7 Questions to Ask Before Deciding to Build or Buy Learning Technology

Emily McLaughlin
Aug 18, 2017 12:49:10 PM
When it comes to launching a new online learning initiative, your organization needs to make an important decision in the beginning. You must decide to either 1) build the technology from scratch using internal resources, or 2) buy from a third party vendor/partner whose primary focus is on  learning technology.

Before you invest in one option over another, it's critical that your organization ask some important questions. After careful consideration of the answers, you might discover that your first instinct -- what you thought might be easier or cheaper -- is wrong.
Here are seven questions you should ask before deciding to build vs. buy. 
  1. BUDGET: Do we have budget and resources to build the right solution in-house? Building a homegrown learning technology isn't easy. It takes time, manpower, skills, upkeep, updates, and much more to stay operational.

    Oftentimes, significant resources are required to do even the most basic tasks such as updating landing pages or courses. Businesses often think building operations internally is a cost savings. In the short term it might be, but for long term and scalable operations, partnering with a vendor is the better option.

  2. SCALABILITY & INNOVATION: Do we want to scale our learning operations, and also take advantage of the innovations to come? If looking to train or educate a small set of learners, internal operations most certainly will suffice. However, if your business has complex requirements, many cohorts of learners such as employees, customers, partners, and more, managing and maintaining the entire operation can be a difficult task. Homegrown systems often struggle to keep up with the pace of innovation (i.e., most homegrown systems today aren't mobile-friendly). Leveraging a technology vendor's expertise and 100% focus on delivery will help prevent a superior product from hindering your business down the road.

  3. INTEGRATIONS: How much technology do we need to piece together? When it comes to patching together an internal system, there are often a lot of technology needs -- some of which you'll have to leverage with outside help. Creating courses in one application, loading them into a management system, and hooking up additional systems such as commerce or reporting applications if necessary all takes time and money. This also increases the likelihood of something breaking. More consolidated third party systems have typically worked out most of those kinks already and have more seamless integrations out-of-the-box.

  4. CONTENT MANAGEMENT: Will the courses need to be updated regularly? Will new clients be added regularly? Do we have that bandwidth? This are big questions to ask. If you are hoping to scale online learning initiatives, or have a fast-growing pool of internal employees or clients, you need a platform that can scale with you. Managing content, making updates, providing dedicated learning environments, tracking users (active and inactive) can all be very cumbersome challenges. These are things technology providers have already thought about and figured out. Don't cause your organization unnecessary stress by trying to do it all yourself. The more complex the content management requirements, the more likely a homegrown solution will eventually fall short.

  5. SECURITY: Is our course content high risk or confidential? One big question the Thought Industries team is asked by organizations is, "Will my content be safe and secure?" Many companies may feel safer if all their content in kept in-house, but in actuality third party learning technology providers undergo rigorous security checks to ensure content and data is safe and secure. In the research stage of your online learning initiative, ask a lot of questions about security to help find the right fit for you.

  6. TIMING: Is timing a factor? If your organization needs to get training out ASAP, there might not be time to build or customize a solution and have it operational. In this instance, it might be best to buy an off-the-shelf solution and upload your learning content there. The laundry list of requirements necessary to build out an even basic operation can be lengthy. So, if your organization is looking to get up and running quickly, partnering with a vendor is the way to go.

  7. NEEDS: Do we even need to implement a full-scale learning operation? If another organization or content provider already build the courses we are trying to create, sometimes it doesn't make sense to recreate the wheel. If your organization is using online learning for basic security training, software training, or HR protocols, you might want to research what kind of training already exists. It might be cheaper for your organization to invest in those trainings, than to create your own content and learning operation. 
So, when does it make sense to actually build a homegrown system? Oftentimes, its doesn't make a lot of sense. But, if your business has significant time, resources, and internal budget to have 100% focus on the creation and maintenance of the system, then it could be beneficial. With homegrown technology, you have complete control over development, features, and more. 
The question is: Does the ends justify the means?
Here at Thought Industries, we have worked with many customers who grew tired of dealing with their internal, homegrown learning system and decided to migrate over to our Learning Business Platform. We work with customers on an individual basis to understand their complete requirements and make sure any questions or concerns are addressed to give you peace of mind as you transition to our more modern, scalable, and flexible platform.
Interested in learning more? Schedule some time to talk to a Thought Industries' representative today. we'd love to hear about any of your current or future projects and show you how our platform can potentially satisfy your needs. 

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