It’s always tempting to impute
Unlikely virtues to the cute. - Ogden Nash
The tech world is abuzz with them, many of us own our own and several of us use them at work. They have transformed the personal computing landscape and become a standard in their own right, sized from the neighborhood of 10″ down to 7″. I am speaking, of course, of tablets. Whether the Apple iPad, the varying Android builds, HP Touchpad or even the BlackBerry PlayBook, tablets have become very popular mobile devices and increasingly showing up in the business world.
Before you start gallivanting off to order tablets by the gross, consider the sobering article recently published in the Wall Street Journal, “Here Come Tablets. Here Come Problems.”. In it the author highlighted some of the problems adopters of tablet technology ran into, condensing the concerns into five bullets:
No. 1: Failing to have a plan before rolling out the devices
No. 2: Not understanding what tablets are—and are not—good for
No. 3: Expecting to easily obtain all the apps you need
No. 4: Thinking tablets are cheaper than laptops
No. 5: Misjudging the ease of support and security
From a casual glance the whole sounds like the kinds of problems any other technological innovation has had integrating into the business model and and-user expectations, but regardless the article underscores the importance of carefully taking into consideration all aspects of incorporating tablets into the workplace rather than deploying carelessly. Form over function may be well and good in High Fashion, but in the real world of business productivity, what works and generates revenue will ultimately make the final cut.
Suppose you are an executive wandering into an Apple Store, see and play with an iPad 3 and think “This could be the greatest productivity tool since the personal computer!” First off, before even thinking about buying a boatload for marketing, consider what apps are available that could be used in your business. If there are few or none, consider how much it would cost to have a developer write an app custom-tailored to your specifications. If apps are available or if you’ve got programmers that can create them, the apps and tablet will likely need to be configured to be secure, and will invariably require support. So now there is the added support costs, not just in maintaining support and security, but likely training IT how to operate, support and secure tablets as well. All of this of course assuming there aren’t any insurmountable security obstacles that would mitigate the tablet’s usefulness in the first place.
Given the costs that could be incurred from all or some of the above, a salient question might be whether or not the tablet is more cost-effective than a laptop, especially if the target recipients of the tablet already have laptops. Using a small group within the target user audience to give the tablet of choice a spin could be an excellent means of gauging the tablet’s potential effectiveness within the group, as well as getting critical feedback from the actual boots on the ground.
To be sure, this is not to say that tablets have no place in business—there are certainly examples where tablets have been a boon to their mobile users, just ask our own Dan Cohen—but care must be exercised to ensure that a tablet will fit into your business model and save yourself from procuring a boatload of potential white elephants.