When starting new projects, clients often ask us for some best practices that they—as edtech or publishing companies—can follow to work successfully with vendors. While we can’t speak for all vendors, we have compiled the following list as a starting point that can be adjusted to be more specific to a client’s expectations.
How Clients Can Help Vendors
The following are some best practices that clients might want to consider when working with vendors.
- Bring the vendor in at early stages to prototype. Or, if that is not an option, then have firm samples, templates, and guidelines for all components available for vendors during the RFP/bid process. This allows us to accurately estimate the amount of work involved and to put together the appropriate project team with internal and external resources.
- Build the overall project schedule to include 1–2 weeks for project launch and training at the start of the project. Giving the team several days with the materials before they have to start writing will result in a better product with fewer revisions needed. This will save time and effort for both teams.
- Training sessions with the larger development team (client and vendor) to review guidelines, samples, and other documents can be helpful. We suggest providing all documents prior to the training, with enough time for our team to review the documents and come to the training with any questions in mind.
- Work together at project launch to create one set of workflows and trackers that can be used by both client and vendor. It is also helpful to know the expectation of each step in the workflow if it is not obvious. For example, a step called ‘Art Review’ can mean different things to different clients.
- A tracker with a TOC landing page containing quick links is extremely useful.
- Team rosters are always helpful. It needs to be clear who to reach out to for various parts of the project.
- Establish clear expectations and communication about who is responsible for updates and changes that occur during a project. This is especially important for large projects. Files and batches are at different steps of the workflows, so knowing responsibilities helps plan resources at the best time.
- Develop guidelines and style guides as much as possible before presenting them to the vendor. Frequent changes make it difficult to maintain a solid writing/editing team and to price the work accurately in the proposal stage. If writers are being paid for a specific task, asking them to continually reread guidelines does not allow them to use their time effectively. Additionally, CSA works to create QuickStart Guides for the project team to help them understand their specific tasks and what documents are relevant for their tasks. Having guidelines and other documents finalized before writers and editors begin allows CSA to create their QuickStarts, ultimately setting the projects up for success.
- Color code—or highlight in some way—changes to guidelines. This is best when done during the thin slice or pilot stage, but we understand that sometimes changes need to be made at a later stage. Having a visual cue to know exactly what has changed makes this less frustrating.
- Communicate clear guidance on and include samples of alt text, art specs, and metadata at the proposal stage in order to accurately price these items and estimate time needed.
- Plan for a thin slice or pilot if time permits, as this allows for thorough review and feedback before writing for the full program starts. Guidelines and templates should then be updated and finalized (as much as possible) prior to writing.
- Build time in between the thin slice or pilot and the full development. This stage is ideal, as it is a great chance for everyone to thoroughly review feedback and make any global changes that must be implemented in the full program.
- Provide finalized samples to help writers and editors understand what the client expects before regular program writing starts. We have had much success using annotated samples and templates that provide information on where to find information to complete.
- Consider consulting with the vendor on the time it takes to create specific items to minimize the risk of rushing to make a deadline. If the vendor is given the expected time for creation, client review time can shorten, and the end result will be better.
- Maintain open communication with both teams to yield a productive collaboration.
Vendor Best Practices
CSA strongly believes that a successful client–vendor relationship needs to be built on respect, collaboration, and quality. As a vendor, CSA follows a set of best practices that have proven to yield ideal results. You can read more about the CSA Way and our best practices on our website. These best practices are simply guidelines that we follow. If a client has specific requests or best practices, we can accommodate those as well.
One of CSA’s core values is ‘We strive.’ We encourage curiosity and are always asking how things can be improved. These best practices were born from that curiosity and value of delivering high-quality content. If you ever have any questions or suggestions about our process, we would love to hear from you!