Podcast | How To Find Tech That Solves Your Problems In L&D

Gary Stringer
February 29, 2024
February 29, 2024

Rush into buying tech, and before you know it, you’re tied into a contract for something that doesn’t solve your problems.

It’s a tale as old as time and one that Ross Stevenson's free template can save you from!

The Founder and Chief Learning Strategist at Steal These Thoughts joins us to explain how we can make smart choices - instead of following tech trends - to solve our problems.

Watch The Episode

Listen To The Episode


00:00 Intro to Ross and his tech template

1:41 Why are we drawn in by new tech?

7:09 Finding problems that need solving

18:48 Can our existing tech stack help?

25:37 Finding new tech for problems?

39:32 Apply all of this in your context

42:31 Audience Q&A

Takeaways on finding tech for your problems

New tech might seem shiny, sexy and fun, but it won’t solve all your problems

Especially if you’ve not defined the problems you need to solve.

Thankfully, Ross Stevenson joined us to talk through his template and process for finding the right tech to solve problems. 

And it might be tech you already have…

1. Framing your problems HAS to be the first step.

“Before you even think about technology, you need to frame your problems… what are we trying to solve? Why are we trying to solve that? Before we talk about any tool.”

Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself to get that framing right:

  • What are the things I need to solve, either in the immediate or long term? 
  • What are the components you're looking for in a tool to help you solve those problems? Be really specific and for big problems, recognise that whatever you find might not be able to solve every component of the problem.
  • Where are the key areas that a technology solution could enhance my work? And if enhancement means buying back time, make sure you’re considerate about what you’ll do with that?
  • And who are you serving with this problem? As Ross explains below:

“It may be something that you're giving to a portion of the organisation or all of the organisation, but like when any kind of company is selling a product, you need to look at what we call your ideal customer. So who is your ideal customer in the organisation?”.

2. How to work out if existing tech can solve the problem

Ross explained that there are two levels to this: The local level and the company-wide level.

Starting at the local level:

Within your L&D team, what are the five to 10 most common tools you’re using for that problem you’re trying to solve?

Then spend some time understanding what else those tools can do. It could be nothing, but at least taking the time to answer that question could save you a lot of time and money.

Try to build visibility of which tech is being used elsewhere in the business, locate the tech owners and ask them questions around its capabilities.

That works well if you’re in a startup or scaleup, and you don’t have an infrastructure department. 

At the company level:

“If you're a mid-size business or an enterprise organisation, I think the immediate route is to go to your technology infrastructure team. They might be called infrastructure, they might be called infosec, they might be called technology acquisition. One of those names usually crops up in enterprises.”

And explain to them: these are the things that we're looking at doing as a team right now, we're looking at making some buying decisions, but before we do that, we just want to understand what's currently available in the organisation.

Then investigate those tools. Who has licences and is using it? How are they using it? Is there something people have adopted because they like the UX or UI and can you scale that?

3. Have you got a Tech Knowledge Bias

“There are so many features of these products that come out over the years, even months, and some companies are really good in terms of pace that you're never going to keep up with it all.

“It's basically knowledge bias in many ways. It's like, because you've got a snapshot of what you remember buying the tool for at a specific point, that's kind of where your knowledge has stopped because you've only continued to use it for that.”

But that might mean you missed really useful features that could solve problems! So, if you have a support rep or account manager at that tool, book in some time with them.

4. What’s a good process for searching for new tech?

This is the TL:DR version, and you really do need to watch that section for Ross’ detailed explanation. But remember one thing before you start:

“Everyone wants to tell me they've got this and 500 features, which I don't really care about, and I just need to kind of focus on one thing.”

  • Once you know the problems, make a list of your non-negotiables - the things you can’t live without.
  • Do your research and create a short list of five suppliers who can tick those boxes - you can use customer stories, use cases and resources on how their product works.
  • Take that list to your stakeholders, explain your preferences, get feedback and then narrow it down to two or three.
  • And then start that stage of speaking with them and demoing the product with the mindset of: does this solve our problem?
  • Best case is that you can trial or pilot to ensure it works in practice and is well received by the end user or internal customer.

“How can we, a, understand if this going to validate what we think our people need in the wider audience, and then how can we look at making this work? 

“How can we actually see real time data on whether this is helping out our organisation, is it enhancing what we're doing, or is it hindering? And this is the best way to do it?”

5. “Reviews are good. I think referrals or recommendations are better.”

“A lot of my own decision making around buying has been because people that I trust and have known for many years in different organisations have said, this is something we're using. It might be something you want to explore yourself.”

Go to your network. Find people in the same level of different organisations. Get to the source of what they’re using? How is it working? What would they recommend?

“Call on those sources of data, but make sure you're using that data to get an overall view of is this going to be effective for me? Just because something works really well for one organisation and one culture and one infrastructure, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be right for your organisation.”