I've been fielding lots of questions about the technology behind tablet devices. IT staff worry about security and manageability, and everyone else -- from consumers to CIOs -- is deciding whether to hitch their wagon (and wallets) to Apple's iOS or to the myriad of vendors providing tablets based on Google's Android OS. Even the technology press is busy debating "feature porn," comparing gigahertz and megabits as if a few extra processor cycles might drastically change how a device is successfully implemented.
Now, there's nothing innately wrong with feature porn, and it's certainly not the sole domain of technology, as anyone who has spent time with a "car guy" can attest. I can only imaging early cave dwellers comparing the sizes of their clubs or the nuances between a hickory or oak spear for slaying wayward beasts. In some ways, however, feature porn gets us away from what we should be talking about with technology: its application.
For tablets in the enterprise, in particular, many people lament that they are a technological solution looking for a problem, and that's quite often an astute observation. What can make or break a tablet is the content that's available on the device, which must be compelling in that particular format.
The ultimate expression of this is Amazon's upcoming tablet, the Kindle Fire. Rather than extolling technical features, Amazon has essentially shoved all the technology to the background and placed its content front and center. Undoubtedly, Amazon wants to make it as easy as possible for you to consume its media, services, and software.
In the enterprise space, we can do the same thing by focusing on content rather than the particular devices that deliver content. In fact, a focus on content is beneficial whether we adopt iOS, Android, or abandon tablets altogether. Rather than worrying about single vs. dual-core tablet processors, determining how to make key financial metrics available to all employees has a far more dramatic benefit. Tablets up the ante on the importance of content, since they allow for instant portable access to compelling content whether you're in the field or at the boardroom table.
If you start on the extreme ends of most companies, the average line employee will tell you that the C-suite is out of touch, and the average CEO will tell you his or her employees don't understand the difficulties facing the company or the deep consideration given to seemingly contradictory executive decisions. With the right medium and message, tablets could bridge these types of communication gaps, providing an instant view of key performance metrics, combined with commentary from key executives.
In this case, the technology becomes a distribution channel rather than the focus. The main problem with a focus on content is that it's difficult. The corporate landscape is littered with "intranet portals" that haven't been updated in years, but they were supposed to revolutionize internal communications and were started with all the best intentions.
Like fad diet books and exercise equipment, in many cases it's easier to write a check for a promise of fitness than to diligently apply oneself to the process, day after day. Technology follows a similar path. The easy part of the process is drooling over feature porn and putting a shiny new device in every employee's hands. The hard part is the diligent identification, creation, and distribution of compelling and relevant content.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.