I'm Eating My Words as More Companies Deploy iPads

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Five Considerations when Deploying iPad in Your Business

Factors to consider before deploying the iPad.

As a reasonably prolific blogger, it's not uncommon for me to find myself dining on my own words. Right now, in fact, I'm snacking on some of my statements from a January post in which I questioned the iPad's usefulness as a business tool. To be fair, I was far from alone in my skepticism, and Apple since then has addressed several issues I mentioned as possible iPad shortcomings.


The bigger issue with my post, however, was my view of the iPad through the lens of how I do my job. I'm a mostly deskbound and self-directed worker who doesn't make presentations to clients or even coworkers. The iPad is gaining tremendous interest among users who make presentations to clients and collaborate with coworkers and those who appreciate the ability to quickly review work-related documents on the fly.


The latter ability is mentioned in an Infoworld article describing business intelligence software provider MicroStrategy's deployment of 1,100 iPads to executives and sales personnel. The company created an application called Corporate Request Center that has resulted in a productivity boost among managers who review lots of documents like purchase orders and expense requests because "you can use it wherever you are, whenever you have a spare moment" (and connectivity, I'd add), says Mark LaRow, MicroStrategy's SVP of products. Sales staff appreciate not having to wait for the iPad to boot up when they show videos or conduct online demonstrations for clients, a function facilitated by the iPad's ability to import and export documents, spreadsheets and presentations in Microsoft Office formats of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.


In addition to its usefulness, MicroStrategy has been happy with the iPad's cost after conducting a total cost of ownership analysis between iPads and laptops that LaRow says was "wildly in favor" of the iPad. The company's typical annual cost to support a laptop over a three-year life is about $1,000, including software licenses, maintenance and hardware. It believes the iPad will cost just $400 a year, though it expects the devices to last two years rather than three.


LaRow says iPads will prove especially useful for "anybody who stands up on the job," which may be why Mercedes-Benz tested iPads in 40 of its U.S. showrooms in May and plans a fuller rollout later this year, according to an item on Inside Retailing. The automaker touts the iPad's ability to give sales representatives instant access to marketing programs for specific models, create a quicker turnaround time on credit applications and improve speed and efficiency when customers return leased vehicles.


LaRow mentions the iPad's "engaging" interface has won fans among MicroStrategy employees. Arhaus Furniture thinks that will also be the case among delivery drivers who will receive iPads later this year. The drivers will them use for various functions including mapping routes to their delivery stops and connecting with back-office sales and customer-service applications to streamline billing, returns and other processes. They'll also hand the devices over to customers, who'll use them to browse an online catalog while drivers install furniture.


When I interviewed John Roddy, Arhaus' SVP of logistics and distribution, he told me drivers already use mobile phones to perform some of the same functions. But they're big guys with big fingers, and Roddy thinks they will find iPads much simpler to use. The devices also will remove much of the paperwork from manually intensive processes, a benefit mentioned by a Mercedes-Benz executive and also by Lloyd's, which is teaming with three brokerages to outfit underwriters with iPads.


In a Post Online article, Lloyd's director of market operations explains brokers will use iPads to take documents in to the market electronically, review documents with underwriters and annotate them where required. Says Sue Langley, the director:

By simply replacing the paper with something easier to carry, but which allows amendments and links to other services, we continue to support the underwriting and face-to-face negotiation that makes Lloyd's unique.