Sometimes—okay, most of the time—we’re better off learning from the experiences of others. If you are faced with (or enticed by) opportunities to take advantage of tablets in the workplace, there are definitely things to learn from organizations that have jumped in early. Here’s a sampling.
Tablet adoption in K-12 schools and higher education institutions has grown significantly like it has with enterprises. Education IT managers who deployed tablets have had to clearly understand the needs of their end-users, whether faculty and administrators or students. Articulating this upfront helps IT determine whether one device can meet both needs, as was the case with Bryant University (video). Minimizing different operating systems and devices in your network alleviates strain on IT departments and the subsequent issues that often come with BYOD.
Managing mobile devices is a bigger job than some think.
Hyatt Hotels has worked with a mix of employee-owned and company-provided tablets. In either case, managing the proliferation of devices and protecting the data they store became a bigger drain on IT resources than the company expected, according to an InformationWeek piece on early tablets in business. The need to support a growing list of operating systems became a greater drain as well. Hyatt’s response: a mobile device management solution that automated some of the tasks and reduced errors. We’ve written previously about the benefits of MDM solutions here on this blog.
Beware consumer-focused features and settings.
Operating systems on tablets get updates—automatically in some cases, unless users adjust settings. But enterprise tablets might have homegrown software that won’t work after an update—so things have to be managed much more carefully. Waste Management learned the hard way that one such update even inadvertently disabled their consumer tablets’ charging capabilities.
Some problems associated with consumer-oriented devices may be less obvious (at first). Cruise marketer Royal Caribbean placed iPads in some of its staterooms, but encountered privacy concerns when passengers discovered photos snapped by previous vacationers, then left on the tablet. Disabling the camera on this consumer-oriented device proved to be less than straightforward.
Trying a watching-and-listening strategy.
IT managers at St. Joseph Healthcare had reason for concern when doctors and nurses began bringing their own iPads to work, then using consumer apps to access specialized medical apps when away from their offices. Hospitals and physician offices must consider privacy and security issues, which is why tablets that are compatible with electronic healthcare records (EHRs) must be considered.
No shortage of issues.
- Building homegrown web apps for unique requirements means any browser on any device can give users access. But web app response times can be more sluggish than native apps, and, HTML5 standards notwithstanding, appearance (and usability) can vary.
- Many organizations will be able to meet most of their needs with commercially available apps—but even smaller enterprises may need to build (or at least fund) custom development, then find a way to maintain it. This is where custom enterprise app shops are useful.
- Tablet manufacturer product cycles vary, but they’re all likely to be shorter than those for desktops and laptops. Consumer-oriented brands may not publish product roadmaps, which can be a challenge for IT teams driving to deliver more capability—and perhaps competitive advantage—to their business users.
The good news for potential enterprise table users will be the upcoming introduction of Windows 8. Not only will it provide intuitive workarounds for many of the problems presented in this post, it will also provide a common operating system throughout all devices–desktops, notebooks, tablets and mobile phones. As a result, users– and the technology teams that support them–will have an easier time using and maintaining all of these devices.
No shortage of optimism, either.
None of the early adopters had disaster stories to tell—rather, tales of bumps in the road you’d expect for the fast and the brave. None abandoned the move to tablets for their targeted user populations, and most involved see expanding usage, with the ultimate replacement (in some cases) of both generalized (laptops, desktops) and specialized devices such as point-of-sale (POS) terminals. Lessons learned, tablets are going forth, multiplying, and driving business results.
Has your organization been an early adopter of tablet computers? Share your stories with us.
Gartner predicts that 80% of businesses will support a tablet-toting workforce by 2013. Are you ready? Get a better grasp of how your IT organization can empower knowledge workers, increase the efficiency of remote customer service teams, and enable field sales professionals to deepen customer relationships in this practical guide to tablets in the workplace.