers, we refer to Alpha as the first time you receive a deliverable. For example, when we first send a storyboard, we will say "This is your Alpha Storyboard. This is the time to show it to EVERYONE who needs to provide feedback. We want you to share this now. Here's why...".
Once we receive feedback on that Alpha delivery, we will implement that feedback, then send an updated version back to the client, which is Beta. "Here's your Beta storyboard. Please double check that we implemented all of your requested Alpha edits to your satisfaction. If so, please provide your final approval of the storyboard."
Other terms we have heard used instead of Alpha and Beta are Silver and Gold Delivery, First Draft, Final Draft etc. Whichever term you use is fine, as long as your team/client is aware of the expectations required of them during that stage.
Q: If clients don't have information in Readiness calls, do you wait to kick off?
A: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If the information is something that won't cause a showstopper we can move forward. If the information is something that will cause the team to not be able to move forward, we do require that information/asset prior to kick off.
An example of a non-showstopper might be "What type of final publish do you require?" Sometimes clients don't know. The key is I have them investigating and looking for the answer now, rather than on the day we need to deliver the publish. Our PMs keep track of the outstanding questions/issues/homework items from Readiness and keep on the client until we have them all answered.
If we get close to a point where not having the answer/item will be a showstopper, we provide that guidance. For example "Hey, we are approaching Development in two weeks. Remember, if we don't have those assets by xx/xx/xxxx, your project will be at risk of coming to a halt." By asking for these items so early in the process (pre-kick off) we typically receive what we need in plenty of time.
The biggest showstopper is content. I will add that we will not start a project without finalized, approved content.
We consider content a mandatory requirement for kick off. We won't start a project without receiving the content and having it verified by our Instructional Designer as matching expectations and scope. This requirement has dramatically reduced the amount of "Big Let Downs" we have faced on kick off calls and has prevented countless budget and timeline busters.
Q: You set those parameters, but what do you do when it happens anyway. We can't bill our business partners...
A: I totally understand that in some organizations you can't bill for additional hours and work. That does eliminate some leverage you might have to encourage the team to provide what you need.
However, if billing them for extra hours won't happen, think about what will happen if the parameters aren't met. For example, you might not be able to bill for that work, but it certainly will impact the timeline. How will it impact their timeline? How will you respond if this happens? Whatever your "policy" or "impacts" are, share those upfront so they're very clear of what will happen if certain parameters are not achieved.
This is in no way shape or form done to be mean or provide punishment, but rather, it reduces stress on both sides because everyone is very clear on next steps. By educating them upfront, this puts the ball in the court of your client. If you provide them all the options (if this happens, we will do this, if this happens we will have to do this) they can make the best choice for how to proceed, and your response to that choice is clearly defined and actionable.
Q: Does eLearning Brothers use PPT storyboards or Word document format?
A: We actually do both, but the Word document format is much less common. When we do Word document format storyboards, that's usually upon the request of the client. If the client doesn't request a Word document storyboard, we will go the more visual route of PowerPoint or Storyline (by allowing the client to review using Storyline 360 Review).
We find the visual style helps clients better understand what the page will eventually look like. We place the look and feel/graphic interface within the Storyboard (background) so the client can visualize how the text on the screen works within the real estate available.
The downfall to a visual storyboard is sometimes client think that they are final and this is what the end product will look like.
We stress that the storyboards were not created by a graphic designer. The final product, once produced in your authoring tool, will look prettier and actually function and not be flat artwork. Also, our visual storyboards provide just as much information as a Word Document storyboard. We utilize the notes field in PowerPoint to insert in detail such as the audio script and directions for how the page will function or the interactivity will work.
Watch the recording now:
Want our Custom Solutions team to help you achieve your training goals? Contact us now.
Download your FREE project management checklist with all these tips now:
Top Strategies to Avoid a Change of Scope