Are tablet computers right for business?

Man touching the screen on a tablet computer for his business work

Tablet computers have been around for longer than you may think. The iPad, for example, was originally conceived by Apple before the iPhone and it was simply a case of waiting for technology to catch up with their vision before it could be made a commercial reality.

The launch of the iPad in 2010 pushed tablets into the mainstream and prompted a flood of competitors to enter the market with their own take on the most stripped back of computing experiences.

The emergence of the iPad Pro in 2015 raised the bar yet again, prompting many professionals to consider swapping their laptop for something far more touch-centric.

Tablets have made the sizeable leap from couch companion to serious business mobile device, but how can you put them to work in your business?

Doing serious work with a tablet

When tablets originally appeared, many doubted their ability to perform ‘serious’ work. They were seen as ‘CEO toys’ rather than ‘productivity workhorses’.

Make no mistake - that perception has changed.

There are now hundreds of thousands of tablet apps available with nearly every business and enterprise software vendor offering companion mobile apps for their desktop counterparts. Likewise, the worldwide acceptance of touch as a principal input method has made the venerable mouse seem somewhat old-fashioned.

There are some drawbacks with tablets, such as onscreen keyboards which lack the tactile feedback of their ancestors, but an increasing number of add-on external tablet keyboards are making these devices compelling laptop alternatives.

Microsoft, Google and Apple all offer undiluted experiences of their office suites on tablet devices, and if your work extends to creative endeavours such as photo and video editing, you’ll find a raft of tablet apps that may just tempt you away from your bulky, expensive laptop.

The ability to get even the most serious of work done on a tablet is now a reality.

Personal tablets at work

If your business is yet to invest in tablets for its employees, you may have found an increasing number of staff bringing in their own personal devices in order to use them for work.

The rise of the ’bring your own device’ (BYOD) culture has presented challenges for IT staff who have to deal with the prospect of viruses inadvertently entering the building, but it has significantly blurred the lines between personal and business computer use.

There’s a good chance your staff are already bringing their own tablets into the workplace, using them at home to catch up on email and while commuting to and from the office. In other words, a whole world of additional productivity may be happening right under your nose. No bad thing at all!

However, if a BYOD culture has entered your business, it can present challenges. Who’s responsible for the security of information stored on tablet computers owned by employees? What happens if a tablet containing sensitive business data is misplaced or stolen?

These are questions you can handle via discussions with your staff and by having a clear mobile device security policy.

What are tablet computers for?

When people bring their own tablets to the office, it’s usually because they see opportunities to become more productive by using their own equipment rather than what has been made available to them by the business.

With that in mind, it is worth considering what tablets are capable of and how you could get the most out of them for your business.

Tablets can be viable laptop replacements for many employees, depending on the type of work they undertake on a daily basis. For others, they are brilliant companion devices. For instance:

  • Presenting. Particularly useful for visual material, staff can use tablets to present product portfolios or concepts instead of printing off reams of paper. Likewise, the ability to quickly access and present video content is a great way to impress clients.
  • Retail customer experience. Apple replaced paperwork with iPads in its retail stores some time ago in order to simplify checkouts and service procedures for customers. Retail businesses can also use tablets to quickly check stock levels or product information.
  • Meeting notes and minutes. Paperless offices are fast becoming a reality with tablets often replacing paper printouts of meeting notes and minutes for employees. It’s cleaner, more convenient and does the planet the world of good, too.
  • Reporting. Tablets are akin to digital clipboards and are therefore perfect for accessing and contributing to reports and company data. Again, an awful lot of printing can be avoided with the introduction of tablets.

The tablet computer is without doubt becoming an essential business tool. With that in mind, it is advisable to review your IT policy and ensure it covers how tablets should be managed within your company.

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