Changes Needed Before Tablets Are Ready for Business

Carl Weinschenk

Carl Weinschenk spoke to Dan Wilzoch, senior vice president and general manager for Sage Mid-Market CRM Solutions.

To date, tablets have been more of a consumer than business phenomenon. Clearly, however, more people are bringing the devices to work as time passes. There are significant differences between writing applications and supporting business- and consumer-oriented tablets, said Dan Wilzoch. He told IT Business Edge blogger Carl Weinschenk that HTML5 can free the organization from writing for a variety of operating systems and that security must be heightened in the corporate environment.

Weinschenk: To date, tablets are more consumer-oriented. Is that changing?

Wilzoch: The general thought is tablets are more of an entertainment, home-use device. … The user experience is fantastic for that type of person. Even today figures say something like 75 or 76 percent use tablets for home purposes only. Businesses finding ways to use it in a business environment is a recent development.

We are tracking the trend, which is the consumerization of business. It is taking a home or consumer lifestyle with tablets or smartphones and applying it to how people want to work in their business life. People are expecting lightweight apps. They are expecting task-based apps that are easy to use. That’s an expectation brought from the consumer to the business environment. Someone calling on a prospect doesn’t want to go through nine menus. They want two buttons. [Traditional] business software is not built that way.

Now people are looking for something much simpler and task-based. The first thing is device independence. We write in HTML5, where it doesn’t matter what device you use. We are not writing to iOS, not to Android. We are writing HTML5 because it will work on any compliant device. Formerly, the business would have to fit to different environments and a lot of work would have to be done to do that.

Weinschenk: What changes as you move from consumer to business use of tablets?

Wilzoch: A tablet [for home use] is not built with security in mind. They are very open. There are a lot of ways to get to content. A lot of business information is confidential. We build apps that take into account how it handles data. How does the device cache the data? How does it store the data: Is it on the device itself or a live feed and the data is not on the device? How does it handle its own security? For example, our people who develop mobile software may not allow the device to store data, require a password or go to a lock screen [if certain conditions exist]. Those devices do not typically set up that way. They also can have the ability to wipe the device if it is lost.

Weinschenk: I bet this shows no signs of slowing down.

Wilzoch: In a few years’ time the tablet will be the primary sales device versus laptops. … We look at the use cases and how mobile devices will be used in the field. For example, for sales we  build mobile applications that make it easy in the field. If you are a financial advisor, when you meet with customers — people who are trusting you for advice on where to put their money — if you bring a mobile device they will see you as modern and intelligent. Secondly, using such devices breaks down barriers with customers. It turns the meeting into more of a collaborative effort, you and customers working together. It is a big shift it is more substantial than a tweak.

[The trick is to] make it easy to use. Mobile devices know where you are with GPS, who you are talking to. It is a centralization of all this data. But the user doesn’t have to do it … it does it for you.

Weinschenk: So how would bringing a function to the tablet change things for the user?

Wilzoch: In CRM you have a customer service function, support ticket function, marketing function and others. You have a sales aspect to it as well. For CRM on a smartphone or a tablet you would have different faces to the same back end. In CRM today those people all have to go through a series of windows. It’s still fully featured and complex. The tablets and smartphones are driving people to simplify. That’s the consumerization I told you about before. People are tailoring it to the consumerization idea and making it simpler. The expectations created by consumers on how they want to use devices is driving that.

Weinschenk: Will end users necessarily pay extra for this mobile functionality?

Wilzoch: One of the things lost on SMB people is you don’t have to typically go out and search for mobile apps. Vendors like us are including it for free. If I ran a small business my advice would be to look at my software today and see if it has mobile capabilities. It may.

Weinschenk: So it seems that mobilization of business functions will be a big sales issue for a company such as yours —  a big challenge and a big opportunity.

Wilzoch: When you go into sales situation and show features and functions [prospects] are unimpressed because what you show them is generally available. But when we show the mobile application everyone wants to buy it. The deal is closed.  Features and functions are close to commodity status. It’s the mobility that can get you over the goal. In some cases, if you buy the lower package, you don’t get the mobility included. At the higher level you might.

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