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Tablets are business game changers

CLIFF COURT of Grapevine Interactive believes that as more and more professionals begin using tablets, organisations are beginning to evaluate the true business benefits of these devices.

As an attendee at a recent mobile applications conference in the USA, I noted that at least 25% of the delegates took notes on an iPad. While this was in San Francisco, a heavily tech-centric city, it was nevertheless tangible evidence that tablets are going to be much more than interesting gadgets.

With the growing proliferation of tablet devices from a variety of manufacturers, organisations have been left wondering whether tablet technology can make a difference to the way they do business. Many companies are now starting to evaluate the true business value of tablets, asking the hard questions around how to approach the management of these devices, their secure use within the business and what software should be allowed on them.

Tablets are not just cool gadgets, they are going to be genuine game-changers for business. Effective use of tablets, suitably aligned with corporate strategy, will enable companies to find new ways to increase revenues, while at the same time lowering their cost of sale.

An example of this is in the day-to-day process of completing an order during a typical client meeting. Using a tablet, the order form details can be captured directly onto the screen while sitting with the customer, with the immediate ability to display product brochures and live stock levels, if there are queries during the process. Once complete, the tablet can be handed over to the customer for a signature on the device itself ‚ using either a finger or stylus as a pen. The executed deal can then be immediately transmitted over the mobile network to your company systems for fulfilment. Compared to current manual methods for getting orders signed and then captured into ordering systems, the new tablet-based mechanism will dramatically streamline these everyday processes, and it will be clearly noticeable on the company’s bottom line.

Many businesses will nonetheless be nervous of wholesale adoption of tablets, having been burned before when a new solution or device has promised the world, only to disappoint when the practical realities of business and technology intertwine. Tablets are no different and there is no doubt their implementation will require careful consideration. For one thing, care will have to be taken in the management of this new category of device, with a strong focus placed on how security and other policies are applied to tablet users who access company systems.

A common question posed to me by businesses is how to deploy their company-specific applications to their tablets? Apple (but also other tablet manufacturers) is rather weak when it comes to deploying corporate applications compared to consumer applications onto the iPad. In fact, Apple only offers the publically-available App Store for hosting and deploying of applications (Apple do have a limited beta as well as an enterprise deployment option, but these will not suit the majority of South African companies).

This is an issue, since it is extremely unlikely that companies will want their highly-prized sales force automation iPad application generally available for download off Apple’s open App Store. Happily there is a solution to this matter. What businesses require is a robust tablet management system that will allow companies to operate their own App Store, where only the company-specific applications, as well as approved public applications from the public App Store, are approved for use by the organisation’s tablet users. Such a system will offer the added benefit of allowing for the enablement of company policy on usage – including the ability to remotely shut down tablets and application usage in the event the device has been lost or stolen.

My advice to companies considering deploying tablets is to partner with a company that can deliver the appropriate tablet management systems. My company has implemented a leading management system for multiple types of smartphones and tablets that applies the policies of the organisation in its use of apps, both custom and those from app stores. With guidance from experienced mobile solution providers, the necessary level of comfort can be provided to the IT and corporate security departments, while at the same time allowing the business to take full advantage of the value tablets can bring to the bottom line.

The time is right for companies to start embracing tablet technology. Those that deploy tablets appropriately will almost certainly enjoy higher returns. To accelerate those wins, companies must ensure that they work with the right partner. A true partner will do far more than just write your next tablet application: a genuine mobile partner is one that will understand the larger picture involving the management of this new technology sphere and assist your company to take its rightful place as a market leader.

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