Tablets

Teach end users how to be productive with tablets

Give users tablets, and they'll play Candy Crush. Collaboratively teach them how to be productive with a tablet, and they might actually do some work.

Tablets are frequently cited as a boon to productivity. We assume workers will become more mobile, accessing email and calendars on the go, quickly responding to documents while on the move, and happily collaborating over a slate in an ad-hoc meeting. I'm not aware of any formal studies, but from what I saw the last time I walked up the airplane aisle during a flight, tablets might not be offering the purported productivity benefits.

Crushing candy

The most noteworthy use of tablets I observed on this flight was the Candy Crush game. Like Angry Birds, I personally don't get the attraction, but apparently, I'm in the minority. Other users appeared to be watching movies. In fact, the only borderline productive use of tablets I observed were a few people reading a book or newspaper.

While I've often enjoyed forgoing work on an airplane to catch up on some reading or watch a film -- and I certainly don't mean to suggest that anyone who isn't working during every instant of downtime is an idler -- it was interesting that precisely zero tablets of the dozens on the flight were engaged in productivity applications. This contrasts with laptops, the majority of which appeared to be running the stalwarts of corporate life: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Tablets gone wild

Occasionally, I'll also observe someone going through elaborate gyrations to use their tablet to create a document or send an email. Special keyboard cases are deployed, and judging by the confused looks and checks of various batteries and indicator lights, they aren't 100% reliable. I've also tried to use tablets as a collaborative tool in meetings and -- like all technology -- experienced occasional frustration when what seemed like a good idea turned into several minutes of checking network settings, restarting applications, and growing more embarrassed and infuriated as a simple task turned overly complex.

Picking the right tool

As technology becomes increasingly available, we're often tempted to deploy the nearest technology tool at hand to accomplish a task. My wife often laughs as I attempt increasingly elaborate search engine queries and smartphone gyrations, forgetting that a simple telephone call could quickly solve my problem.

A similar risk exists for tablets. They're relatively new and highly capable in several areas, and we're occasionally tempted to view them as a solution for any task, even when it involves using a cramped keyboard and sub-optimal applications to revise a document, a task that might take only moments on a laptop.

For enterprise IT organizations, we often spend a great deal of energy and care in assessing and selecting a technology, and then we leave it up to the user community to figure it out. As use patterns for these devices are still developing, it's imperative that we put as much care into studying how our user community is leveraging these tools and provide adequate instruction and guidance on how to best use them. To modernize the old saying: Give a man a tablet, and he'll play Candy Crush. Collaboratively teach a man how to be productive with a tablet, and he might actually do some work.

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. He has spent ...

11 comments
resprayberry
resprayberry

I, too, was looking for some actual productivity hints & found no meat. I just bought a Microsoft Surface Pro, with keyboard/cover, loaded with Microsoft Office Pro in addition to the standard apps provided. What I have experienced so far is a device that seems like an iPad wannabe, but that is very awkward at doing many things. The on-screen keyboard is awkward to retrieve from within many applications. The keyboard shortcuts that I am accustomed to using with earlier versions of Windows don't work because neither the external keyboard/cover nor the on-screen keyboard contains all the keys that a standard keyboard does (e.g., alt-tab). It is likely that many of the functions I am missing are provided, but the method of accessing them has changed & is very non-intuitive, &, as usual, Microsoft's Help feature is almost useless. Maybe Android tablets are better. At any rate, my evaluation of this particular tablet & operating system is that I would rather have my laptop with Windows XP back. I bought a Windows 8 product because XP applications are more and more not supported. --- One man's opinion.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

the article seems to demean MSO. For some of us, Word and PPT and email and, yes, reading documents *are* productivity. would you expect me to be running SAP on my tablet on the airplane?

ycc
ycc

I use Windows 7 and Office 2010 on my i5 Samsung. When I bought it 2 years ago, it was the same price as a cheap laptop but far better. My office is with where ever I go, at the moment I am in a coffee shop and I hae created a financial summary pivot table. I don't get it! Buy decent macine and you can be as productive as you want. I use OneNote to collaborate on the web if we need to interact like we would on paper. I hope you enjoy your toys.

wbobrowski
wbobrowski

Because the current generation of tablets are sorely underpowered to do anything useful except browse the web (for nothing in particular), check mail and calendar appointments, and check on what your friends are (uselessly) posting on Facebook, and play lots of time-wasting games because everyone is bored.

ChrisBGood
ChrisBGood

I was using (playing) with my (personal) iPad waiting to board a flight - the guy next to me asked "Are they all they're cracked up to be" - my reply was that there were one or 2 things to "justify" the purchase and the rest was just for fun. On another flight, I noticed someone get out their laptop; wait for it to boot up. Then it crashed (the laptop not the plane!), so restarted and by the time the guy had opened the document, it was time to shut down and prepare for landing. I think I would have got in a paragraph or 2 on a tablet!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"For enterprise IT organizations, we often spend a great deal of energy and care in assessing and selecting a technology, and then we leave it up to the user community to figure it out." In the case of tablets, I think it's more one of BYOD users insisting their latest personal toy has some productive value and IT should let it through the gates. There's also the flaw in the 'on the airplane' survey, in that we don't know how many of those devices were personal property, not company-provided 'tools'. Even if we were issuing tablets to users, I couldn't provide any productivity tips anyway. I'm not convinced of their value outside certain narrowly defined functions, and I don't see most of my road warriors performing those. And if they think they're getting tablets AND laptops, that ain't gonna happen.

prjlnw
prjlnw

Was this meant to be a question intended to stimulate discussion? or perhaps Part II will be published soon? It's all teaser and no substance.

IAFarm2
IAFarm2

As an "Enterprise Guy" you should have experience in "trained or Training" environments ( of which some work and some don't ). In my limited experience with electronic technology in a "Field Sales" environment ( 1992 to the present and I'm a "fossil" to-boot ) my desktop is for "real involved" work, the laptops are for "on-the-road" content creation and communication with the "home office and suppliers", and the tablet is "becoming" extremely useful for face-to-face in-the-field presentations to and note-taking with actual commercial customers ( agriculture and university-research related ) I've just started using a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 with MS OneNote loaded and am learning to use it with content I've created on the desktop plus technical info/manuals/Web-saves and it's "pen-based" notes/annotation capabilities. I find it's potential to be extremely useful, efficient, and financially profitable for those face-to-face in-the-field contacts AND for quickly responding to customer / prospect queries or my "you need to know about THIS" brainstorms . But for other "common IT-related " tasks, Nah.

tleinbach
tleinbach

I to was expecting some tips on being productive. It was setup nicely (buns), but no substance (beef)???

YehudahGriffin
YehudahGriffin

Why didn't you give some tips on how to become more productive? Link to some good productivity tools or applications... something? Your article only expressed what we already know. And as an Enterprise guy, I actually expected you to provide added productivity insight. The "Takeaway" is deceptive. Disappointed to say the least.

kruegerc
kruegerc

There is an obvious need for help with productivity using tablets. The Wall Street Journal had a helpful story about the iPad on May 14. Tablet PC Corner produced a white paper by Hugo Ortega that covers some basics. They are not all inclusive but are a least more of a jumping off point than this story. I guess it got the conversation going at the very least.

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