The biggest takeaway from the Association of African Business Schools Connect Conference in Nairobi, Kenya this past week is the fact that many business schools (b-schools) know the importance of integration of digital, especially mobile, strategies into their business schools. Yet, many do not know how to do so, especially since mobile tech in business education is a very nascent, though growing, field. We - g.Maarifa - are a pioneer in this intersection of mobile tech and management education and were honored to be one of the experts to speak at the conference. We presented on the questions b-schools should ask themselves when thinking about integrating a mobile strategy and best practices of its implementation. Here are some of the most important lessons.
1. Mobiles are complement, not supplement: We encounter a lot of business schools that shrink away from digital technology because they view it as a threat to their current in-person model. They see is as a replacement for classroom rooming. This attitude needs to change. In order to survive and thrive in the next few decades, business schools need to see mobile technology as a complement to their current model and structure. Beyond communication purposes. mobiles are especially helpful as training and monitoring and evaluation tools for students outside the classrooms.
2. Monetization: when b-schools are thinking about mobiles, they want to use them to reach two critical groups of people: their paying students, i.e. internal, and the public who are not paying. It is when thinking of reaching out to the latter that monetization of the product becomes crucial. B-schools want to create a mobile product that will help them reach their outreach goals but at the same time be able to charge the users to offset the costs of creating and maintaining the technology. How does one do so without sacrificing too many users who may not be able or willing to pay for it? B-schools need to ask themselves: What do they already do uniquely and well or can do so cheaply that can monetize through mass communication?
3. Involvement of all stakeholders: Mobile strategy impacts the entire business school ecosystem, and if the b-school is a part of the university system- the entire university ecosystem. In the feasibility study, b-schools need to include all stakeholders and players, from the IT department to the target end users, for as much of the process as possible in order to a) make them feel like they have ownership which increases usage of the tech once it is built; and b) to lower cost. Target end users need to be included in testing samples and beta tests in order to make sure that the user experience is optimal. Faculty needs to be included, especially if an open online model is an aspect of the strategy, since they are the ones entering in the content and evaluating the end users. Even engineering students from other parts of the university system should be asked to participate as they can give feedback- and even build- the technical side of the strategy.
4. Local context: How is the local ICT infrastructure? Are students commuting to school from nearby urban areas or do they spend a fairly large proportionate of them in rural/ “upcountry” areas? How expensive and accessible is mobile data for the target end users? These questions are crucial to determine the platform of the mobile strategy. Should the platform be SMS, Android app, or tablet app? Or a combination of the three based on segmentation?
5. Demand: is there an actual demand for this? This is the biggest and most important question b-schools need to ask themselves. Do the target end users actually need and will use this mobile platform? What are their biggest needs and does the potential mobile strategy fulfill them? If so, what kind of tech do target end users prefer? This is when involving all stakeholders (#3) becomes crucial. Only when the b-schools are sure that there is need for specific mobile technology should they move forward to the next phase.
g.Maarifa is a mobile enterprise tech company that develops human capital for organizations in emerging markets by allowing organizations to remote train employees, clients, and/or beneficiaries. With a focus on the Middle East and Africa, g.Maarifa works in multiple sectors and industries, including academic education technology. In addition to its proprietary technology platform, it has a consulting arm which works on feasibility and subsequent implementation of mobile strategy for organizations and businesses. Contact Evanna Hu at firstname.lastname@example.org for further communication.