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Tablets in the enterprise: Risks and rewards

Shane O'Neill | Dec. 2, 2011
The Apple iPad was only released 18 months ago, but the swift proliferation of the tablet PC is already changing the way businesses think about user productivity.

IT groups have the choice to support workers' personal tablets or buy them outright. The majority of companies are supporting personal tablets, part of the BYOD movement that started when C-level executives bought iPads and demanded to use them for work.

However, some organizations are buying corporate-liable tablets for workers (the more expensive option). Either way, says McQuire, IT should apply the normal security precautions - enforce passwords, use MDM (mobile device management) tools to manage tablets, provide hardware and data encryption, and deliver customer support - without going into lock-down mode where the tablet is restricting for the user.

"You don't want to limit the features like access to apps and fast boots that make a tablet great in the first place," says McQuire.

Benefits: Tablets Can Set Mobile Workers Free

In the best circumstances, tablets can help mobile workers to be more productive and drive value back to the business. For Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company with 80,000 employees, an aggressive roll out of iPads this year has liberated its worldwide sales force.

Starting in July, Roche purchased 8,000 iPads for its sales people and is planning to expand to 12,000. The iPads in use are replacing traditional notebooks, an aggressive move to say the least, but Roche sales reps, many of whom were very satisfied with a pilot program, are not complaining, says Marc Wiest, Project Manager, Group Informatics at Roche.

"Our sales reps are able to work more efficiently with iPads," says Wiest, adding Roche sales people often do not have much time to pitch to physicians, who are notoriously busy.

"They have 15 minutes with a doctor and they have to make the most it," says Wiest. "The iPad boots up instantly, the apps are immediately accessible and the graphics are outstanding."

Wiest admits that governance and compliance are a challenge with the iPad, especially in a highly regulated industry like pharmaceuticals.

"It is less secure than a notebook," says Wiest, "and it is a challenge to adhere to regulations with what is really a consumer device."

But with the more enterprises, such as Roche, creating their own apps and app stores and more enterprise software giants like Citrix, Oracle, SAP and IBM creating iPad apps, the iPad is evolving into an enterprise device and is worth the extra security effort, says Wiest.

"iPads have untied our sales reps from the desk, and given them the freedom to do more business out in the world."


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