Tablets have become the de facto endpoint device for many enterprise workers. WorkIntelligent.ly has written in the past about which ones are best for various business purposes, while the latest details of an IBM/Apple partnershippoint toward them becoming even more enterprise-ready. Even Apple’s upcoming iOS 8 is slated to include new enterprise-related features.
But how do you get started on a tablet deployment strategy specific to your enterprise? Perhaps the best way is to find those early adopters and learn from some of their mistakes. Aaron Freimark, the CTO of TekServe, has done his fair share of iPad deployments for many major corporations and presented earlier this year a long list ofcommon mistakes that he has made himself during those early years. Combined with some of my own experience, here are several suggestions your business needs to consider for its tablet deployment strategy:
1. Don’t create a shadow IT department to handle tablets or to control their use. There is a middle ground and the best situation is to integrate them into daily operations. You want to work with your workforce and keep them updated on expectations and deployment status, while also providing the necessary education to make best use of the tablets after the fact.
2. But, that doesn’t mean forgetting about control entirely. You want to deploy some kind of mobile device management solution that fits the unique needs of your business. Each is different, so consider carefully. If you don’t go with anything, you will have security and deployment challenges down the road.
3. If you must standardize, choose either Apple or Google and stick with one. Making this choice will ease your app development and support issues by letting your IT team focus on one particular platform.
4. Look more closely at app construction platforms such as Appcelerator or Mendix. This enables your development teams to build faster mobile apps that connect to your legacy systems, providing your workforce with quicker, easier access to critical business information.
5. Do you need to build an app store? This can often help with a tablet deployment strategy, so that end users can quickly download the “approved” apps, or at least ones that corporate IT knows about and has done some minimal testing with. This can be a big boost to your data security, especially considering the tendency for mobile devices to create security headaches.
6. Design a proper pilot: “All good deployments start with a pilot, and many are poorly planned and executed,” says Freimark. Plan it carefully. You should test what happens when you scale up your tablet deployment, handling your logistics, and what happens when you have to send out several thousand devices.
Freimark suggests that businesses should start with a small number of devices to stress there systems properly. A consideration to take into account is appropriate training of the end user, along with the setup of each tablet. Employees can’t set them up themselves. IT needs to centralize their setup and pre-load them. Part of any pilot plan should include the necessary resources for training new users, and finding departmental evangelists who can promote their use as well.
7. Don’t underestimate your wireless and networking infrastructure requirements. Most tablets don’t have any wired networking ports on them, and will need to communicate exclusively over Wi-Fi. Make sure you have plenty of bandwidth to handle the increase in traffic loads. Make use of network simulators or do some careful tests before you assume you are okay here.
8. Don’t go crazy with locking down the tablet and forbidding any app downloads. One cable company even held a contest to find the most useful app for their field service business. Encourage your users to make them more personally useful and feel comfortable with them. IT should always strive for balance between protection and freedom. Remember, these are often very personal devices for your end users.
9. Make sure your existing websites have responsive design. You don’t want your own websites to look ugly—or even break—when tablet users are browsing them. Take steps to accommodate this increasingly large portion of your total traffic.
With the growth of the tablet market, it’s clear that mobile will continue to play a bigger and bigger role in the business world, and with the benefits provided by a truly mobile workforce, it’s for good reason. Follow these guidelines above and you’ll be well on your way to a successful tablet deployment. Feel free to share some of your own ideas with us in the comments below.