What is the true cost of content development?

In the industry of workplace training, there is a predetermined estimate of hours needed to develop training class materials, training courses, eLearning courses, VLT courses, etc.  For example, each type of workplace learning deliverable has a separate, calculated number of hours for:

  • Creating content from scratch
  • Making basic updates / modifications to existing content
  • Adding major updates (like software upgrade, major implementation or process change)
  • Converting from one learning  format to another format

For this particular project, 17 full days of reviews, meetings and revisions were required to produce a single 14-page document.

Having worked in the corporate (healthcare, legal, retail, telecom, financial and mortgage)  training organizations for 20+ years, I understand the need for a realistic set of measurements.  It is necessary  to calculate the number of resources needed to produce the quality workplace courses, and materials for a given projects.  Many of my prior projects required Visio workflows, Quick Reference Guides and extensive hands-on exercises, with  200+ page User Guides, and matching Instructor / Leader’s Guides to be created and tested.

A recent instructional design project required revisions for a 14-page document to be used for new hire training.  The overall design, formatting template and content components had been decided prior to my arrival, and thus I had little input.   I was hired to produce the documentation to meet the client specifications.

In my past work life,  I have trained new hires, both as contractors and new employees within an organization.  I have developed a new hire “Train-the-Trainer” program for several organizations.  In each project, the cost of the final documentation or course produced increases with every revision, materials testing, pilot course and meeting review.

For this particular project, 17 full days of reviews, meetings and revisions were required to produce a single 14-page document.   Factor in the additional labor costs for the upcoming pilot class (which will utilize the document) and the costs continue to escalate.

Could the final product have been completed with fewer review meetings and fewer changes?  Possibly.  Would the client achieve team buy-in or commitment without the review meetings?  Maybe not.   Ultimately, the development production and distribution costs during the 17 days is not the only measurement.

Instead, let’s choose to measure the value of the content for new hires and the utilization rate within the organization within the coming year(s).


(This post was original published December 1, 2014,  and updated Updated 12/23/15, then again on 9/15/2018)