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Purchasing Training?  Some DOs and DONTs

While organizations vary on how much training they have to spend per individual there exists a common denominator for all organizations - Resource Scarcity. These resources can be budget dollars, time, or personnel.

Reality for all of us is resources are scarce. This should put an even greater emphasis on assuring we are purchasing the correct training. Unfortunately the purchasing organization is at an extreme disadvantage. They typically are not as familiar with the subject or material they are buying and the purchase is based on: relationship the buyer has with the vendor's sales team, what seems popular in trade magazines, articles, and search engine hits.

So buyer's are at a severe disadvantage.  They wind up investing resource time and budgetary dollars to quite often find it was the wrong course, instructor, or material.

Tips when purchasing training:

  • Organizations should be interested in the instructional designer's background who wrote the course.

    •  What is his/her background with the material or subject-matter?

    • Does he/she have first hand experience or did read several books on the topic?

    • How many projects did he/she work on, what role did he/she have, project duration, length of their engagement, and project results. Regarding project results, not just if it was on-time delivery but what did the stakeholder's think of the project. Is that project in production today?

  • How many instructional designers wrote the course?  If more than one instructional designer developed the course how do they assure consistency across the material?

  • Does the instructional designer also deliver the course?

  • How is the course updated?  Is the course treated like a product and comments from the field are gathered and assimilated into future releases?

  • Is there a regular course release cycle? Or does the vendor leverage their team's down-time to write or update the course?

  • Does the vendor offer a money back guarantees if you dis-like the course or the instructor?

  • Does the vendor outsource training delivery? This could be indicative of not selling a solution.

  • What is the vendor's business model? Are they in the training business to sell you project consulting or their tool-suite? This could be indicative of a conflict of interest.

  • For the course to be effective are they suggesting consulting and mentoring?

  • In contrast, be wary of vendors that don't offer consulting and mentoring if you ask for it. This is indicative of they can teach it but they can't do it.

  • Is the course material written to teach you concepts in a building block approach or does it read like an encyclopedia.

  • Vendor should take an experiential approach to training. Meaning hands-on for the students.

  • Ask how many slides there are per course, per day, and how many topics are be covered in the course.

    • Typically a course should present a slide about every 4 - 5 minutes.

    • Be wary of courses that expect to cover a slide every minute. Your team will not be able to absorb the material. This typically occurs when the instructional designer has not separated supporting/reference material from the core concepts.

  • Ask "What will my team be capable of doing after they attended your course" and "What is the vendor's expectation on your team's level of proficiency after attending?"

So when you think about it, purchasing training can be very complicated and a mistake very costly..