iPad optimize

IT leadership often determines iPad success in the enterprise

Patrick Gray believes that the success of the iPad in your enterprise depends on the IT leadership's perspective of the device.

The consumer electronics superstar of the last few years has, without a doubt, been Apple's iPad. Initially panned by many critics as a "giant iPhone," the device has sold hundreds of millions of units and is now under serious consideration as an enterprise device by many companies. While a clear hit with consumers and a compelling platform for everything from web browsing to gaming, many CIOs I've spoken with wonder if this thing is actually relevant to the enterprise or just a consumer-grade toy.

The simple answer is that it depends on how you're approaching tablets in your company. Essentially, I see two approaches to integrating the iPad, which are also applicable to other consumer-type devices. Many see the iPad as a technology solution looking for a problem, and they begrudgingly purchase a dozen tablets since "everyone's doing it" or someone in marketing has been endlessly hounding the CFO for a few devices.

If you approach the iPad -- and tablets in general -- from this angle, the iPad is not only a toy but a world of hurt for any CIO. The iPad lacks "enterprise-grade" manageability, requires a slew of new development and deployment tools, and looks about as daunting as trying to get Mom's minivan "race ready" for the Daytona 500.

While there are workarounds for some of the iPad's perceived flaws, if you apply your existing enterprise IT model to the device, you will likely find more frustration than success -- and you'll inflict the same on your users by trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

The second approach I see CIOs taking is readily evident when they first pick up the device. For these folks, the iPad is the solution to problems they've faced for years: a light, simple device that can readily access information and do some easy data capture. In upcoming posts, we'll talk more about some immediately applicable business problems the iPad can help solve.

Frankly, there are several problems that technology can solve where traditional enterprise-grade functionality is not only less relevant, but it actually gets in the way of solving the problem. Consumer-grade technology gives you access to the latest thinking and is often far more quick-and-dirty than the slower-moving enterprise space. Whether you need to build a kiosk in five days for a trade show or equip your field service staff with a shelf full of technical manuals that they can carry in the palm of their hand, technologies like the iPad present fast, inexpensive solutions.

In short, whether the iPad succeeds or fails in your enterprise is often driven by the IT leadership's perception of the device. If you open the box and see headaches ranging from manageability to access control, save yourself the agony and leave the iPad to consumers. On the other hand, if you see a quick and low-cost solution to a raft of nagging business problems, the iPad may be the technology "duct tape" you've been waiting for -- that is, a cheap (but imperfect) solution to all manner of enterprise problems.

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About

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. Patrick has...

5 comments
dnox1978
dnox1978

Need to add real proven business value and replace another gadget like phone or laptop. and/or improve the productivity of our staff . Then I'm All For It , otherwise it's just another flashy thing to us and brag about or an accessor.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

it might be useful in our stockroom. I believe there are SAP apps for the iPad. The bar code scanners we have are USB devices, so they're out. I'm mostly pipe dreaming, so I haven't looked for available scanning add-ons. So far, no one here has said tablets of any variety are the solution to existing problems.

lastchip
lastchip

For what it is, the ipad is not inexpensive.

myargonauts
myargonauts

A small group in my department went around IT and purchased a few ipads for business use. I guess they got them because they were the in thing and thought they would be easy. They were so wrong. They did not know the first thing on how to make these productive. If they would have consulted with IT we could have suggested a windows tablet (HP slate) that would work with the software we already have licenses for and the security policy we already have in place. They have been told they will need to purchase any software and accessories from their own pocket. We got them to work but but this minivan wont win any races.

tommy
tommy

I've no problem with supporting devices that add flavour to the working environment. As long as the tools of choice, sexy as they are, offer the genuine functionality required to facilitate or improve the productivity of staff then I'm all for them. I've yet to see that being the case, with regards tablets in general, to anyone outside of a very small number of job specific scenarios. I'm looking forward to seeing the "immediately applicable business problems the iPad can help solve". I bet there are few outside of marketing or sales. There are killer applications for this device - I've used tablets before in a number of situations - but this is not a panacea for all. It's most definitely a useful tool in a limited number of environments, but the answer to the question 'how will it improve our business?' will define the success of the iPad in the enterprise, not the simplistic idea that tablets are a 'must have device' for everyone.