While tablet adoption at large companies is still in the early stages, according to analysts, applications can be created to help employees successfully integrate these on-the-go devices into their routine business activities.
Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester, came up with five tips for implementing these devices in large companies. These tips were enumerated in his October 2010 Forrester survey, “How iPads Enter the Workforce.”
Educating employees on where tablets work and where they don’t. Office doesn’t work on tablets today, so that’s a deal-breaker for many displaced laptop scenarios, Schadler said. He added that the most important application for tablet adoption is the Microsoft Office suite, followed by SharePoint or some sort of collaboration feature.
“The exec team is where it starts, and that’s mostly about content reading. Then it moves to the same people who brought in personal iPhones, people that want to work on the go, and then when real business applications are created (like SharePoint, Microsoft Office), other users will adopt the tablets,” he said.
Prioritizing the applications that get built first. Start with the basic applications needed for every employee, Schadler said. Then, he recommends adding on a layer of dedicated applications, depending on the business.
“We’re in the early days of experimentation,” he said. “Tools like the Citrix Receiver, which puts Windows applications in a virtual desktop and then makes them available for tablets, is one of the interesting implementations. Roambi.com creates interactive analytics reports that can be viewed on a tablet or mobile device as well.”
Dealing with the platform proliferation that threatens to clog the market with choices. Android, Chrome OS, iOS, Symbian, Windows Phone, webOS: Consumers will get confused, Schadler predicted, and so will large companies. He advises that companies begin with Android and iOS, and target browsers with HTML5 capabilities first. Building native applications for tablets now is hard, he said, and that by targeting these HTML5 websites, large companies ensure that information can be accessed on a tablet by consumers and employees alike.
According to Jeffrey Hammond, Forrester analyst, in his “Mobile Development Goes Multiplatform” survey from December 2010, 39% of 136 developers polled said that their strategies include optimized mobile applications, while 61% use native applications.
Using them with a home PC. Tablets can sometimes be used to save on hardware costs and software costs, such as supplying tablets instead of new laptops with Windows 7, as Schadler explains in the “novel ways to make the business case for tablets” section of his survey. iPads, in this scenario, would be used for in-person sales pitches, and then home PCs would allow the employee to store necessary data and other files.
“I think the big question for me is why would a given employee use a tablet instead of a desktop or laptop?” said Michael Coté, an analyst at RedMonk. “For employees always on the go or out in the field, it makes sense because they want portability, but it seems like most employees sit at a desk, so what advantage is there?”
He maintains that many of the applications needed for productivity—from e-mail, to documents, to presentation programs—are already available on these devices, with additional network security applications available, like remote wipe, password protection and VPN enforcement.
Taking custom orders and utilizing tablets for custom orders. Schadler said pharmaceutical companies can save money, as the FDA requires them to destroy all printed material, such as handouts, when updates happen. Updated information can be kept on a tablet instead of a costlier device, and instead of having to reprint the material each time. Additionally, he said that retailers could use tablets for store-floor orders, with customizable applications created by the company to allow sales personnel to accept these transactions.