As many of our past blog posts demonstrate, talent and creativity are a big part of what happens at Obsidian Learning. But as much as we are passionate about applying both to create effective learning experiences, we also understand that there must be a business case for choosing a learning company.

With close to two decades’ experience in the learning industry, we have learned a thing or two about the critical factors that any business or learning decision maker should consider when evaluating existing learning vendor or selecting a new learning company.


This is the single most crucial element for a successful project. Communication should be open, honest, and constructive. Creating learning experiences, whether learning videos, computer-based trainings, workshops, or learning hubs/dashboards can be a complex endeavor involving many people with a wide range of competencies. Your learning vendor should be capable of interacting with learning and development executives, subject matter experts, technical experts, and senior and junior staff.

Best Practice: Each Obsidian Learning project starts with a kick-off meeting, which is an agenda-based, bird’s-eye view of the development process with emphasis on critical focus areas. During the kick-off meeting, we reiterate or clarify project objectives, outline roles and responsibilities, and lay out a high-level project plan.

Key questions (to help you evaluate your existing learning vendor)

  • Is all communication clear and concise?
  • Does your vendor use management tools such as checklists, timelines, and/or project plans, and keep them up to date?
  • Are you always clear on next steps and individual responsibilities?
  • Has your vendor conveyed a specific learning philosophy (e.g. Obsidian’s Blended Learning model) that informs design strategies?

Efficient Use of Time

We understand that you, your team members, and your subject matter experts have full time jobs, and that spending long hours in meetings with your learning vendor may not be the most efficient use of your time. At Obsidian Learning we have perfected the art form of working with SMEs, which includes accommodating their travel, work, and personal commitments.

Best Practice: Depending on SME availability, we prefer to start the actual development process with a one to two hour working meeting. Conscientious of your resources, we encourage the presence of only necessary individuals with the objective of collecting the essential data, materials, and any supplemental resources that should be included in the learning experience. Additional in-person meetings are dictated solely by project imperatives, and we try to keep them to a minimum.

Key questions (to help you evaluate your existing learning vendor)

  • Is your development team bombarded with follow-up emails and additional requests from your learning provider?
  • Has your learning provider established a good rapport with your SME?
  • Do your SMEs have doubts about your learning provider’s ability to process highly technical subjects?

Smooth Progress

It is our responsibility to demonstrate how the learning will be effective, and also to ensure smooth project management. We provide a clear and concise roadmap for the training, and put in the upfront time to ensure that the development stage is not peppered with communication snags, timing delays, and review process snafus: these are the types of issues that good project prep can avoid entirely, leaving client project coordinators and SMEs free to pursue company business.

Best Practice: At the beginning of the development process, our clients are provided with a high-level roadmap with clearly marked project milestones based on agreed-upon deliverables and expected delivery time. Throughout the development process, we provide status updates with a frequency agreed upon with the client, and which best suits the project length and scope. Assigned project managers are available to respond to client requests and will always do so promptly.

Key questions (to help you evaluate your existing learning vendor)

  • Are you kept informed of project progress, and do you know what your learning provider is doing at each stage of the project?
  • Have you been confronted by unexpected delays (surprise!)? Does your vendor keep you sufficiently updated, and is response to change coordinated?
  • Are you able to concentrate on your day-to-day work, confident in the knowledge that your learning and development needs are in the best hands?


"Smooth" does not necessarily mean "linear". Projects can sometimes (and often do) change direction, and responsiveness to client needs is essential. Examples run the gamut, from adapting to tighter budgets, adjusting project delivery dates to accommodate scheduling imperatives, or simply developing user-friendly solutions for SME review of (almost) finalized materials.

Best Practice: At Obsidian we listen to our clients and try to anticipate potential obstacles. Our project managers are experts at making informed judgements about client response times and project timelines, and will always provide tactical alternatives in the event of unavoidable delays.

Key questions (to help you evaluate your existing learning vendor)

  • Does your learning provider respond constructively to unforeseen changes to any aspect of the project?
  • Can your learning provider adapt to a reduced budget in the middle of the development process, and propose suitable alternatives?
  • Do incremental shifts (in terms of timing, project personnel, SME availability…) require a let’s-get-everybody-on-the-same-page type of meeting?

Obsidian’s project management team uses the best practices listed above to create value for our clients, both in terms of learning and their bottom line. We deliver exceptional learning experiences, employees learn what they need to do their jobs effectively, and our clients get a measureable return on investment. Does your current learning provider do the same?

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