Posts Tagged ‘Standards’

Mobile Mind Mapping

September 4, 2017

Since the Laptop ban that Mr Trump introduced some months ago I took it upon myself to change the way I worked and use enabling technology to my advantage. When the ban was announced I wrote an article and published it on LinkedIn entitled “Light and Easy is the way to go” (Access the article – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/light-easy-way-go-graham-smith-phd)

Twelve years previously I wrote my first article for Digital Oman about mobility, you can read the original article here http://www.digitaloman.com/indexb130.html?issue=2&lang=en&id=20_1

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To tell you the truth there are some things that you just can’t do on a mobile device, but I think that I will leave that for another blog.

I have been and still am a mind mapper for a considerable amount of years, using mind mapping in business for project management, reports, presentations, my own book, planning, brainstorming, training, consulting etc etc, the list of uses for me seems endless. Now I am using mind mapping in Education for teaching, management and my own education process. You can find many of my maps on BiggerPlate and just recently as part of the BiggerPlate Business Club I was offered the opportunity to speak on the subject of Business Process Management using a mind map for the presentation

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So what has the mobile device got to do with Mind Mapping and Mr Trumps laptop ban. Well it’s really all about size! the ban was about only allowing certain sized devices into the cabins whilst your laptop had to go with your baggage (if you are crazy enough to put it in the hold of an aircraft, I used to load aircraft once upon a time so I have a good idea about their handling). The size of the screen is all import when you are trying to Mind Map. Previously I would only mind map on consulting assignments with an iPad Air, basically a 10 inch screen, but since the April ban I have downsized considerably to approximately 5 x 3 inch screen of the iPhone 6+. MindGenius was my preferred mind mapping tool but having downsized I have had to find software I can use on the iPhone which suits my purpose.

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iThoughts2go on iPhone 6+

So I have a list of six which are suitable for this device and have worked extremely well on consulting assignments. There is one in my arsenal which is not really a mind mapping tool, but you can use it for mind mapping, but it’s primary use for me is Flowcharts and BPMN diagramming.

So here is the list with links to websites

  1. i Thoughts 2 go 
  2. MindMeister
  3. MindMaple
  4. iMindMap
  5. Lucidchart
  6. Mindjet Maps

The example shown below is a flowchart for teaching Academic English Writing that was developed for a University Course on the subject. Lucidchart is a great online tool for both business and education.

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To summarise things are getting smaller and smaller, but capability is getting larger and larger. With these small portable devices and mapping software I can pretty much go anywhere and do my work or own education. People do say that these screens are to small, but so far I have not found it a disadvantage in what I am doing. For me it’s really about the software’s functionality and usability.

 

 

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Where does ERP failure really come from?

November 18, 2013

Here is a Question that is asked over and over again, where does ERP failure really come from? Ultimately, most problems can be summed up in one word: People.

Most projects begin life with the hopeful enthusiasm of anticipated triumph and success. However, success requires planning for details that do not become relevant until much later in project; training is a perfect example

In a number of cases the losses are blamed, at least in part, on their employees not understanding how to use their newly installed SAP ERP system, which they said worked just fine.

So, why is this? Well, basically, in the beginning of any big, shiny new project, what you have is a great deal of excitement over the benefits that it will bestow upon your organization streamlined processes, bottom-line savings, top line growth, more efficiency, reduced waste, better customer service, etc. The problem arises when this leads to a “hurry-up-and-get-things-done” approach.

Too much of the time companies are overly aggressive when they set their initial timelines, they see the statistics that show that many projects go over budget or take longer than expected, so they end up wanting a very aggressive project plan just so they can manage the time and budget.

Maybe your company has a history of talking-the-talk but, walking-the-walk? Different story! “This time it’s going to be different!,” exclaims the CEO slapping the table for emphasis and everyone’s on board. Here you go charging ahead, selecting a vendor, shun due diligence, and fail to define clear business requirements and goals. Perhaps you even know you don’t understand your business processes as well you need to but, “well now, ERP’s are designed to fix all that, Correct?

So how to you combat this? It’s simple: don’t do it! Rushing an ERP project to save time and money will cost you more in the end than you will ever save up front.

Done properly ERP can and will transform your business by automating and re-engineering its beating heart: its business processes. It is, therefore, in your best interest to take the time to understand how your business actually runs.

It is so so critical to understand the level of resource commitment the project will take.
So the objective is understand what you do as a business, understand what your systems currently support or don’t support and then have the vendors or integrators show you how their system can best support what it is you’ve brought to the table.

One of the biggest elements of any implementation where executives often fail is under estimating the time it will take to get the project done. Understanding things like time-to-value, change management, adoption, employee training, etc. are all down-played in favour of the perceived benefits the software will bring.

Here are a few suggestions of do’s and don’ts that will help:

Develop your own benchmarks; don’t rely on the vendor’s. Vendors can supply you with templates and best practices that can take you a good part of the way but you still need to define what constitutes success and failure, progress and set-backs, deadlines and must-haves, your “as-is” state verses your ideal “to-be” state.

Don’t rely on your vendor or SI to handle change management. It’s your company, so it’s your culture that has to change, not theirs. Change management is up to you and the difficulty or ease of this process is directly affected by expectations set early on. If you think it’s going to be easy and it’s not, then you are going to be in for some sleepless nights.

Define your business processes up front. Don’t’ let a vendor’s software define them for you. Most companies have no real idea how their business processes work in practice until, someone resigns. Suddenly all of that problem solving and expediting wisdom is gone. No software can replicate that knowledge. Find that someone! Talk to that someone, preferably in the beginning of the process, not when you’re trying to get that someone back.

All of this will be more time consuming up front, however will save lots of heartache and money at the back end when you find yourself fixing what should never have been broken in the first place.

It’s my belief some of the essential ingredients first require a strategy and a direction. So there has to be an earmarked plan and with that plan comes budgeting of time, resources and dollars to invest in that plan because a lot of corporations take a real penny pinching approach and it ends up costing them many times more than they ever anticipated as a result of that.

Ten Tips on how to sell Compliance in the Organisation

October 28, 2013

It probably seems to you like every time you want to talk about Compliance, everyone runs away and hides, they ignore you and hope you go away, or they fuss and moan. Compliance is a fact of business life, however, Your company must comply with:

Your Customers requirements (quality, safety, performance specifications, quantity, price, prompt delivery, etc.); Industry or other standards and guidelines (ISO 9001, IRFS, etc.); and/or
Regulations (e.g., 8th EU Directive, Food Safety Modernization Act) in order to get or to keep business. Therein lies the problem: compliance is like healthy eating or exercise. We know we have to, but well, it’s so hard to either make the time or get enthusiastic about it! Why is it that “have to” and “want to” always seem to be inversely proportional to one another?

How do you sell yourself and your employees on the notion that compliance is something you want, not something you merely put up with? How do you turn “got to” into “want to”?

First, you have to…

Sell yourself on the idea. You’ll find in life, that is, if you haven’t already that if you don’t have a deep and firmly held belief in your company, your product, or your people, you won’t sell your product or your service. If you lack enthusiasm, conviction, self-discipline, vision, perspective, and some of the other characteristics that define leadership, you won’t have many followers.

Your customers are your ultimate critics. If you don’t meet their requirements, you’re out of business. It won’t matter what other requirements you fail to meet if you fail to meet your customer’s. Have your priorities in order, listen to your customers first.

Include your staff in the development of Policies and Procedures that will ensure your company’s compliance, because: (a) you can’t do it all by yourself; (b) they know more of the day-to-day tasks, operations, and processes than you; and (c) you need to show that you value and trust their judgement if they’re to grow (i.e., micromanagers never win).

Give everyone in your firm the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

Ensure that your employees are more than adequately trained and experienced.

Make sure they know what they’re doing and more importantly why they’re doing it.

Keep the lines of communication open all the time. Communicate effectively and continually with all levels of your organization.

Get out of your office! Regularly address your employees first hand, directly and openly.

Listen, and then turn what you’re hearing into something your employees — and your customers want to act upon.

Make a habit of meeting with suppliers, subcontractors, and everyone who has a hand in getting your product or service into the hands of your customers. You might not be able to do this often but you shouldn’t let a year go by without visiting with your valuable partners. Communication is key!

Look at failures as opportunities for improvement. Don’t go looking for the guilty party every time something doesn’t go according to plan! You want to keep failure to a minimum, yes, but keep things in perspective. Not every mistake requires Draconian countermeasures!

Share success. Compliance goes beyond merely observing standards or laws, compliance can help you win business! When it does, spread the wealth. Acknowledge the part everyone played in making your company a success, especially those who had a direct hand in your victory.

Sell yourself, then sell everyone else on the importance and value of compliance.

Make them want it! Your customers do.

Business Process Re Engineering

January 8, 2013

Business process reengineering (often referred to by the acronym BPR) is the main way in which organizations become more efficient and modernize. Business process reengineering transforms an organization in ways that directly affect performance.

The Impact Of BPR On Organizational Performance
The two cornerstones of any organization are the people and the processes. If individuals are motivated and working hard, yet the business processes are cumbersome and non-essential activities remain, organizational performance will be poor. Business Process Reengineering is the key to transforming how people work. What appear to be minor changes in processes can have dramatic effects on cash flow, service delivery and customer satisfaction. Even the act of documenting business processes alone will typically improve organizational efficiency by 10%.

How To Implement A BPR Project
The best way to map and improve the organization’s procedures is to take a top down approach, and not undertake a project in isolation. That means:
• Starting with mission statements that define the purpose of the organization and describe what sets it apart from others in its sector or industry.
• Producing vision statements which define where the organization is going, to provide a clear picture of the desired future position.
• Build these into a clear business strategy thereby deriving the project objectives.
• Defining behaviors that will enable the organization to achieve its’ aims.
• Producing key performance measures to track progress.
• Relating efficiency improvements to the culture of the organization
• Identifying initiatives that will improve performance.
Once these building blocks are in place, the BPR exercise can begin.

Tools To Support BPR
When a BPR project is undertaken across the organization, it can require managing a massive amount of information about the processes, data and systems. If you don’t have an excellent tool to support BPR, the management of this information can become an impossible task. The use of a good BPR/documentation tool is vital in any BPR project.
The types of attributes you should look for in BPR software are:
• Graphical interface for fast documentation
• “Object oriented” technology, so that changes to data (eg: job titles) only need to be made in one place, and the change automatically appears throughout all the organization’s procedures and documentation.
• Drag and drop facility so you can easily relate organizational and data objects to each step in the process
• Customizable meta data fields, so that you can include information relating to your industry, business sector or organization in your documentation
• Analysis, such as swim-lanes to show visually how responsibilities in a process are transferred between different roles, or where data items or computer applications are used.
• Support for Value Stream mapping.
• CRUD or RACI reports, to provide evidence for process improvement.
• The ability to assess the processes against agreed international standards
• Simulation software to support ‘what-if’ analyses during the design phase of the project to develop LEAN processes
• The production of word documents or web site versions of the procedures at the touch of a single button, so that the information can be easily maintained and updated.

Conclusion
To be successful, business process reengineering projects need to be top down, taking in the complete organization, and the full end to end processes. It needs to be supported by tools that make processes easy to track and analyze. If you would like help with your BPR project, please Manage to Supply
• Business process reengineering is a huge step for any company, though one that can bring equally significant rewards when properly implemented. Be sure to think your decision through thoroughly and proceed only after you’ve done sufficient research.
• Should you decide to act as your own business process engineer, realize that you’ll need adequate BPR training and excellent business process engineering software to successfully pull it off. You’ll need to develop the skills necessary for creating a business process map redesign that not only meets your company’s unique needs, but also adequately addresses your prior business process problems.

Adoption of sourcing technology – ease of use.

January 3, 2013

Organisations spend millions of dollars on technology implementations. It has been seen that many projects fail within one year of implementation. In a recently issued study report from the World Economic Forum 2010-2011, Sweden and Singapore continue to dominate the rankings, whereas Malaysia ranks 28th and Oman stands only 41st in terms of technological savvy nations. One of the reasons for this could be lack of adoption of new technologies within the organisation.

Employees using a new software system exhibit steep learning curves and resistance to change which is evident from the large percentage of organisations feeling their ability to deal with change being poor. Most of the time this failure can be attributed to a lack of communication between the decision maker (which in our case, would be the CPO or the VP procurement) and the end user(buying manager, buyers etc.). The point being, that such an environment is not conducive for effective software implementation.

Procurement technology solutions have also not been immune to adoption failure. Let’s take a look at a case study.

An $11 billion organisation had in place an existing eSourcing solution from a major solution provider. The investment for the same was close to $ 100,000 and there were 100 user licences which had been purchased. After a Post implementation review it was observed that there existed only 5 active users of the application whilst 95% remained inactive indicating lack of adoption amongst the users. More importantly, what was not considered was the comfort level of the suppliers who would be an important end user of the sourcing solution. Suppliers would not respond to RFIs created within the tool citing it to be too complex and would send in quotes through excel documents making evaluation almost impossible and tedious.

This post will explore the major challenges involved in adoption and how an organisation can use four strategies to overcome the adoption challenges and ensure acceptance of the eSourcing solution by the end users.

Challenges Faced!

Before I discuss the ways to increase procurement technology adoption within organisations, let us look into what are the major challenges that organisations face with respect to procurement technology adoption.

The first and foremost challenge is to deal with the resistance to change. Even when organisational members recognise that a specific change would be beneficial, they often fall prey to the gap between knowing something and actually doing it.

The second reason can be attributed to the complexity of technology which detracts the end user since it requires acquiring new technological knowledge and skills. Complex features may sound great in product demonstrations and data sheets but become a bane to adoption at the ground level.

The third reason could be a lack of visibility into benefits of the software post implementation. It’s important to note here that a benefit needs to be expressed in the parlance of the end user. The end user needs to see how the technology will benefit him in his job. In short what is the take away for him?

So how does one overcome these challenges? Here I would like to draw your attention to what I want to call the “For Ease Strategies” of efficient user adoption. These are – Ease of Use, ease of user Involvement during evaluation, ease of Training and Adoption and finally ease of Metrics & Incentives. Let us look into each of these “ease strategies” and the role they play in overcoming the challenges.

Overcoming challenges to procurement technology adoption is the key to ensure that an organisation reaps the benefits from their implementation. In this section I will discuss the importance of having the right strategy to overcome the adoption challenges.

Strategy 1. Ease of Use

As discussed earlier, complexity of technology was one of the major reasons for lack of adoption. This is where having a technology which is easy to use goes a long way in fostering acceptance among the end users. Let’s consider a very simple example here.
Consider an i-Phone or i-Pad as an innovation which although loaded with several sophisticated features is extremely easy to use for the end users leading to quick and higher adoption levels. Ease of use of course should not be at the cost of functionality.

Organisations should work on achieving a balance between satisfying all key core requirements and enhancing the user experience. While talking of ease of use, it is of utmost importance to speak from the perspective of the end users. Technology vendors and decision makers often confuse what is naturally easy for them as ease of use when discussing software.

Organisations must ensure that the new technology that they are planning to implement shall be easy to use not just for the stakeholders but the eventual users of the solution who will use it day in and day out. Technology must make things simpler for the end user.

Features need to be mapped with the needs within the organisation rather than looking at solutions which have the maximum number of features which don’t really satisfy the inherent needs in the process.

Strategy 2. User involvement

User involvement goes a long way in overcoming adoption challenges. User involvement can be accomplished by involving the end user in the initial stages of the software selection process. Users can be involved in the product demonstration process, which would help in conveying the benefits of the product to the end user for e.g. Using the ‘drag & drop’ feature within e-sourcing can be used to set up complex events in just minutes ensuring 100% category coverage. Demonstrating this to an end user will help convince him/her to create all events within the solution.

This process can now be followed up by a pilot process involving the end user. This would further convince the end user regarding the benefits by understanding how a particular feature directly benefits him in his work process.

Once the user receives a hands-on demonstration of the tool’s capabilities, make sure to have a feedback about the experience. Such an activity would ensure greater buy-in from the end user and also considerably reduce the objections arising post implementation.

Strategy 3. Training

Training should be arranged both pre and post implementation.. The training can be conducted by a variety of means . Combining periodic on-site training with regular feature level training provided online in the form of user sessions, webinars etc. is the most effective way of achieving user adoption goals. It is recommended to have the vendors / Suppliers involved at every stage of training to ensure a constant communication between the end user and the trainer.

Ideally there should be a training council formed comprising of members from both the vendor / Supplier and organisation. Once the training is conducted organisations can also look at conducting product knowledge tests and quizzes. This has dual benefits;

1. Makes the end user more responsible
2. Helps in judging the effectiveness of the training sessions

Strategy 4.

Once the technology has been implemented, top management needs to sit with the end user and decide on how to measure the performance of the end user. Including the end user in setting performance goals inculcates a lot of responsibility and accountability among the end users. Organisations must ensure setting fair, consistent and rigid goals which are transparent in every sense. I offer an example of how this could be accomplished.

Example 1. Consider an organisation who has just implemented an eSourcing solution. Suppose the organisation has 50 sourcing events scheduled to take place in the year. One of the check points could be to see how many of these sourcing events were channeled through the eSourcing platform. With deliberation organisations can set a goal of 80% of the sourcing events to be conducted through the e-sourcing platform.

Or another example

Example 2. If an organisation enters into say 100 contracts in a year, one of the objectives would be to have say 90% of contracts under the contract management system.

Once the objectives have been set by deliberation with the end user, the next logical step could be to link the incentives of the users with the objectives set. A simple incentive can be percentage sharing of the savings achieved from implementation of the solution. These can be benchmarked with similar numbers before the software was implemented to derive the results or direct benefits from the solution implementation.

Managing Change.

A learning orientation is critical during implementation stages. This brings us to the next point which is concerned with managing change. In order to successfully manage the change process, I recommend the following four steps:-

Inform

Brief the end user about the new technology and involve the end user in the evaluation stages.

Educate

Educate the end user about the product in the form of product training, workshops (video, onsite etc), webinars etc.

Monitor

Devise mutually accepted metrics for measuring the performance of the end user post implementation.

Reward

Linking the objectives with incentives, with disbursement of incentives related to the objective met.

Conclusion

Companies must do away with persuasion and edict as part of technology implementation and adoption processes since both involve little or no user input in decisions regarding implementation and adoption. Also, change management is the key to ensure buy-ins from the various related stakeholders thus ensuring benefits from the technology implementations.

The butterfly effect on enterprise data within SCM

January 2, 2013

After doing a couple of projects where master data was a critical element but unfortunately nothing was done to correct it, I thought that I would reintroduce the post on the Butterfly effect in Master Data. All to often the master data is completely forgotten in projects and in the end costs money to rectify and could lead the software to fail after go live. So to learn more about the butterfly effect and it’s impact on master data read on!

The term “butterfly effect” refers to the way a minor event – like the movement of a butterfly’s wing – can have a major impact on a complex system – like the weather. The movement of the butterfly wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, but it starts a chain of events: moving pollen through the air, which causes a gazelle to sneeze, which triggers a stampede of gazelles, which raises a cloud of dust, which partially blocks the sun, which alters the atmospheric temperature, which ultimately alters the path of a tornado on the other side of the world.

Enterprise data is equally susceptible to the butterfly effect. When poor quality data enters the complex system of enterprise data, even a small error – the transposed letters in a street address or part number – can lead to revenue loss, process inefficiency and failure to comply with industry and government regulations. Organisations depend on the movement and sharing of data throughout the organisation, so the impact of data quality errors are costly and far reaching. Data issues often begin with a tiny mistake in one part of the organisation, but the butterfly effect can produce disastrous results.

An ERP or supply chain system focuses on parts, descriptions and inventory data. Since government agencies don’t control the way supply chain and ERP data is defined, you may not have an idea about how the data should look in an ideal state, but it should provide an accurate depiction of the physical warehouse or just-in-time supply chain system. You need to know what is in stock, when it can be supplied and how much it costs.
Holding just the right amount of inventory is crucial to optimising costs. After all, inventory costs are incurred every hour of every day in areas including warehouse storage, heat and electricity, staffing, product decay and obsolescence. With this in mind, consider the impact of a transposed letter in an ERP system. Someone enters part number XL- 56YJM instead of LX-56YJM. Until the error is discovered and corrected, you may hold duplicate parts in inventory or not be aware of parts carrying the slightly different SKU because of the transposed letter.

You also want to take advantage of volume discounts. If the data is unstructured, making it difficult to understand global buy patterns, the company may miss out when negotiating with the vendor.

Because there is no standard format for ERP data, few of the steps for fixing the data are done for you ahead of time. It is critical to establish a methodology for data profiling in order to understand issues and challenges. Since there are few governing bodies for ERP and supply chain data, the corporation and its partners must often come up with an agreed-upon standard, with input from users of the data to understand context, how it’s used, and the most desired representation.

If you have clean data in your supply chain, you can achieve some tangible benefits. First, the company will have a clear picture about delivery times on orders because of a completely transparent supply chain. Next, you will avoid unnecessary warehouse costs by holding the right amount of inventory in stock. Finally, you will be able to see all the buying patterns and use that information when negotiating supply contracts.

Mobile Learning (Mlearning)

December 24, 2012

Today’s knowledge society, people are connected almost 24 x 7 x 365 to their mobile devices. E-mail, voice mail, instant messages, and video conferencing are all available with the touch of a button almost everywhere across the globe. No matter what business or industry you’re in, people need to be connected. As a consequence of the need for connectivity, more and more people are leveraging mobile devices, in more ways than one. Additionally, because of the wide adoption of social networking, these types of devices have become more affordable and thus more readily available to the global population.
However, it’s not a new phenon at all the use of mobile devices, it’s just that technology has and is still rapidly advancing. Years ago I wrote an article about replacing your laptop with a mobile device, the article ‘How to lose 12 kilo’s in 15 minutes’ (http://www.digitaloman.com/indexb130.html?issue=2&lang=en&id=20_1) showed that it was possible to go on a trip and stay connected with a mobile device and be enabled to do business whilst on the move. Today’s road warrior is no different, but the underlying technology and devices are much smarter, more powerful and far cheaper than ever before.
Salespeople away from their offices have instant access to vendor information, numbers, pricing, etc. Area supervisors can easily access information about the employees they manage in various geographical locations. C-level managers travelling on business can easily manage their agendas.

How about Mobile learning, or m-learning as it is termed, focuses on the mobility of the learner, allowing him/her to interact with portable technologies and take in bite-size portions (called nuggets) of content, learning bits at a time. M-learning is convenient, as content is accessible from virtually anywhere. And the lightweight portability of the device removes the need for learners to carry around books and notes.
M-learning, like e-learning, is also collaborative. The Learner can easily share advice with or ask questions to others using the same content. This leads to instant feedback from peers, co-workers, managers, etc. On a recent visit to a training company (who will remain nameless) I witnessed to my horror that still today binders were being produced when updates occurred in the area of compliance monitoring. Nobody whoever takes the course can carry all the binders around with them to allow them to get updates on the processes.
Teaching experts have known for years that repetition is one of the two best ways to ensure that what we’re learning about sticks in our memory; the other is relevance. With nearly everyone carrying a portable device these days, mobile devices have become the perfect tool for providing regular reminders to help individuals remember and retain information. In a past project, in fact the implementation of SAP in a Aluminium Smelter M-Learning would have been the perfect tool to train staff in the smelter, however, Mobile devices cannot be used in a smelter so in this case a pocket book was developed. But where there is the opportunity and safety is of concern, companies should look at the possibility of the use of this technique.

This all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But are there some possible downsides to mobile learning? Let’s take a look at some of the questions this fast-growing trend has raised.
What types of learning can I access through my mobile device?
• compliance training
• performance support
• policy/regulation updates
• testing and quizzes
• job aids and training
• surveys and polls
• checklists
• … and more
How Effective Is M-learning, Really?
Learning experts have known for years that repetition is one of the two best ways to ensure that what we’re learning about sticks in our memory; the other is relevance. With nearly everyone carrying a portable device these days, mobile devices have become the perfect tool for providing regular reminders to help individuals remember and retain information. But how effective is m-learning, really?

One of the keys to successful training is creating the proper learning environment. Can mobile learning be part of that success? I believe it can. The bite-size portions that learners take in via their mobile session can help increase their level of understanding—for one thing, they’re not bombarded with information overload. Moreover, the effective and efficient advantage of ubiquitous learning means learners are ready at any time (and from anywhere) to take a course, survey, or quiz—they don’t have to wait for the class to begin or until they get home to log on to their desktop computers.

But, because mobile learning is still in its infancy, it is very difficult to gauge its use and effectiveness once deployed. As such, this greatly limits the ability for learning administrators or instructors to gain executive support on such an initiative.

What Can M-learning Do for Me?
Through mobile learning, organizations can communicate with their mobile workforce as well as engage employees in rich learning content that is specific to their jobs.
What type of mobile device can I use for learning?
• mobile phone
• smart phone
• Blackberry
• Android
• iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch
• Pocket PC
• Netbook
• tablet
• … and more
Mobility allows learners to do the following:
• access information from different locations, through different wireless capabilities
• use audio/video (streaming technology) to enhance their learning experience
• manage and track their course enrollment and progress
• access and manage their learning in the format that best supports their needs, accessing course content through either a dedicated application or a device’s browser
• learn easily on the run, through the ubiquitous nature of the mobile device
• review information quickly and easily, rather than engage in a prolonged or deep type of learning—10-to-15 minute chunks of learning, at most, are recommended. Unfortunately, people don’t sit still long enough to take in more than that on a mobile device

What about Technical Issues?
In the past, learners, developers, and administrators faced plenty of technology, usability, and organizational challenges that prevented the widespread commitment to and adoption of mobile learning. These are some of their concerns:
• Security—Proprietary content needs to be secure. Because of their size and portability, mobile devices are easy to lose, subject to damage, and more likely to be stolen than desktop systems, increasing the possibility of exposing confidential company data.
• Content presentation—A lack of technology consistency exists among devices, preventing content, such as video, from being properly displayed, and forcing organizations to dedicate valued resources to reconfiguring content for multiple devices.
• Screen size—Most mobile devices are quite small (except for the recent entrant iPad), making it difficult to view full screens of data without the need to scroll. Picture resolution can also be a factor; graphics should be in PNG format, rather than BMP format, which is smaller for better viewing.
• Usability—As most mobile devices use touch-screen technology, information needs to be organized and easily navigated with the touch of a finger. The interface between screens needs to be quick, otherwise learners will lose interest very quickly.
• Bandwidth—The richer the media, the more likely to be download and bandwidth issues. When people experience slow data exchange, they have difficulty absorbing what they’re learning.
• Support—Mobile learning programs often require new staff and/or skills to integrate and operate. Specialized development tools are also needed, requiring considerable training to develop content.
With the addition of new technologies (e.g., information receivers, cameras, radio-frequency identification [RFID] readers, etc.) and more stringent company policies on the use of portable devices for work purposes, some of these technical challenges are beginning to dissipate. I believe the bigger challenge lies in the global adoption of this technology in business. Many organizations are still unsure of how mobile learning will affect their bottom line.

Conclusion
Let’s face it, with everyone joined at the fingertip to their mobile device, it only makes sense to make use of a growing trend and add learning to our already favorite pastime of mobile computing. The use of mobile devices seems a natural fit for distributed learning and field activities, as handheld technology can not only accompany the learner virtually anywhere, but also provide a platform that is always connected to data sources.
The popularity of mobile technology makes this an option worth exploring in a company’s training strategy. Today’s organizations should feel confident in developing and deploying mobile learning programs that support their key corporate initiatives. Remember, however, that mobile learning should not be a replacement for other modes of learning, but simply an extension.
I’ve just scratched the surface on the topic of mobile learning in this post; there is a lot more to be said about this rapidly growing trend.
For further reading on the subject of m-learning and mobility, I recommend the following two books:
The Mobile Learning Edge: Tools and Technologies for Developing Your Teams
Portable Communities: The Social Dynamics of Online and Mobile Connectedness