Ever since the PC was launched, there has been a strong desire to achieve mobility with these devices. We soon saw the arrival of the first “laptops”, followed by the predecessors to our modern tablets – relatively heavy, cumbersome and above all, complicated machines. With its innovative iPhone and iPad, Apple demonstrated that there can be another way. Light, smart devices with their own specific operating systems have now taken mobility in life and work to the next level. These new-generation devices are effortlessly portable, easy to handle and last but not least, are instantly “ready for use”: “switch on and get started” is the new philosophy.
The key drivers of this rapid technological advancement are mainly internet-based developments; cloud solutions, social media, faster connections and reduced costs for mobile data traffic fuel the growth of mobility for users. Smart web applications adapt “intelligently” to your current platforms, offering targeted information for your requirements, right now.
The internet has become omnipresent, available anytime and anyplace. It offers an integrated and networked view of information. Cloud services offer permanent data access and synchronize it intelligently on all devices (e.g. tools such as Evernote and Springpad). The internet is no longer accessed via computer and browser but is instead, integrated into our everyday lives. Vehicles, TVs, refrigerators and other commonplace appliances use the internet as a communication network and offer the user unprecedented possibilities.
It is also important to recognize that there has been a welcome cultural acceptance of mobile devices for a multitude of applications. The “digital natives”, as we call the generation under 25, live via the internet. They consider it a standard communication channel – social structures are changing with virtual friends becoming just as important as real ones – and the distinction between the two is becoming increasingly blurred. Over 86% of all people under 25’s arround the world use the internet on a daily basis and most of them access it via mobile devices.
Subsequently, PCs and notebooks are subject to the strongest decrease in demand. Current market studies show that PCs are losing 35% and notebooks up to 39% of their market share to tablets. Consumers in the US are the vanguard of this trend. A market survey by Good Technology showed that the iPad already makes up 28% of all newly activated appliances in American companies. In 50% of the Top 100 Companies, the iPad is already used for business purposes and 80% of the Top 500 Companies are currently developing or designing mobile solutions.
In Europe, 60% of iPad users, use their tablet for business purposes; 80% for their work-related communication and 40% are even provided with an iPad by their company. In the USA, these numbers are even higher.
Taking into account these numbers and the current sales success of the new iPad, one question springs to mind: What edge does the iPad (tablet) have over a PC or notebook?
At first sight, the answer would have to be none; considering purely a technical point of view, these appliances are clearly inferior to highly sophisticated computers. For many, the fact that they feature neither keyboard nor ports and have both limited processor capacity and/or memory, provides enough reasons to dismiss these devices at first. However the users, who presumably make a conscious choice in favor of the iPad/tablet over a traditional device, contradict this view. In a survey conducted by Nielsen, 29% of the users even said that their iPad has already replaced their notebook or desktop PC as their main work appliance.
According to a Forrester survey, the iPad accounts for 65% of all tablet computers used for business purposes in the USA. It is expected that by 2016, 70 million knowledge workers in the USA and Europe will be using Apple’s tablet PC for their day-to-day work, replacing the laptop.
To understand the reasons behind this development, we have to look at the business processes and the IT that supports them.
For the past 35 years, IT has played an increasingly important role in companies. While changeovers involve additional costs and efforts, IT generally accelerates and advances processes, thus saving time and often resources.
The computer is the key element of many processes and mankind has more or less adapted to this situation and its status as the mere “machine operating element”.
At the same time, the percentage of truly motivated employees oscillates around 13%. Anybody at the helm of a company knows that this has a dramatic influence on its productivity. According to a Gallup assessment, the overall damage to the German economy caused by unmotivated employees amounts to more than 121 billion.
Mobile appliances allow us to place the human being back in the center of their day-to-day working lives. The beneficial effect on both employees, work quality and customer service will be tremendous.
The degree of integration and subsequently the value creation can be advanced even more significantly with mobile appliances than with bulky, ugly and heavy notebooks. iPads will not replace “conventional” computers, however, they can complement them sensibly and – if used appropriately – will improve the quality of work drastically. What is more, they will improve employee motivation. iPad & friends are cult objects with an inherently high “must have factor”. An employee, whose company equips him or her with such a device, regards it as a deed of respect, as it is more than just a work appliance – it epitomizes “playing, fun and excitement”.
This demonstrates why the tablets are so popular. The answer is simple: it is NOT the technological aspects that are key, but the human being itself with its desire to create simple and easy to understand (work) processes. The results of a variety of surveys confirm this: 78% of the iPad users claimed that it has simply become INDISPENSABLE for them, and 53% no longer leave the house without their iPad.
Hence, the decisive factor for the success of a mobile solution lies less in its integration into the business process and more with employees’ motivation. Sophisticated solutions help achieve a high degree of integration (value creation) into a company’s work processes and make the human being feel appreciated again. As a result, we will see an increase in work quality, employee satisfaction and motivation.
According to Forrester, mobile appliances can improve almost all end-to-end processes, in areas including Human Resources, Sales and Purchasing. The agenda may also include issues such as social networking, processing of information and support of genuinely mobile field employees, e.g. by providing location-based services.
When thinking about the potential use of mobile solutions, it is highly advisable to take the coolness factor out of the equation. The iPhone and iPad hype alone doesn’t buy you much or anything at all – except for your employees’ motivation. In the planning phase, it is much better to concentrate on one business case with a specific ROI for your company.
Before equipping the entire company with mobile terminal equipment and apps, it is advisable to test the solution under realistic conditions on a smaller scale. Glitches, which happen all the time, may be an existential threat to a company-wide rollout.
As soon as you have found a solution, consider it as a viable step and start working immediately on a ‘2.0’ version, as the half-life period of applications is decreasing dramatically in the fast moving mobile business. Grab the ball and run instead of waiting for the perfect shot – however, keep improving the solutions you developed continually. This accelerates your journey to success and provides the employees with new and exciting enhancements that considerably increase the fun and satisfaction they derive from an application.
The following steps may be helpful when planning the implementation of a mobile business solution in your company:
By Jorn Steinhauer, IT Consulting Partner, Tefen Germany