Friday, November 25

What Happens When You Neglect to Create a Mobile Strategy?

So now that you have the building blocks of your strategy in your sights, it important to maintain focus. Now is not the time to get caught up in discussions about building your first app or what type of devices the IT department is going to be buying. You need to stay in the driver’s seat and craft the strategy to match the technology landscape of the community at large and also find a healthy mix of progress and protection to meet your business goals.

What The Strategy Provides
More than anything else, the mobile learning strategy gives you a compass on which to guide your team’s efforts (maybe more appropriately, a GPS). This aerial view of the mobile learning plan you have in mind prevents distractions. Think of wasted time in meetings, hours writing RFPs, designs and wireframes destined for failure. This strategy helps you continue making progress, not wasting efforts. It allows you to see the proverbial forest for the trees.

The Trees
Oh the trees! They’re beautiful! With mobile there are just many of them. Every time a new tablet comes out, a tree! With every OS or SDK update and beta distribution, another tree! A press release from a company regarding their plug-ins status on mobile, there’s yet another. You see where I am going with this, right? Reading mobile industry news sites is a great idea of course; it keeps you informed as to where the leaders are headed. Attending conferences and webinars is also a great thing to help you see where technology is going. However, to take a single news story or a single bullet point in a keynote speech and seize on it as the cornerstone as your entire strategy will surely lead you to ruin. Each of these aforementioned ‘for instances’ is insignificant in the bigger picture and should be weighed and considered in light of all the other news items, customer or user inputs, and so on in order to help create your larger strategy.

When the trees keep popping up quicker than you can cut them down, you know you are in trouble. You’ll constantly be issuing statements to your management about what the latest development means to them and your work. You’ll start to lose credibility with your stakeholders and designers as well. You must elevate and think big!

The Forest
Step back for a moment and take a look at the trees from a distance. What direction is the wind blowing through them in your line of work? I’m talking about big ideas, concepts, and trends. Are tablets growing in popularity? Is a particular platform taking over or dwindling rapidly? Are users demanding notifications and content just-in-time? Are advanced hardware features like cameras, geolocation, 3D graphics, etc., a now expected featureset? Are regulations hampering progress in your business? Are the stakeholders ready to make decisions and contribute? Is the mobile web winning over hearts and minds in your IT department due to scalability and ease of deployment and support? These are the telling signs that let you understand where you need to spend your efforts. These signs show you the true shape of your forest.

Until Next Time
Now that we’ve gone over why a good Mobile Learning Strategy is important, what one looks like and you also have a good idea of what happens when you neglect to use one, we’ll talk implementation next week!

Thursday, November 17

What Does a Good Mobile Learning Strategy Look Like?

Last week we established a few baseline expectations of the benefits of a mobile learning strategy. We talked about how it affects your immediate team, your external stakeholders and how it improves the long-term success of your mobile learning efforts. With those points in mind, you’re probably ready to get your efforts underway in creating a strategy. Hold on there, partner. Before venturing in this direction it’s vital to get a good understanding of what components comprise a great mobile learning strategy, what you need to avoid, the basics on what it takes to get started and what resources are out there to help you on all of this.

What’s in a Strategy?
In essence, a strategy is a comprehensive high-level view of your mobile learning roadmap and technology landscape.

The roadmap for a successful mobile learning should take in account your learners, their goals, the organization’s pedagogy and value on training/learning, the focus placed on just-in-time learning and performance support, and the companies views on augmentation. These topics should be considered in terms of where they are now, but also with an eye to the future, possibly thinking out 6 months, 1 year, or maybe 2 years. Planning much further out than that would be very difficult due to the constantly quickening pace of the mobile landscape. The practicality of estimating where technology will be that far out, when you yourself are not one of the technologists inventing it is a fruitless exercise.

The technology landscape can be comprised of the Six P’s of a Mobile Technology Strategy, published by Float, here. These six P’s are: Platform, Procurement, Policies, Provisioning, Publishing, and Procedures. By carefully weighing your options in these areas, completing the necessary analysis, and then choosing a recommended path or paths in each of them, you will know you are making the correct steps to achieve success.

A strategy is useless unless it can be implemented, so in that light, be sure to ground your planning in the practical and don’t get too theoretical. You’ll need to make sure that scope, schedule, and budget are always aligned with your business strategy, resources, and funding you have available to you.

What’s Not In A Strategy?
It should be clear that a strategy should be full of big ideas tempered with implementation practicality as a backdrop. A strategy is not an app, or really for that matter a series of apps (though it could potentially be, depending on your analysis outcome, natch). A strategy is not an edict of platform nor policy, though these are likely to be components of your larger effort.
A strategy should not be a dead tree. This mobile world moves quickly. What was once unthinkable becomes reality with the next major keynote by a hardware or software vendor. What was once only the territory of an app becomes possible on the next OS revision’s improved webbrowser. Mergers happen, OSes evolve, consumers’ buying habits change.
Speaking of consumers, your strategy needs to take into account the likelihood that your learners will be bringing their own devices into the workplace, and that this pattern is likely to increase as IT deals with pressure to support more and more smartphones, tablets, and other form factors. A strategy missing this point will be seen as having a gaping hole in understanding the learners’ profiles.

Make no mistakes, an effort of this scale takes time and hard work. You’re going to need to dig in. Research the market place. Investigate where your competitors are going. Talk to other like-minded departments in your organization. Survey your learners. You’ll likely find common threads in your discovery process. It’s important to be expansive in your thoughts at this point.
Then once you’re ready, start the analysis. We’ll go deeper into detail on this topic in a subsequent post in this series.

Finally, you’re going to have to consider how to present your findings, curating, and then collating the important content. Keeping the deeper findings in order to back up your analysis and provide a sold foundation for the team that will implement your strategy is crucial. Business cases, estimations of the work to be done, and considerations on the skills and whether or not you will need to enlist outside vendors to produce the work should also be included in this body of findings.

Until Next Time
Well, we’ve covered a lot of great ideas here. Be sure to come back next week, when we’ll discuss the effects you’ll start to see after you’ve created and begun the implementation of your strategy.

Thursday, November 10

Why is a Mobile Learning Strategy Important?

With mobile learning getting a lot of interest recently (roughly 50% of businesses surveyed say they have plans to implement some form of mobile learning in the foreseeable future), it’s becoming clear that many companies don’t have a plan to successfully create a sustainable, robust mobile learning strategy. This is evidenced by the quick jump from talking about goals and roadmaps to the proverbial “We need an app for that!” conclusion that is being reached in meetings and boardrooms across all industries and company sizes.

This rush to deploy without proper planning is a big oversight and will ultimately make it difficult to understand if your mobile efforts are successful. A mobile learning strategy can help give your work grounding and a solid base on which you can build. This approach helps you bring mobile in where it will provide the biggest impact. A metered, reusable framework is far more useful than a scattershot approach. When apps are pumped out and then discarded it’s often because they didn’t perform as expected. These apps likely don’t fix the problems that were considered but not dealt with fully during the design phase. Perhaps the app shouldn’t have been built at all. Maybe its focus should have been narrower, or altogether different than what it turned out to be.

A mobile learning strategy's importance is not only limited to savings during the design and development of the applications that may be created. Real, actionable metrics can only be established for individual efforts when the bigger picture is considered. What will you measure? How will you know when you are successful? What sorts of changes are you able to and prepared to make when you start to get data back from your learners?

The creation of a strategy will allow outside stakeholders to help weigh in on your anticipated mobile learning efforts to come, giving your work a much needed validation. The strategy’s strengths will help build support throughout your organization, creating trust between your partnering departments and content creators allowing them to create great work. The concerns that could arise about the focus of the efforts or how it fits in with or aligns with other work will already have been addressed. This proactive approach works with other facets of business planning, why would mobile learning be any different?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll investigate topics related to this, covering the building blocks for a mobile learning strategy, the effects of creating one, what happens when you neglect to create one, and then finally how to get started on implementing your completed strategy. Come back and check out our next installment.

Tuesday, November 8

November Guest Blogger: Chad Udell

Chad Udell is the managing director at Float Learning, a consulting firm that combines strategy, mobile app development, and eLearning to guide organizations by harnessing the power of mobile learning.

Chad has a B.S. in Graphic Design from Bradley University (where he is also an adjunct faculty member for the Interactive Media Department), with deep experience in large-scale web design and development. Chad and his team have done some impressive educational interactive design work as well (see what they built for the Alder Planetarium to get an idea of some of that work), and released some great apps on the iTunes store and Android Marketplace.

Chad is currently running ASTD's Essentials of Mobile Learning course along with Jeff Tillett. Chad will be blogging here this month, focusing on mobile learning. You can catch up with Chad and the Float team over on their blog at, and if you’re interested in web design and development, check in with his personal blog at Chad will be leading a full day workshop on prototyping at the upcoming ASTD TechKnowledge Conference in January.

Oh, and if you think Chad is only a tech guy, he also brews his own beer (he prefers nice citrusy IPAs) and is pretty good behind a grill or smoker.

Join Chad as he explores topics this month on mobile learning strategy and how to get started on the road to mobile learning.