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Build or Buy — Learning Development Has a New Option

There used to only be two options — you could build or buy when starting the process of creating training or education programs and products.


The Only Options — Build or Buy

When you start the process of creating training or education programs and products, there used to only be two options — you could build or buy.

To build requires hiring staff members to build and maintain your learning program, to buy, you have to find a vendor and trust that they can deliver.

“I have worked in the learning and development industry for most of my career, and what I really wanted was a third option. It was something I increasingly saw a need for and about a year ago I decided to do something about it by founding Teamed.

Ashley Lonie has been a teacher, a learning designer, Director of Learning Design and Technology and now the CEO and founder of Teamed.

“In my experience creating learning programs, I’ve found the option to either build or buy lacking in fundamental ways.”

The Constraints

As with any solution, there are pros and cons, but when it comes to building or buying the cons can significantly limit your organization’s capabilities.

First, both options are capital intensive and thus require a significant commitment from your organization.

Secondly, neither solution is very flexible. For example, when you hire a specialist to help you design a new learning experience you bring a certain skill set in-house, but as the project evolves that person may no longer be the exact expert you need and may end up underutilized until your development cycle comes around to their area of specialty again.

On the flip side, when you hire a vendor to complete a project you lose the opportunity to either grow your organization’s internal talent pool or your staff’s capabilities.

“In my work, I’ve always needed more flexible talent solutions, something that allowed me to easily tap into the impressive expertise in the market, contract with professionals to test their fit before hiring or temporarily hire the right people for a specific amount of time.”

The ability to scale up and back down quickly to meet project goals and control overhead was also a big incentive to invent a third more flexible solution.

“Learning design and development personnel-hour demands can fluctuate significantly. It’s all based on the organizational roadmap and organizational needs. For example, we could go through a major design and build phase one year and then be in a maintenance and prototype phase another year. Organizations need to be able to control costs with these variations in personnel needs. I’ve looked for alternative solutions, tried hiring contractors and new team members on my own, and eventually came to the conclusion that a new 3rd option was necessary.”

The 3rd Option — Teamed

“I started Teamed with a vision to create an organization that pools and connects practitioners in the digital learning industry with organizations who need their services.”

Beyond being a specialized marketplace, Teamed is also a full-service staffing agency that provides flexible hiring solutions.”

“The business model came out of my own experiences hiring contractors for projects. While I was able to bring in incredible talent for short-term projects, the amount of time I spent looking for candidates, interviewing, and then setting them up with the correct tax and legal paperwork to contract with my team was extremely time-consuming. I frequently wished I had a service that could do all that for me, so I created one.”

In the Teamed marketplace, you can instantly access a growing ecosystem of professionals from learning designers to award-winning video producers to leaders who have led the creation of new learning products and programs.

“For example, if you are a creating a new online course and need a seasoned learning technologist who has experience with your LMS you can come to the Teamed website search for Learning Technologists and find a number of professionals to speak with directly and hire with the push of a button.

For most clients, Teamed also provides full-service staffing from a customized, curated list of pre-screened, expert applicants.

“I started simply, with my network of professionals who I’d worked with and had always delivered excellent work, then began adding referrals from the network until the word began to spread and we are now adding new talent every day.

One of our top priorities is ensuring we carefully onboard professionals into our system — the marketplace and our backend database. We take great care to understand each professional’s capabilities, goals, and requirements so that we can match the right people with the right organizations. Not only is it our job is to ensure the right fit between applicant and organization, but it’s deeply satisfying to us when it’s a good match for both sides.”

The ability to craft a custom solution client by client is truly what sets Teamed apart from the build or buy alternative.

“Interestingly, our first three clients each had very different needs. In retrospect, this was helpful as it pushed us to develop flexible offerings to meet varying needs.”

The first client, an online university, needed both learning project managers and back-office services to easily hire contractors that Teamed referred and those they already knew. The second client, a corporate learning and development department, simply needed training learning designer referrals, and the third client, an edtech company, wanted to hire new employees, but also wanted to be able to contract with them before hiring.

“The net result is we now offer all of these hiring solutions; employer of record services to hire contractors, referral services for contractors or direct-hires, and a temporary to permanent employee option.”

The Bigger Picture

While Teamed was founded primarily to solve a business need — helping organizations quickly and easily connect with the right professionals, while giving them the flexibility to innovate and manage costs at the same time, for Ashley, there’s a greater mission at the heart of her vision for Teamed.

“For me, Teamed is also about improving the professional lives of people within the learning field, giving them new outlets for their talents and access to opportunity in a rapidly changing economy and industry, while still advancing education and learning.”

There’s no debate that over the last 10 years the pace of change has accelerated in the learning industry. Countless organizations have restructured to keep pace and this means that long-term roles in organizations are no longer the norm and layoffs are often an unfortunate reality.

“I suspect this will continue as technological and data advancements are taking a stronger hold on education and learning. As this field transitions and flexible workforces become a necessity, a service like Teamed has an opportunity to help design a system that better supports professionals’ economic stability and accelerate progress in education and learning.”

For Ashley, seeing Teamed grow from a third option to building and buying to a new way of working in the learning space, is a win-win for organizations and the experts they work with.

“Starting any new venture is scary. Leaving the safety net of what you know and an established career can feel risky. But, I strongly believe this type of organization can add immense value and that insight is being validated by the amazing work I‘m seeing come out the partnerships Teamed is facilitating every day.”

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