Creating Wow-Worthy Mobile Learning Applications For Businesses
What you are about to read is a fable about custom mobile learning technology. The company, AshCom, is fictional, but the mobile learning challenges faced by Kathryn, AshCom’s CLO, and her team are real and commonly shared by learning teams in corporations, non-profits, associations, and education. It is our hope that you will be able to connect with the characters, their challenges, and the solutions they discover. We also invite you to read the first eBook in the series.
Beep-beep-beep…beep-beep-beep…beep-beep-beep. The timer on Kathryn’s phone loudly pronounced the five-minute break was over. Kathryn asked the group to come back together. She laid out the priority, the options, and the two considerations on the whiteboard.
Kathryn brought them back to her request made just before the break. “I’d like to remind you that I’m asking for you to tell us what is most important to you in this discussion of our sales program and mobile learning. I’d like to emphasize that we are looking for the unvarnished truth because that is the most likely path to coming to a great decision.”
Kathryn continued, “Ronda, as I mentioned before the break, I’d like to ask you to begin because you were the one who initiated the original conversation. And let me add, I’ve come to greatly appreciate your methodical approach to problem-solving. I know you lead the sales team now, but you still have the mind of an engineer.”
“Thanks, Kathryn,” said Ronda. “I guess my college education serves me well. What is most important to me in this is sales results. That is my passion, and that is why AshCom asked me to lead the sales team.”
A Unique Problem
She continued, “I have a unique problem to solve. AshCom’s current sales team is made up of the account executives who have been with AshCom for a while and the new account execs from Globex, the company we recently acquired. They have two different systems, approaches, and sets of software. As if bringing them together to operate as a single team isn’t challenging enough, I want to introduce the sales system and tools I’ve spent years developing. It will be a huge shift for everyone involved in sales. I need them to know the new system. I need them to be able to operate well within the system. And I need them to embrace what I want to do. It will require a lot of introduction and reinforcement, but I am convinced that if the learning team can help me get this done, the results will be obvious and amazing.”
“Kathryn asked me to state what is most important to me,” said Ronda. “I’d like this learning experience to be of the highest quality possible. That is the only way to get this done. Given that our sales team is spread out over much of North America, it doesn’t seem reasonable to bring them all together for three days of learning opportunities and expect them to adopt the new system.”
Amy said, “Sorry to interrupt your thoughts, but my work as a consultant in many large companies leads me to conclude that you are right. This is often the least effective means of learning, especially when the stakes are as high as they are for you and the sales team. I’m not against in-person learning, but I’ve seen large groups come together, get trained, and go right back to their former methods again and again.”
The Mobile Learning Solution
“Thanks, Amy,” said Ronda. “I think we need mobile learning because it is faster and simpler. It is just-in-time learning that my team can quickly access no matter where they are. I love the options of offline learning and peer-to-peer learning that would be possible through an app. My big idea is that some of our learning can also be used in sales meetings with clients. And someday, I’d like to talk about augmented reality and virtual reality.
“I want us to be more than a supplier of equipment. I want our sales team to be thought of as trusted advisors to our customers. We need to be able to demonstrate expertise and educate clients on what we can do that’s a big part of that. I can’t tell you which of your four options on the whiteboard will make this happen. Like Kurtis, my expertise is not learning science.”
Kurtis nodded and said, “I’m getting the feeling you’ve done a lot more reading than I have around learning science.”
“That’s probably true,” said Ronda. “I know far more about what I want this learning experience to accomplish than I do about how that happens, but I can tell you it is my most important objective right now and a key to the success of AshCom.”
“Thanks, Ronda,” said Kathryn. “Your passion is obvious to us all, and we are committed to giving you what you need to accomplish the goals of the sales team.”
“Martina,” Kathryn continued, “would you be willing to go next? I think your perspectives on the ‘how’ of Ronda’s objectives would be most helpful at this point.”
Martina Musters Confidence
Martina was nervous. She wasn’t used to sitting in meetings like this. Most of her work as an instructional designer was spent at her desk working on building specific learning assets. Strategy and budgets were not her thing. But she knew that Kathryn brought her into this meeting because of her passion for creativity and learning. Kathryn also told her before the meeting that her voice was essential in this discussion, which gave her confidence.
She began, “I can speak to the how. It’s what I spend my time doing. My colleague, Darryl, and I spend a lot of time talking about the limitations of our creativity. We get these big, wonderful, often beautiful ideas but then we have to bring them to life inside authoring tools, and immediately they become smaller and less wonderful. Less beautiful even.”
Martina continued, “Then, after the limitations of the authoring tools, we face further limitations in our learning management system where all the information gets stored and assigned. After hearing Ronda describe the learning experiences she wants to deliver through mobile devices, the limitations become even greater. And so, what started out as a big idea and Ronda certainly has big ideas becomes much smaller when we deliver it.”
True Social Learning Elements
“Our time with Professor Dan, looking at the option of custom authored content and app development, left Darryl and me with our heads spinning. We’ve spent hours thinking about all the ways we could build true social learning elements into our learning experiences. We’ve talked about augmented reality and gamification. We even thought about what it would be like to build an actual game maybe a sales simulator to put account executives in real-world situations. The possibilities are endless, but not with the current tools we have available to us. You asked what is most important to me? I would say the ability to bring incredible learning experiences to learners without limitations.”
“Well said,” replied Kathryn. “Exactly what I was hoping for. I’m sure you could give us a lot more details, but I think this gives us what we need.”
“Amy, I’d like you to go next. As a consultant to a lot of other companies, you know the learning landscape at large companies better than anyone in the room. What is most important to you?”
“My role,” said Amy, “may not be to recommend one path or another with the four options you’ve laid out. And I realize these are big decisions impacting a lot of people and your learning budget. I get that the stakes are high. As I thought about this meeting and the decision you need to make, I did some research. I called several current and former clients, most of them in positions similar to yours, Kathryn, and asked them about learning systems for their sales teams.”
This was important information and exactly why Kathryn kept Amy involved in her team.
Amy continued, “I heard similar stories from almost all of my clients. The return on investment for learning was highest for their sales teams. In other words, if you are going to spend money on learning and go big, this is the place to do it.”
“That’s an insight I hadn’t considered,” said Professor Dan. “Kathryn, can I go next?”
“Of course,” replied Kathryn. “We’d appreciate your perspective.”
Clarifying The Options
“Thanks,” said Dan. “My role is sort of like Amy’s. It really isn’t my job to tell you which option is the best. I can clarify your options, as I think I did in our meeting with your whole learning team. I can talk about the technology options available to you. And I can even help you find some expertise, depending on which path you take. I know you all, especially Kurtis, are interested in the costs and the timelines, so I’m glad Kathryn called them out on the whiteboard.”
“Now you are talking my language,” said Kurtis.
“What I’m about to say might not give you the specifics you are looking for,” replied Dan. He continued on, “As you move through the options, beginning with option one, which uses your current tools, all the way to option four, where you are creating custom authored content for your learning experiences and building an app to deliver to mobile devices, your costs will increase significantly, and your timelines will get longer. If you decide to choose option four, I can help you put together budgets and timelines. But be warned.”
“Thanks, Dan,” said Kathryn. “That is a good place for me to jump in. We all realized the numbers will get bigger and the timelines longer at first, but we have to make a decision based on the value of what we are doing. And I think what’s at the top of the whiteboard is something we all need to keep in mind: Sales = Lifeblood of AshCom.
“There is something else I’ve been thinking a lot about. Maybe more of a wondering. I’m wondering where else we can use custom authored learning experiences and a custom app. Once we develop an app tailored to our needs, we can add learning for other departments to it and deliver it through a mobile device. While this might be the first place we custom author our content, it certainly won’t need to be the last. In other words, we can learn from this experience and apply what we’ve learned to other applications.
“In other words, this isn’t going to be a one-and-done. We can use this technology for onboarding, safety, machine instruction, operations, and a host of other things. This investment, I think, will pay off in many other areas and take our learning opportunities to world-class status. We can use the assets we build in many other places.
Cutting Edge Of Learning: Mobile Learning Applications For Businesses
“When I think about what I want,” concluded Kathryn, “I want my team to be on the cutting edge of learning because I think that will help AshCom be on the cutting edge of manufacturing.”
Kurtis was paying attention to the order of those who spoke and came to the realization that he would be last to speak. “I suppose since I’m the only one who hasn’t said what what’s most important to me, I’m next?” he said, looking at Kathryn.
“I thought it would be good to give you the last word,” said Kathryn.
“I appreciate that,” said Kurtis. “As the Chief Financial Officer, I think my role is pretty clear. My approach for new initiatives is basically to do a cost-benefit analysis. This is not the only new initiative on the table right now. We’ve spent a lot of money acquiring Globex and integrating all our systems, processes, and people. I think you are all aware of that.”
He continued, “I want to say that I’ve seen Kathryn’s team in action for several years and have been incredibly impressed with her leadership and the team’s efforts. The learning program at AshCom has made us a much stronger and more efficient company. Because of the learning culture here at AshCom, we’ve been able to attract and retain some of the best talent in the area, including people like Ronda.
Ronda’s Sales System
“Sales is the lifeblood. Without them at the top of their game, we are in serious trouble, which is why I attended this meeting. Ronda’s sales system was something we were aware of when we hired her and getting it implemented is a top priority for us.”
Now looking directly at Dan, Kurtis said, “Of course, I need some numbers on how much all of this is going to cost. I also need a better line of sight for how long it will take to create and implement. I’ll need to know where our own internal IT department can play a role and how many others will need to be added to get this done.”
Shifting his eyes to Ronda, he said, “Your idea about sharing our internal learning experiences with our existing or potential clients is new to me. But it is a compelling and powerful idea. I’d like to see that fleshed out and developed. I suspect there may be even more to that idea than I’m considering right now, and I want to know more.”
Turning back to the whole group, Kurtis said, “I’m optimistic our leadership team and the Ash family will want to go in this direction. I can’t commit fully to Option Four without seeing actual budgets and timelines, but I can commit to giving you the resources you need to develop those items so that we can take the right steps toward getting Ronda and her team what they clearly need.”
The entire group smiled. “That’s what we needed to hear, Kurtis,” said Kathryn. “I will commit to you that we will get you some initial thoughts as quickly as we can. Dan, I think this means we will need a little more time from you.”
“As I’ve told you before,” said Dan, “I am happy to help in any way. This is exciting stuff.”
Kathryn concluded the meeting by thanking everyone for their openness and their willingness to participate fully in the conversation. There remained much work to be done, but Kathryn and her team were thrilled about the opportunity to, as she said, be on the cutting edge of building incredible learning experiences for the entire AshCom team.
Kathryn and her team created, presented, and got approval for Option Four in which they custom authored content for the learning assets for the AshCom’s sales team and delivered it through the app on mobile devices. They started small, focusing primarily on introducing Ronda’s sales system to the account executives but added more features and experiences as the months passed. Some on the sales team were slow to adapt to the new sales system. A few people left. But the vast majority fully embraced it along with mobile delivery and soon were sharing some of their learning experiences in their meetings with their clients. AshCom not only hit its aggressive sales goals for the year but also exceeded it, much to the delight of Kathryn and her learning team.
To read the rest of the chapters in this series on Mobile Learning and to see Kathryn and her team solve their challenges, please download the eBook How L&D Leaders Are Using Mobile Learning To Increase Performance And Revenue. It can help you determine if custom mobile learning is the right approach for your organization and uncover tried-and-tested methods. Also, join the webinar to learn how custom mobile learning apps can empower sales teams.