Learning and development professionals, how often do your projects go according to plan? Do you find yourself wondering why your projects keep running into issues with budgets, timeliness, unrealistic expectations, or unforeseen project circumstances?
It is natural for stakeholders to want to rush through project analysis and design and start developing deliverables because that is when progress feels tangible. However, a few days of extra project planning up front can save weeks during the development stage—if done correctly.
Even if your stakeholders are riding the rapid design train, you should make sure the following seven categories are adequately defined at the beginning of your project. Delayed decisions in these areas can derail progress and cause significant rework down the line, so it’s best to answer these questions ahead of time.
1. Project Background
The primary goal here is to figure out why you are doing this project in the first place, and how you will be able to tell if it is successful in the end. Here are questions to get you started:
What is the project name?
What is the business purpose of the training?
What are the critical success factors for this project?
Is this a continuation of a previous project?
Are related initiatives in progress? If so, who is leading them?
How will we know if the training is a success?
What is the available budget?
In what format(s) will be the training be delivered? (e.g. classroom, video, e-learning)
What are the expected project start and end dates?
When does the training need to be launched, and what is driving that date?
Has a date been set for the kickoff meeting? (in person or via conference call)
What is the status of the project plan?
If your eyes glaze over at the mention of analysis, you might be doing it wrong. This is where the real business value comes into play. Nobody wants to develop training “shelfware,” so let’s take a little extra time to make sure the deliverables drive the necessary change the business requires. Here are a few questions to get you started:
Has a needs analysis been performed?
Who are the primary and secondary training audiences?
What skills, knowledge, ability or attitude gaps is this training trying to address?
What should learners be able to do upon completion of this training that they cannot currently do (or do well enough)?
What content and instructional methods would best help this audience master those objectives?
What is the state of the training content? Is it likely to change? Is it proven to be effective in bridging the gaps you intend to address through this training? (Or could the content itself be improved?)
What are the learners’ current skills and knowledge in these training topic areas?
How much of the required training already exists?
What existing materials could be leveraged to develop this training?
How many courses/modules are anticipated for the training?
What are the estimated times for each course/module?
Who determined the estimated hours?
3. Technology and Tools
Whether the training is delivered in a classroom, through virtual technology, or online, you should define the needed technology and tools prior to design and development to ensure it all comes together seamlessly. You may wish to add other questions to this list based on the technology needs of your project.
What are the end-user system specifications?
Will a Learning Management System (LMS) be used?
What tools and materials are available to learners? (e.g. classroom tools, virtual technology)
What authoring tools and versions are currently being used by developers?
Have compliance and testing requirements been gathered? (e.g. SCORM, ADA and 508)
What are the file format or file size limitations?
What level of interactivity do you envision per deliverable?
Can audio/video be streamed?
Has a user interface been designed and agreed on?
Now that you have a solid understanding about the project and its needs, you should be ready to gather the best talent to staff your development team. You should also identify ALL stakeholders and subject-matter experts (SMEs) early on—not just the key players—to avoid review cycle issues down the line. Consider these questions, for starters:
Who are the primary stakeholders and SMEs for this project?
Who are secondary stakeholders and SMEs for this project, and when/how will they be involved? (e.g. Does this project require legal/compliance reviews?)
Who is on the project development team, and what are their roles?
What is the plan for team meetings and communicating status reports (both internally and between the development team and stakeholders)?
What are the team members’ preferred contact methods, time zones, and out of office dates?
Who on the development team will serve as the primary point of contact for the client?
How many hours per week will the SMEs be available to support this training project?
5. Development Approach
The development approach your team follows should be defined no later than the project kickoff meeting, but even sooner is better. If your team hasn’t selected a development approach, consider adding these questions (as applicable) to your project kickoff agenda:
What approach will you use to develop deliverables? (e.g. agile and iterative, linear)
What are the required deliverables (including assessments) that need to be developed for each course/module?
Do any deliverables require a prototype to establish the appropriate tone, look and feel prior to full development?
What templates will be used to develop the deliverables?
Will a project-specific style guide be used for this project?
Will all required systems be stable and available during training development?
What will be the source of screen shots, audio, or multimedia content?
How many drafts will SMEs review during the development cycle?
How many days will be required for each SME review?
Who will have the final signoff for each course/module?
6. Implementation Support
Sooner than later, you should also determine the stakeholder’s implementation support needs—especially if train-the-trainer sessions or pilots are needed because those will impact the timelines. Here are a few questions to consider:
What train-the-trainer support is needed? When will it occur, where (in person or virtual), and by whom?
Will you deliver pilot training and make needed revisions prior to launching the training across the full training audience?
Is an IT professional available to assist with testing and implementation (if applicable)?
7. Assessments and Evaluations
Defining assessment and evaluation items early will help your team stay on track as it produces a training solution that helps bridge gaps defined during the analysis phase. Consider these questions at the start of your project:
What levels of evaluation are required? (e.g. end-of-course surveys, exams, performance evaluations, return on expectation evaluations)
How many assessment questions are required per exam?