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Building Your Mobile Strategy—One Decision at a Time

Thursday, June 20, 2013
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In the first post of this series, we examined the remarkable potential of mobile. We followed that up with a review of many of the reasons that might be holding people back—in spite of the widespread interest. Perhaps you identified with one or more of those reasons. In any event, now we think it’s time to zero in on some practical steps anyone can take to go mobile. That’s the goal of this post.

Do you need mobile? In the absolute sense, the answer is probably no. A better way to proceed, though, is to look for opportunities to apply mobile to meet a real need. Think about where mobile could help you improve performance, save time or money, or streamline a process. Of course, whatever need you identify must align with your organization’s business needs and goals.

Starting with a single-point solution will keep you from becoming immobilized by what many call “analysis paralysis.” Single-minded focus is important (on second thought, let’s say it’s essential). But trying to imagine how every potential factor will play out or affect others by the introduction of mobile simply dilutes your efforts and concentration. Save your energy and channel it into optimizing the solution you’ve chosen.

Like building a new home, creating a mobile strategy involves lots of decisions—but not all at the same time. Standing in the middle of your stunning, newly completed home, an uninitiated visitor may be overwhelmed by the thought of how so many factors, such as floor plan, carpet, drapes, appliances, light fixtures, kitchen cupboards, countertops, furniture, and paint colors, could be handled simultaneously with such beautiful results. How could you possibly decide all of this at once and keep it all straight. The answer, of course, is that you didn’t.

Building a house is logical and manageable only because the process breaks a complex, multi-faceted operation down into digestible chunks. Starting with a blueprint, builders proceed through multiple steps, each one layered upon the successful completion of the previous. Framed walls rise only after the foundation is laid. Flooring follows the subflooring. Shingles are laid after the roof sheathing. Then comes wiring, plumbing, window and door installation, and so on. Finishing touches—right down to the last switch plate—bring it all together. Each step occurring at its rightful place in the whole sequence. The contractor is really not thinking about the color of the outlet covers while the foundation is being excavated.

Going mobile is not so very different. One application or success rests on the previous. After a period of time, you may have a very impressive mobile deployment, but it won’t happen all at once. Consider the example of a pharmaceutical company who started with a single need for mobile—an app to support classroom training.

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After the initial app was successfully deployed, pre-learning was added to be used before the instructor-led training. Next, it added flashcards and other materials that could be used by sales reps in the field to review just before meeting with a client. The company started by identifying a need, applying mobile technology to a single-point solution, and then moving forward.

Looking back at the final app, it looks very robust, but it was actually a logical evolution of several apps. Feedback from all those involved (IT, training, marketing, sales, and so) helped inform and guide subsequent versions, making each new one easier and more efficient to introduce and deploy.

It’s important to keep in mind the context and availability of mobile. Precisely, how will people use m-learning? Where? What devices do they have? What kind of Internet access will they have? Zero in on the use case, and because many training professionals may not be familiar with use cases, you may want to define it and explain in detail how users will interact with the application to solve the problem.

Going mobile really depends on the convergence of a number of factors:

  • alignment with the organization’s business goals
  • a compelling business need or problem
  • a learning or performance need that mobile can support
  • context so mobile technology can have an impact (with field employees, for example)
  • content that fits the use case.

Collectively, these factors become the proving ground for a specific, tightly focused mobile solution. It could, of course, be the start of something big—but all things in due time. That’s the subject of the next post, the last in this series.

Next time: Getting off square one.

About the Author
Carla Torgerson has more than 15 years of experience as an instructional designer and instructional strategist. She is a senior instructional designer and the owner of Torgerson Consulting, where she teaches workshops on topics such as designing e-learning, mobile learning, and microlearning. Carla also teaches workshops about e-learning and mobile learning for ATD. In past roles, Carla has consulted with numerous Fortune 500 clients, including McDonald's, Netflix, Facebook, Express, Fidelity, Cargill, Medtronic, Merck, and Best Western. She has designed solutions ranging from $15,000 to more than $2 million. Carla has a master’s degree in education focused in technology-based education. She also has a master of business administration (MBA), which helps her to see training through a business lens. She has authored numerous blogs and articles, including a chapter in Michael Allen's 2012 e-Learning Annual.
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