iPad Use in the Enterprise: A Primer

Eric Carlson | August 11, 2011 | Mobile Strategy

I field a lot of questions about how we see the use of the iPad expanding within the Enterprise. That’s always a difficult question as first I feel the need to categorize the question; what type of iPad use in the Enterprise are we talking about? Internally at Propelics, we classify iPad use by 3 different scenarios:
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  • Customer use Apps: These are what you see on the Apple AppStore(TM) today. Applications built by businesses for their customers to interact with their company. For example, a banking application to view your checking balance, deposit checks, or transfer money. A shopping application to view a store front, purchase items, manage orders. Or an insurance application you might use to view your policy information, look up your agent’s contact information, or pay your bill.
  • Internal use Apps: These are the applications being built today that you don’t see on the AppStore(TM). These are custom built applications used internally within the company’s firewall. These are distributed by the organization’s IT department to managed iOS devices in use by its employees only. For example, an inventory management application allowing manufacturing managers and logistics personnel to view current inventory levels, check manufacturing output levels, view a real-time dashboard of quality metrics. Or a financial dashboard, allowing executives to view and present company performance information. There are certainly business specific applications on the AppStore(TM) as well, but we categorize those as being individual productivity applications and not enterprise built applications.
  • Apps for use Collaboratively with Customers: The last area of iPad usage we see is in the use of the iPad as a customer facing device to assist with the sales and service of customers during in-person interaction.  Similar to the previous example, these are not distributed via the AppStore(TM), but are built for use by company representatives in the presence of customers.   For example, a car manufacturer arming each dealership sales representative with an iPad application to use during the sales process – allowing the representative to share vehicle information, videos, configuration choices, and payment options with the customer while walking around the car. Or a banking loan officer, able to now move out from behind the desk and beige PC and sit with the customer going over loan option scenarios using the customer’s information and close the deal.

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Propelics has developed applications in all 3 of these arenas, but our goal as an organization is growing the use of scenarios 2 and 3 by finding business processes where the introduction of these devices can have a significant impact on a few desired metrics. For us the metrics we can impact for a company are numerous, but when approaching a customer process we look for opportunities to impact a few major areas:

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  • Collaboration: A great benefit of the iPad in the enterprise is the ability to bring back collaboration. The traditional PC is inherently a single-user device: A keyboard and mouse that has at any one point a single owner.  Through our experience with sales and service applications running on laptops, these applications are built for an employee to navigate and a customer to watch.  A presentation device where the customer is a bystander – waiting for the next piece of information to be presented.  With the use of multiple applications and information sources on a PC or laptop, the real collaboration of working together with a customer on a solution is lost.  From working with our enterprise clients, we see the common scenario that once the customer asks for a customization of a product or service, the sales rep is required to “head back to the office” and email out a solution later – not because of the time or complexity of the solution, but because the applications used through the sales process are built without customer collaboration in mind.
    This is a major area of focus for Propelics. With a touchscreen tablet device, we feel that the collaboration and sharing of company information and customer information on a single screen, able to be passed easily between constituents, is a huge area of advancement for the company/customer relationship. When approaching this topic with our customers, we identify business processes that would benefit through the use of customer collaboration.  Attempting to remove any periods of time where the customer is waiting for information, or not participating in solution building.
  • Customer Experience / Personalization: If we’re able to collaborate more effectively, it’s time to ensure the content and structure of that content is suitable for that environment. For many organizations, we see the customer experience as largely two disjointed worlds:
    • Branded external customer facing web sites.  Beginning in the mid 90’s and through today, organizations have centered the outward customer experience to the web.  Able to control branding, customer data, sales and service, security and other facets of the customer experience, the web has become a single stop for how organizations communicate with their prospects and customers on a broad scale.
    • In-person interaction.  More specifically, sales and service personnel who are interacting with customers in person are running a CRM system for customer information (Siebel, Salesforce.com, etc.), a few dozen product PowerPoint presentations, possibly a product configuration engine, and a host of pdf, video and other informational documents stored in the filesystem. It’s typically where the slick, clean branding of outward facing websites are replaced by the “ugly truth” of internal IT systems.  These internal systems are built for the management of customer information – not for the further advancement of the customer relationship. These issues can be exacerbated by SaaS tools as well – not providing access to customer information while disconnected from the internet in front of a customer.

    We see the iPad as being a tipping point device that will bridge these two disparate worlds. Bringing key facets of the external web – company branding and appeal – together with the needs of personalized customer information in applications that reinforces the brand and increases the customer experience. When approaching business process changes for our customers, Propelics begins the conversation with the customer experience.  What impressions do we want to leave with the customer from our in-person visit?  How can we augment the information available publicly on the web?  How can we make this interaction personal by bringing customer information and interaction history together on the device?

  • Environment: Environment is key, and device mobility is the enabler to a wide variety of benefits.  If we’re able to collaborate around a personalized content device as described in the first two points above, where should this interaction take place? For us, proper decision making requires proper context – and location is a large factor of this context setting.  Business meetings today primarily occur where the PC and projector are, not necessarily the opportune location to collaborate on a solution.  Unfortunately the meeting is located to support the technology needs.  We feel this is backwards and hinders organizations’ ability to properly sell and service their customer base.  The technology should support the meeting location; whether that be walking the manufacturing floor or the construction site, collaborating on an idea between two airplane seats in first class, or in the example above, walking with a customer around a new Mercedes-Benz.  Highlighting automobile features and functionality with the customer as they’re sitting in the driver’s seat with their hands on the wheel.
    The ability to take a 1.5lb tablet with a 9″ screen with you anywhere you go, is a large differentiator for businesses in how they interact with their customers.  When we work with our clients on integrating the iPad with their business processes, we try to constantly question the norm when it comes to the location of customer interactions.  The proper context of location can mean the difference between an emotional involvement from your customer or not, and it’s time to take this decision making away from the conference room.

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There are many more facets to how Propelics views the strength of the iPad within the corporate environment. Reach out to us to hear more individually, or use the form on the left to receive company announcements and updates.

 

Eric Carlson

Eric is a seasoned leader with a keen eye for emerging technologies. He is well respected in both technical and business circles, due to his ability to match up the right amount of technology "geekiness" with business understanding to craft truly unique solutions. As a seasoned executive, with startups through successful exits to his name, Eric has the experience to advise companies on the discipline and objective approaches that are needed to turn ideas into reality. Eric can be reached at eric.carlson@propelics.com or on twitter at @ericjohncarlson.

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