The exponential growth in remote working (especially post-coronavirus) and the explosion in the number of apps means there has been a revolution in where and how we work. It's now possible to do just about any task you would normally do in the office from wherever and whenever you choose.
Tablet computers have been around for years. The Apple iPad was originally conceived before the iPhone. Tablets really entered the mainstream in 2010 with the launch of the iPad. It prompted a flood of competitors to enter the market with their own take on the most stripped back of computing experiences.
The capabilities of smartphones and tablet computers means they are now serious, must have business devices. But how can you put them to work in your business?
Doing serious work with a mobile device
When smartphones and tablets originally started to appear in the workplace, many doubted their ability to perform 'serious' work. In the last five years, that has all changed.
There are now millions of apps available and it is possible to undertake almost every conceivable business task from your phone or tablet. Almost every business and enterprise software vendor offers companion mobile apps for their desktop software.
There are some drawbacks with mobile devices. The lack of a physical keyboard can make typing anything more than a quick social post tricky. The small screen can also leave you zooming in and out to read longer documents, but an increasing number of add-on peripherals have made them compelling alternatives to a laptop or desktop computer. These days you might not even need a keyboard - it's entirely possible to enter some data simply by taking a photo with your phone.
Microsoft, Google and Apple all offer undiluted versions of their office suites for mobile devices, and if your work extends to creative endeavours such as photo and video editing, you'll find a raft of 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 mobile device is now a reality.
Using personal mobile devices at work
If your business is yet to invest in mobile tech 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.
There's a good chance your staff are already using their own devices for work. How many employees check their work email after hours using their own phone 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 devices actually owned by employees? What happens if a device 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 work can staff do on their mobile devices?
When staff start to use their own devices at work, it's usually because they see opportunities to become more productive and work on the move by using their own equipment.
With that in mind, it is worth considering what apps there are that can facilitate working during periods that would otherwise 'lost'. For example, when travelling to business meetings. You should also think about other ways mobile devices can improve your business.
Mobile devices 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:
- Entering data. Staff can log mileage and expenses simply by scanning or taking a photo of an invoice or receipt.
- Sending quotes and invoices. Accounting software apps allow staff to send quotes and invoices direct from their mobile devices to customers while they are still on site.
- 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.
Mobile devices are, without doubt, essential business tools. With that in mind, it is advisable to review your IT policies to ensure them covers how such devices should be managed within your company.