I didn’t release many RFPs during my time in enterprise L&D. I rarely had a need to play the field of learning technology. Rather, I evaluated my options, figured out what I wanted (and could afford), and went out and got it.
Now that I work on the vendor/services side of the industry, I read a decent number of RFPs. PDFs. Word documents. Spreadsheets. Online forms. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, regardless of how comprehensive requests may seem, most are missing 1 thing …
I almost never read an RFP that clearly defines the experience the organization is trying to provide to its employees as part of their overall learning and performance ecosystem. Rather, I’m presented with an arbitrary list of the trendiest L&D features of the day. Of course, your one-size-fits-all learning technology must have gamification, mobile, e-commerce, social, drag scale questions, management enrollment, unlimited course resets, balloon animals, personalized profiles, certificate printing, voice commands, etc. etc. etc. Why not? In reality, there’s nothing wrong with any of these features (except the balloon animals), but what do they add up to in terms of a day-to-day support experience for the average employee? I have no idea!
Unfortunately, this is the direction the learning technology landscape has pushed many organizations as they hunt for better resources. The ability to differentiate LMS from LMS is usually a bells and whistles fight rather than a clearly defined experience. So, L&D pros have followed the lead of the biggest, baddest, most homogeneous vendors out there and gone looking for the right bells to complement their other whistles. Meanwhile, the employee is left trying to figure out why they ever really need to access their learning platforms to get their jobs done.
It’s time for L&D to demand more from their partners. I believe this starts with clearly defining the learning and support experience for your employees – before you go looking for technology. Rather than require a potential vendor to affirm their ability to execute a list of features, explain the employee experience you want to enable and ask if they can bring that experience to life. Maybe they can. Maybe they can’t. Or maybe they’ll respond with suggestions for an even more powerful experience that you hadn’t quite imagined. Regardless, taking the experience route will help you quickly identify the right partner who is willing to invest in your employees’ success. Yes, it’s a bit more difficult and requires more strategic design than a list of features. But your employees are worth the effort (and so are your time and budget).
What’s your experience with learning technology RFPs? Do you clearly define your desired employee experience as part of the qualification process? Do you knock out vendors based on feature availability alone before digging in deeper?
JD Dillon is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. He has spent 20 years designing learning and performance strategies for respected global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company, Kaplan, Brambles, and AMC Theatres. JD is the founder of LearnGeek and Chief Learning Architect with Axonify.