There is a lot of excitement and buzz around using animations to deliver interactive training experiences for a variety of training content. Along with that excitement goes a great deal of wasted effort and budget because few people realize just how complex modern animation tools are and how sophisticated an environment you need to develop a successful training animation.
But my in-house team is great!
An animation about entertaining viewers
Training can and should be entertaining
Obviously, it would be great if an in-house team could fire up a PowerPoint, leverage their skills and experience with content development and easily create a high-quality animated training component. However, that is just a fantasy. To develop an animated training piece; not only do you have to be highly skilled with your tool of choice, visualize complex topics, but also able to deal with the complexities of rendering and delivery to your end-user.
What’s a good choice of tool?
Adobe After Effects CC has become the tool of choice for the majority of complex animations. It is highly-known for having one of the hardest learning curves of any animation software product. It normally takes an animator a couple of years before they begin to develop the techniques, scripting ability and overall skills required to deliver the level of animation that learners have come to expect.
PowerPoint on steroids or overshooting the mark?
There is nothing worse than what looks like a PowerPoint on steroids, that leverages none of the communication opportunities offered by good use of animation. Or on the other hand, in-house teams becoming beguiled by some inventive animation concept that takes weeks to develop and ultimately contributes little to the learning experience.
Buy a restaurant instead.
I think there is a good analogy here. If you decided to open a restaurant, as a business person, you would understand the entire process of getting your customers in the door, satisfactorily fed and then collecting their money. You would not do the cooking yourself. You would recognize that there are some very specific skills involved in being a chef and that your time and effort would be best focused on making the restaurant run successfully allowing the professional to work on the cooking.
This analogy holds up when it comes to animations and training. You may well have a very clear vision of what it is you want and are developing against very specific training goals. What you probably do not have is the skills to develop the content.
We can fix it but why do we need to?
We spend a lot of time working on projects that have been previously developed in-house, and we then recreate them. Poorly produced animated training content is quite literally counterproductive. They are hard to watch, hard to learn from and ultimately do little to show the importance of the subject they attempt to communicate.
Risk versus reward.
Another good reason for not developing the actual content in-house relates to risk and resources. Most in-house productions are done by one person which implies a single point of failure and a single resource that can easily be overwhelmed and lead to missed deadlines. With our team of animators, we can flex our resources to put multiple animators on a single project. We have a workflow and process designed to enable shared and collaborative development, much in the same way a software company uses a team to develop a product.
This all costs money.
Of course, there is always a concern about cost as no budget is infinite, and there is an obligation to ensure that training funds are well spent and deliver value. If you add up the total cost of employee time, the software costs, the licenses for plug-ins, time spent on QA, and miscellaneous expenses and lost opportunity cost, it is not hard to see how a production company can look like a good use of funds.
I assume that one day the majority of businesses will be able to do this kind of content development in-house. Right now it is technically complex, challenging and expensive, but that might well change over time. In the meantime, it is a safe bet to rely on a production company to develop your animation content while you focus on the big picture of the learning goals and ensuring that the training meets it’s objectives required.