Posted by: bbannan | May 3, 2010

Consultants and Outsourcing in Software Development – Jay A. Allen

My delay with posting and apologies.  – Brenda

Picking up where Geoff left us off last week with Competitive Research we might ask the question, “So who is doing this research (hence the title of Chapter 15 in Kuniavsky: “Others’ Hard Work: Published Information and Consultants”).  Geoff’s link to the article provided a fantastic framework for almost any research effort, but how can we apply that to our field of instructional design, particularly to instructional technology design (ITD)?

While the focus of Geoff’s post appropriately focused on knowing thyself, “By going outside your immediate development context, you can quickly acquire a high level of perspective that you probably wouldn’t be able to re-create in-house” (Kuniavsky, 2003, p. 439).  This post may help you with the quickly part of Kuniavsky’s quote by guiding you to some of my trusted sources.

Market research in ITD happens to be a large part of my responsibility on the job.  So finding trustworthy, reputable, independent consultants to help me in that role is crucial.  Whether it’s researching LMS’, LCMS’, e-learning development tools, webinar capabilities, virtual world technologies or the like; leveraging the products of firms which are focused on providing these analyses makes my job, well, not easy, but easier.

What I will capture here follows Kuniavsky’s outline and adds to what is already presented in the text.

Published Information: Kuniavsky is right on the mark with his characterization of these sources: often more broad than deep and typically a bit pricey.  In addition to those listed in the text (a free shameless plug to go buy the book), here are a few others (I also do NOT get any royalties for these mentions):

(This is a link to ASTD’s site map since there are multiple directions for finding information from ASTD including: Blogs, Case Studies, Communities, Discussion Boards, Publications, Research, and White Papers – just to name a few.  NOTE: You may need to be a member to access some of these.)

Bersin & Associates


The eLearning Guild

Specialists: Always pricey, but sometimes that is what it takes.  Heed Kuniavsky’s advice well.  Entering into an arrangement with a specialist without a detailed strategy will not do anyone any good (well, okay, the specialist can make a ton of money, so it won’t do YOU any good.)

Harold Jarche
(Now following on Twitter, the gent has a very palatable flavor.)

JPL Creative
(I don’t know these folks, but their website is WAY COOL!)

Lance Dublin

(Another web-hit worth investigation, IMHO.)

Final Thoughts
One avenue not mentioned by Kuniavsky which may be an opportunity which you could explore is the Request for Information (RFI) versus the Request for Proposal (RFP) – which is very clearly described on pages 450-454.  In my experience, the RFI process follows a similar path of the RFP, but does not financially obligate your organization to actually following through with whatever may be suggested by the Request.  It has the additional value of putting your inquiry “on the street” and alerting potential providers of your interest.  In doing so, you may uncover additional providers which may actually better cater directly to your needs.

And that’s where I would like to end, with a suggestion that this post is itself an RFI…

Challenge: Are you aware of other Published Information sources or Specialists not mentioned in Kuniavsky or by me which could be of value to our collective efforts as an industry?

Please craft a response to add to our collective, collaborative knowledgebase!

Reference: Kuniavski, M. (2003). Observing the user experience. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.



  1. I frequently check out Elliott Masie’s website. He’s well-known in the ISD world.

    You can sign up to be a member of Learning Consortium and join his listserv, where you can listen to podcasts and join virtual sessions with other ISDs.

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