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Nine challenges for going mobile

 

Scalability

There are important decisions to be made about the infrastructure that you build for mobile around scalability. There are problems that come with success – if you have not allocated enough bandwidth, for instance, or structured your licensing costs in the right way. However there is always the other side of the coin. A particular initiative might prove less than successful, leaving you with capacity you don’t need.

For most organisations, doing mobile learning and communications means doing something new. That always carries an element of risk. Plan for success, but be aware that you need an elastic capability.

Multi-platform

The mobile device market is turbulent and fast-changing. Future proofing any strategy is always difficult against such a background, but you must take a forward-looking, informed view of technology trends to mitigate your risks, or you can end up with obsolete kit nobody wants to use, or buy heavily into a technology that then becomes sidelined.

This risk is highlighted by the rise of the BYOD movement (which Dominic has written extensively about on this blog). Once everyone had to use equipment and software mandated by IT, but that situation is changing rapidly, and your strategy for mobile needs to take account of this. Users have far more power now, and their personal preferences for device use should figure more prominently in decisions over platform.

One newly-emerging danger in this regard is the ‘CFO’s device’ problem. This refers to a situation where a powerful individual within the decision-making process has bonded with a particular device or OS that they use and wants to recommend it for the whole organisation – and skews decision-making accordingly based on highly subjective criteria. Beware of Apple fanboys and Android junkies alike!

Speed

Speed is of the essence, since it is part of why people elect to use mobile in the first place. Integral to the value proposition of mobile is its capability to improve time to market and the relevance of learning. It also has a vital impact on learner interest and uptake.

You need a platform and workflow that can expedite rapid publishing. Your mobile initiative will lose credibility if it is slow in getting relevant knowledge out quickly enough, as people will fall back on tried and tested sources. If employees can get new product information, for instance, faster on intranet, then they will go there.

This affects not only the tools you use but the whole process and workflow around mobile. If any one part of the machine – a slow review process for instance – is holding things up, meaning that it takes you months rather than days to publish – then you are tying an anchor to your speedboat!

Analytics

Managing this aspect effectively is important for establishing your ROI, but also for design and asset use. A rapid publishing regime, with the instant feedback you get from mobile analytics, enables you to develop and improve content iteratively, learning from what users like and don’t like, and what helps them best to learn. This also helps with spreading best practice.

Content control

Managing content well solves issues around:

  • Re-use
  • Control
  • Access

As delivery methods for online content proliferate, content silos tend to grow up. Your strategy for mobile needs to ensure that you make the best reuse of existing learning content so there is no reinventing of the wheel going on, and so that you can also pull in content from other sources within the organisation, e.g. marketing materials. You also need to make sure that you are not beginning on building a new silo!

Personalisation

Mobile devices are far more personal to the user than desktop PCs, which might have many more users. As a result, mobile users love personalisation. And expect it.

Managing personalisation well gives you extra stickiness and usability, and allows for more mentoring and recommendation within your training mix. It can also give you greater usefulness at short notice. More personalised apps means simpler, faster access to the important, relevant chunk of information you might need within a given situation. Say one of your sales people wants to demonstrate a new product feature, face to face, in response to a customer query: they don’t want to wade through long menus and tortuous navigation systems. They just want the content – a short demo video, for instance – available right there at a single click. Job done.

Security

Security is one of the most frequently cited showstoppers for mobile adoption by IT, but there is nothing inherently insecure about mobile. Manage this area well to ensure the right people are getting access to sensitive information and to protect your intellectual property invested in the content.

Loss of device is a big issue with mobile: 8,500 mobiles and laptops were lost at airports last year. This is a big security risk, so you need to ensure that mobile content can be locked remotely on a missing device.

Translation & localisation

There are a number of issues to be dealt with around translation and localisation including key geographical territories for your organisation. This could be to do with the fast emerging BRIC territories, or the breaking of particular new markets.

In a global context you may also have to work with foreign SMEs. The issues here are not just around language translation but cultural localisation and technical issues like coping with different character sets.

Integration

Dominic shared the outstanding results that LEO Learning has achieved with one of its clients from introducing a mobile architecture.

Positive results include:

  • 17% uplift in pass rates, year on year
  • Training time increased by four hours a month
  • Many weeks saved in time to competency
  • Potential savings of £Ms from a suite of small apps
  • Development time down to weeks from months

Why where such good results achieved? Here are some reasons:

  • The training was inherently interactive and more portable
  • Devices were allowed to be used for personal use in downtime, making learners far more likely to do the training
  • Travelling to train was impractical in this organisational context and mobile obviated that need
  • Staff all have mobiles but no access to PCs for training in their daily working lives
  • Development of point solutions by agencies is too slow (which brings us back to our starting point!)