Sounding board: iPads in the enterprise

Find a balance between productivity and maintenance

I think CIOs are facing a losing battle with these devices, especially if it carries an Apple logo as Apple does a good job with marketing to the masses, particularly the consumer market. CIOs face the challenge of how to cater for these devices in an enterprise as demand is driven more by user emotion than business needs. We have some users with iPads and they are using apps to work outside of the corporate environment. I can see some apps that iPads would be useful for, but the challenge you face is the device is not really a corporate device and there is a lot of work to be done to make it work in a corporate environment.

You have to balance the productivity of the devices with the maintenance you will need to keep them within the corporate environment. My gut feeling is you don’t bring a lot of value through the iPad app itself, but they boost user moral.

Application support depends on where you are trying to fit the device into the corporate environment. In our industry, [logistics, warehousing and materials], we might benefit from writing a light weight, non generic app and distributing through iTunes. But if you wanted a heaver app I would be questioning the suitability of the device to meet the need.

What we struggle with generally is protecting our environment from open Web access and the iPad adds another challenge to that.

CIOs are faced with the constant challenge of protecting our corporate enterprise by new devices that in their essence are designed to operate primarily over a wireless environment. It forces us to look for new ways of protecting corporate information.

In some industries like advertising it is a perfect device, but in the manufacturing and project industry a non-ruggedised field device normally doesn’t last long and wouldn’t warrant the effort to write a specific application. I wouldn’t develop any app that gave us a competitive advantage and distribute it though Apple, but I would consider a light-weight generic application for sales or support. We have developers here developing iTune apps in their own time.

iPad security is a deal breaker for us at this stage. It’s a challenge that’s quickly changing, but we wouldn’t permit any data of corporate value which we couldn’t eliminate remotely on any device. We’re in the viewing and assessment phase with the iPad and we are looking at a potential customer service app. How can we enhance the customer experience without exposing any of the corporate data to the iPad?

Have a strategy around device independence

CIOs must have a broad view of not just iPads but tablets in general. It’s something every IT organisation needs to assess and pilot these devices in order to understand their benefits and limitations. Whatever the case, the devices will permeate the organisation whether you have a strategy or not.

In most organisations there are definitely niche requirements. There are cross-organisational requirements and vertical applications. In my experience, most executives can travel with an iPad or tablet quite effectively, but I wouldn’t say they will replace notebooks.

There are even things like the ruggedness of the device. There are scanning apps for the iPad, but is it rugged enough to use in that particular environment?

My recommendation for apps would be to undertake development that is device independent. I know of people developing apps for the iPad offshore cheaply, but as tablets mature you will need to support the applications potentially on many different types of devices.

We are seeing consumer technology being pushed up to the business so a lot of consumer devices relate to fashion and trends and you need to be agnostic to support new devices over a long timeframe.

You can bet the day you lock down one device such as an iPad, people will start bringing Android tablets into the organisation an expect them to be supported. You need to have a strategy around device independence.

Security is a matter of sitting down and evaluating the device and seeing what is acceptable. Every organisation will have its own risk profile so you need to assess security from an organisational perspective.

With iPads, you can do remote kills and wipes so there are potentially some benefits over laptops.

We are currently undertaking some pilots with tablet devices for executive usage and application in some of our sales areas. I suspect there will be tablets devices we issue for specific applications in specific areas and, in other areas, we will need to be device-agnostic.

My view is that you need to get in early and access the benefits and applications of these devices to your organisation along with your support strategy. They are not a total laptop replacement but I suspect they will have an application.

Look at ways to protect any intellectual property

Tablets are not new, but Apple has an ease of use and coolness about it. The iPad is not an information creation device, but an information consumer and dissemination device and you have leisure use blending with corporate use. If you try to use an iPad to create information such as a PowerPoint presentation rather than e-mail you have the balance wrong. It is difficult to create a presentation without a mouse and keyboard attachment but a simple customer order or presenting promotional materials is fine. There is debate around staff bringing their own device and we are ahead of the curve with personal iPhones and other phones and we have extended this for the iPad. Our chairman and CFO both use iPads and we can turn an iPad, iPhone or Android into a Blackberry via Good Technology’s enterprise management server with encrypted partition (Bubble), which can be remotely managed.

We are looking at trialling the iPad for field-force people to generate the ‘wow factor’ when they display promotional material. For corporate iPad assets we provided Citrix running the Corporate Windows 7 and Office desktop remotely. You have got to provide a balance and say where they are appropriate.

For applications we will start by getting basic apps out via Citrix to the iPad and see how the organisation responds to that. If information needs to reside on the unit we will look at how to protect the intellectual property as we have done with Good. There’s no harm in writing apps for iPad — that’s horses for courses.

Start by virtualising the desktop. By virtualising, you are not developing for a specific version. Equally, you can use the Safari browser as it’s easier to deploy to the masses via a Web browser, but things like Flash might not work. So you need to provide a workable business outcome.

The lack of a product roadmap is a well understood risk with Apple. If Steve Jobs is the ultimate arbiter, there is a risk to enterprises on investments in Apple technology. We have mitigated this by virtualising the desktop running a Citrix client on the iPad.

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