How to Save Money on Maintenance
Would you purchase a top-of-the-line safe, fill it with money, and throw away the key?
Just imagine your new safe is a brand-new eLearning SCORM file you’ve created or purchased. In addition to money, it’s full of hours and hours of your time and your SME’s time. And instead of a key, we are talking about source files. Would you delete or lose them if you knew that they were the key to maintaining your courses?
If you aren’t taking precious care to capture, organize, and protect your source files, then you’re throwing away money.
Sadly, we see this all the time. A client would like to update a course, but that quick update instead becomes a rebuild because:
Liz kept all the files on her drive, but the drive was corrupted.
Todd had the source files, but he isn’t with the organization any more.
Mia purchased the modules and forgot to download the files from the vendor. It’s been two years, and they only store files for one year after a project is complete.
Chen purchased the modules, but the vendor doesn't provide source files.
The list goes on and on, but you get the point.
There are content management systems out there that can support this process, but great content management can be achieved using two key things: a safe storage location and a content management process. The safe storage location depends on the process, but since that’s the easiest part, we will discuss that first.
A storage location should be private and backed up. That could be an internal drive that is backed up by your IT department. Or it could be a cloud-based system that allows you to restore files from older versions. There are many practical solutions here, and once you outline your process (who, what, where) you’ll be in a position to choose a storage location that works.
We don’t recommend making your storage location accessible to the whole company, as someone could accidentally delete something important. Consider assigning different permission levels (Read Only, Read Write, etc.) depending on a person’s role. For instance, maybe the Instructional Designers need to have read/write access to all the files, while trainers may only need to have read/write or read only permissions for the ILT or presentation materials.
Creating a Content Management Process
We have seen instances where organizations think that a content management system will solve all their problems (“shiny thing syndrome”), but without a process it’s less than of half the equation. The best content management system we have witnessed was just an internal shared drive with appropriate permissions assigned to the appropriate parties. Not elaborate in the slightest.
As discussed earlier, safe storage alone is not enough to fix all the example problems we listed. Creating and implementing a content management process is the harder part. There are two things that make this challenging.
First, we live in a world of rapid design where anyone can be a creator. It can be hard to even identify everyone who is making courses at your organization.
Secondly, many large organizations have global training departments. Once you identify the key players globally, it can be even harder to get them to agree to store their files in a centralized place. This requires buy-in and alignment between multiple parties, groups, and departments, and this is where people get hung up.
The first step in alignment is education. Implementing a process requires an awarenes of why content management is important and a basic understanding of what a source file is.
If you’re hung up on the process, start small. Don’t get into the weeds just yet. First focus on the three big items:
Who is responsible for identifying and storing files?
What should be stored?*
Where should it be stored?
You can go much deeper into things like required folder structures and naming conventions later, but when alignment is a struggle, start with the basics of who, what, and where.
In situations where a centralized process has failed, have different groups define their process in a way that meets the ultimate goal: that when a course or other learning object needs to be updated, the source file is accessible at that time. This may mean that ILT materials are stored in a different location than eLearning. While it may not be ideal, as long as the files get saved and those that make updates know where to access the files, you are leaps and bounds better off than where you started.
*We think it’s important to revisit the “what” here. If you’re struggling with what should be stored and who owns it, you might need to define the “what.” Looking at the longevity or intended shelf life of the content as well as the cost of the content will help you define what’s important at your organization. For example: You might not get Pat in IT on board with saving all of his quick help tutorials in your storage location, but if Pat’s inexpensive videos don’t have a long shelf life because technology is constantly changing then that’s ok. Different organizations may have different definitions of what should be stored.
As with most problems in life, there isn’t one easy answer that covers all situations. This blog is an attempt to help large organizations understand content management. It’s a topic we bring up in client conversations whenever we recognize a potential issue. When we hand over files at the end of a project, we often worry that they will be lost before the time comes for the client to update them. If the client made an update, but then loses the files, then our backups can’t help. The information we offer here is based on lessons learned, and what we have seen work well and what we have seen fail at different organizations.
We would love to hear more about how people are implementing great content management at their organizations!