It’s time for the intelligent customer

24 Apr
April 24, 2014

This week I’d like to suggest one option to help cure the recent malaise that spawned the elearning manifesto.  In a previous post I wrote about the sad reasons for the existence of the manifesto and the fact that ‘we’ the industry had let this happen on our watch.  It was a post that sparked more comments than previous posts,  both on this website and across Twitter and LinkedIn.  Now it’s time to take action!


I don’t intend to go over the whole elearning manifesto situation again because you can catch up with the various posts for yourself but needless to say, I’d already begun thinking about how we can recover from our current position.  A comment on one of my blog posts from Clark Quinn, one of the founding volunteers of the manifesto, helped cement my views.

Main areas of dysfunction

At a high level, there are three areas of dysfunction that the manifesto needs to address:

  1. vendors developing poor off-the-shelf elearning
  2. vendors developing poor bespoke elearning
  3. organisations developing poor bespoke elearning

I realise that there’s a wealth of independent elearning design and development talent and I’ve included these under the vendor heading; I’ve included in-house elearning talent under the organisation banner.

Question:  Why can vendors and organisations develop poor elearning?

Answer:  Because they are allowed to.

In his comment on my previous post, Clark commented that a number of designers and buyers and managers and executives just don’t know ‘what good looks like’.  I agree, and this is a fundamental issue but not one that is insurmountable – well, not if we look to adopt an intelligent customer approach.

According to Wikipedia, the Intelligent Customer is “an in-house capability within an organisation which assists the organisation in the procurement of outsourced services. The ‘Intelligent Customer’ retains sufficient technical knowledge of the services being provided by a third party to competently specify requirements and manage delivery of the services.”

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive has a slightly snappier definition, which is: “The capability of the organisation to have a clear understanding and knowledge of the product or service being supplied.

And for me this is potential gold – organisations have been employing the intelligent customer approach for many years – specifically in the areas of IT and engineering.  The in-house expert knows ‘what good looks like’, asks the right questions and challenges vendors and their own organisations to ‘do the right thing’.

An intelligent customer will advise if organisational requests are in ‘la-la land’ or internal concepts of costs, timescales etc. are misaligned.  Equally they will have the courage to challenge vendors and will ensure that only the best are selected.


It’s never a perfect world, but perhaps – just perhaps – an elearning intelligent customer could begin to stem the tide of poor elearning.  Next time you’re looking to commission some elearning why not consider an intelligent customer approach?  I’m based in the UK and know of many great independent consultants who would do the role on a per course basis and I’m sure that wherever you are there’ll be some great people you can access.

Call to action

We don’t have to accept poor elearning any more.  We all have access to a great pool of people who could help us get the best out of our vendors and our own organisations.  It’s up to us to use them and fight back against the malaise that allowed the elearning manifesto to exist.

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2 replies
  1. Stephanie Gering says:

    Thanks, Jonathan for this valuable article.


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