As we cross the halfway point for 2013, many training centers are formulating their budget package for the next fiscal year. Justifying your training budget relies on hard metrics; data to support that training has a positive impact on the business. Training managers must continue to deliver consistent or improved outcomes at a reduced cost.
One of the ways you can reduce your training budget is to look carefully at the technology and processes employed by your training organization. There are ways to potentially save thousands of dollars without compromising your effectiveness, if you’re willing to look for them.
Reevaluate Your Learning Management System
If you’re paying more than $50,000 a year for your corporate Learning Management System, you’re definitely paying too much.
If you’re paying for your learning management system on a per-student, per-computer, or per-course arrangement, you’re probably paying too much.
Today’s LMS vendors spend thousands of dollars trying to convince training managers that they have the perfect solution. Do you feel like watching an LMS vendor demo is only a short step from watching the Ginsu knife infomercial? It slices, it dices, it stays sharp forever, you’ll never need another knife… The fact is, a learning management system really performs three basic functions: it provides the interface between customers and the training center, it accumulates and reports on training activity, and it coordinates the delivery of training (classroom and online).
Take this simple test… Grab the latest promotional flyer, brochure or feature list from your current LMS vendor. Take a red ink pen and mark through any feature your training center has not used in the past 30 days. You’ll probably be surprised when you’re done. If your sheet has a lot of red ink, it’s time to revisit your vendor contract.
For more tips on selecting an LMS vendor that’s right for your organization, check out Selecting a Training / Learning Management System.
Simplify Software and Computing Power
Your LMS isn’t the only area you can simplify and save costs. Identify software in use throughout your training organization and look for opportunities to reduce cost. Many expensive software packages such as Adobe Photoshop have lower cost competitors. The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a free package for image editing and composition; Google Apps for Business and OpenOffice provide inexpensive avenues for document processing and management. Freeware and open-source packages have progressed significantly in features and stability. Look at the tasks a person actually needs to perform and select software that provides those features.
One of the justifications for high-dollar learning management systems is the inclusion of content creation tools. Chefs don’t create a four-course meal using a single pan or knife, so trying to get “all-in-one” from your LMS vendor can actually hurt you. First, the added features add to the price. Second, the tools can be less robust than you might get through purchasing a separate product. Don’t pay your LMS vendor $25,000 a year for features to turn your PowerPoint into SCORM-conformant courses. Adobe’s Captivate platform does the same thing and is available on a monthly subscription plan for $29.99 (Adobe Captivate). Think about the money saved by purchasing software only for those who actually need it, and using start-and-stop subscriptions for occasional users.
There was a time when trainers truly needed the latest technology in their laptop and desktop computers. Trainers pushed the technology envelope as they learned to incorporate video into training and used laptops in lieu of VCRs and DVD players. Today’s trainers are more likely to be restricted by internet connectivity than the technology in their laptop. Certainly a person working in instructional design that edits video and audio on a daily basis needs a powerful machine, but not every trainer. A good solution for small to medium training groups is to set up one or more shared workstations to handle higher-order tasks. This increases resource utilization and reduces duplication.
Get Control of Resources and Spending
Resources are a constant balancing act for training center managers. Too few resources, and training becomes extremely challenging. Too many resources and the cost-benefit analysis gets skewed. Resources can be anything from vehicles, projectors and computers to rooms and furniture. Carefully evaluate the value of any resource that isn’t used frequently. If a laptop computer only exists as a backup, yet isn’t used for 9 months – is that resource serving a purpose or simply a drain? Some tips on resources:
- Work with your purchasing authority to sell excess resources to other internal departments or the public via approved channels.
- Monitor the actual usage of resources against the expected use, and against the resource’s expected life cycle.
- Consider sharing resources – including acquisition and maintenance costs. For example, rather than purchasing multiple document scanners for individual computers or spaces purchase one higher quality scanner for a central location.
- Avoid guessing about usage. Purchase items only when a documented need exists. Simply “thinking” a resource will be helpful isn’t enough.
- Eliminate redundancy by scheduling the use of resources instead of duplicating them.
- Consider renting or borrowing resources that are needed, but not often.
When you reduce redundancy and share resources, you may find that your organization can have higher quality equipment by sharing with other departments. Finally, control spending by authorized individuals. An instructor forgetting a resource at the office, and purchasing a new one from a much closer store is poor business practice. Overnight shipping is another expensive fix for a problem that (usually) can be avoided; Priority Mail from the U.S. Postal Service has made great improvements in service and delivers on Saturdays for the same price.
If you like this blog articles, take a look at Training You: Managing the Corporate Training Function. Training You is an essential guide for both new and experienced training managers. Structured around five critical areas a corporate training department must get right, Training You gives practical advice and steps to dramatically increasing training effectiveness and return on investment.