Monday, February 18, 2013

iPad for business - move ahead of the competition

With HMRC announcing its purchase of up to 7,000 iPads it’s clear that Apple’s device is meeting the needs of business, not just web-surfing domestic users. More proof comes with the announcement that Barclays Bank is buying 8,500 iPads and Coca Cola some 120k: Apple claims the whole Fortune 500 has some iPad use!

Yet a door-to-door survey of Cheltenham estate agents is typical. It shows that a third of them haven’t even given tablets a thought; another third are thinking they’ll do something, one day; and the remainder are already ahead of the game, actively trialling use. 

This last group is pretty much just using it for mobile access to property details on their web site, with a bit of email, calendars and maybe Apple’s excellent software Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheet) or Keynote (presentations).

Personally, I love to use a drawing app like SketchBookX instead of pen and paper: great for a ‘pencil sell’ and, with the iPad projected on to a screen, it’s better than flip chart or whiteboard! Better still, with a bit of preparation, I can have all my documents as PDFs on the iPad, reducing the clutter I carry around to meetings.

Without doubt, those are the basic workhorse apps. But savvy users can do more.  The key to outwitting competitors comes from finding niche use specific to your business. Something that will cut costs, increase revenue or raise competitive edge
  • Start by searching the App Store with keywords for your industry; or your business need.
  • Then browse the App Store, especially the Business and Productivity categories: this is the best way to stumble upon ideas you can learn from. (Take the time to scroll well past the first page of top hits!)
  • Ask questions in the iPad for Business group on LinkedIn.
  • Read blogs and search Google (Try searching for the name of your competitors, along with ‘iPad!’)
Then, there’s the option to roll-your-own, and link in with your existing business systems. For example, @StarfishCI allows any one to create an iPad replacement for a paper-based form with the ease of drag and drop. You can replace paper on a clipboard in minutes, and have your data link straight to the commonly-used Microsoft SharePoint database, for example.

Something like this can save you significant time, while reducing the costs of entering data and improving your speed and accuracy.  All this helps you do more with less; and with the iPad Mini starting at just £269 inc. VAT, these projects can be really easy to cost-justify, with a measurable positive return within months.

One company claims savings of a half an hour per person per week now they've moved from clipboards to tablets: with 16 workers, that translates to a full day's time saving each week, or approximately £20k saving per year. In addition, the've got better / faster / cheaper / more accurate data entry, and increased competitive edge.
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