Rolling out iPads in the enterprise

We caught up with IT manager Ian Davies to talk about the challenges of rolling out the Apple tablet to employees.

When the first iPad was released in 2010, many dismissed it and the tablet craze it inspired as faddish. Fast forward two years and it's clear they are here to stay. The dwindling PC market is testament to that.

The real test of the world's most popular tablet, however, was whether it would catch on in the lucrative enterprise market. Had Apple created a device that would delight both consumers and CEOs? It had - iPads can now be found in all kinds of businesses, from public services like the BBC to global corporations and banks.

But what does rolling out iPads mean for the IT department? We caught up with Ian Davies, IT manager for the UK office of building products supplier Ubbink, to talk about why and how he helped bring iPads into the business.

What was behind the decision to get iPads in? Who is using them and how many are you rolling out?

We started with a small number - just five but this is being increased to 18 this month.

One regional manger loved it and stopped taking his laptop out with him.

Primarily the people we are giving them to are our field-based sales team and it was a decision following the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Reps complained that it was too much work to write notes in a meeting and then go home and transpose those notes into CRM so we looked at how we could make it easier for them. I demonstrated the technology to Ubbink's UK general manager in October 2011 and he was given the first iPad alongside the two regional managers.

One regional manger loved it and stopped taking his laptop out with him, even asking if he could hand it back in as he didn't need it any more. Another still prefers paper and pen and is slower to take up this kind of new technology.

The general manager, however, is the one that has driven this forward. He feels that this is the best way forward, that being "always on" means they can sit and take notes in real time on the device, straight into the customer record on CRM. To be fair he is also leading by example.

To support this we have adopted a cloud store (ShareFile) to enable access to documents and presentations directly on the iPad. ShareFile was chosen after comparing terms and conditions. This allows presentations, videos or other documents to be shown very quickly should questions arise. The biggest missing part of the ShareFile offering is a WebDav connection so that we can use Numbers, Pages and Keynote apps more effectively. I am promised that this is coming on 2012.

What are the chief challenges with rolling out iPads and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is the lack of a volume licensing programme outside of the US. I wouldn't want to do this on many more than the eighteen we will end up with, especially with the geographical diversity of our sales team.

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