It’s now almost three years since Apple released the iPad – the first tablet style PC to achieve worldwide commercial success. Since this release, tablets have made the transition from a sought after consumer gadget, to a tool with a strategic role to play in business operations. The figures seem to bear this out with a recent report citing that 86 per cent of enterprises planned to deploy tablets by the end of this year. (Gartner)
As tablets make their transition from boardroom to shop floor, what role can they play in the enterprise and can they really empower the workforce to adopt more flexible working practices?
From home to office
The first wave of tablet use was driven by the rise of consumerisation within the workplace; senior level executives that wanted and expected to be able to use their iPads for work – be it connecting to the corporate network to check emails, or logging onto the CRM system.
However, tablet use is no longer just driven by employees and enterprise mobility strategies are moving beyond simply securing, and providing support for, employee-owned devices.
Evidence shows that organisations are waking up to the unique advantage of the tablet in a variety of contexts and investing in rolling out tablets and enterprise applications across the workforce.
Recently, BT announced it was rolling out Windows OS 8 tablets to its engineers for measuring broadband speeds and other general tasks. (Tech Week Europe)
In healthcare, tablets have been used for a host of efficiency savings and to improve clinical care, for example, by reducing travel and administration for staff that need to visit patients in their home and replacing paper systems.
The key benefit is, of course, the combined advantages of portability, screen size and computing power which means that – unlike the smartphone – they can be used for longer periods and for more complex data processing.
Tasks can be completed quickly, at the time of decision, promoting a faster response.
This can translate to more efficient working practices, improved responsiveness which can ultimately drive competitive advantage.
The rise of the tablet, however, does not spell the end of the smartphone or the laptop.
These are not mutually exclusive devices, nor should they be expected to fulfil the same function.
Rather, enterprises should select which device is right for specific tasks, departments and contexts and align their roll out accordingly.
Accordingly, IT departments will need to consider how business processes should be reconfigured and designed in order for these devices to achieve the efficiencies they have the potential to deliver.
This is about empowering employees with choice, flexibility and the freedom to do the job they need, from wherever they are based.
In this way, we need to focus less on the device per se and more on enabling employees to fulfil tasks in different scenarios.
Tablets may be here for the long haul, but they’re just one part of the employee’s arsenal of devices.
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