eWEEK asked Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff last summer about his approach to arming his employees with the right tools to do the job.
“Interesting you should ask that,” he said. “We just bought 2,000 iPads for our sales people the other day. New people we hire out of college now just expect to be handed a tablet or smartphone now, not old-school phones or laptops. They also expect to have an internal social network to collaborate on projects and get to know each other. If they don’t get these tools, they’re just going to use their own devices and social networks.
“This is the way business is done now. The new generation has grown up with connected devices, and they don’t understand it if you don’t give these to them when they start work. They think it’s normal.”
Tablets Gaining Traction for Business Use
Well, handing a new hire an iPad or Android tablet or smartphone — or allowing them to bring their own device to work — wasn’t normal until just the last year or so; in fact, it still isn’t. But this practice is gaining traction; plenty of other enterprise leaders alongside Benioff understand this inevitable intersection of consumer devices and business.
Tablets have opened up new possibilities for businesses because they transform the way sales people work. Large enterprises generally know this; Apple CEO Tim Cook noted at the company’s April 2012 earnings conference call that 94 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were testing or deploying the iPad.
Using an iPad or other tablet, for example, salespeople can decrease lag time when conversing with potential clients, since they have the ability to provide them with product or service information on the spot, if necessary.
Sales can be closed and contracts signed on tablet PCs by using electronic signature applications, which makes obsolete the practice of downloading PDFs or Word documents, printing them out, and signing paper documents that can be lost or damaged.
Besides, it’s just a cool image for the company to use a tablet to show slideshows, charts or photos during a sales pitch meeting.
How to Deploy and Keep Security Tight?
However, the question still remains for many IT decision-makers: Can any-size company put together a successful iPad or Android tablet deployment and make it secure?
Though the thought of employees bringing their own devices to work sends chills up and down the spines of IT managers and corporate security officers, the fact is that it is all but impossible to stop people from handling company business on such devices. If the tool is convenient, it does the job and you can do it wherever you are, employees will do it. Extra stress goes on the term “convenient.”
Implementation Doesnt Have to Be Costly
Many corporate officers are afraid of this new sales-method trend, fearing that implementation is too costly and difficult. It doesn’t have to be that way. Rusty Bishop, co-founder and CEO of San Diego, Calif.-based FatStax, which makes a professional sales app for iPads that is fully functional on- or off-line, provided eWEEK some steps to help companies of any size successfully implement the iPad into their business.
“First of all, when you’re rolling out something like an iPad launch within the company, you need to make an event out of it, make it fun,” Bishop said. “You should give your sales people an actual moment where you make a big deal out of rolling out the iPad.
“My favorite example of this was watching a CEO at a national company jump up on stage with an iPad in each hand, saying: ‘You’re about to get these!’ It was just awesome.”
This is opposed to most companies, Bishop said, “who just send them out, and some people don’t use them or whatever. You’ve got to plan for the training and adoption it’s going to take to use them well. Those are the things I think people miss.”
Creating a Cross-Function Team
When rolling out an iPad deployment, Bishop said the first step is to build a cross functional team that will be able to think about existing software and business processes that can be integrated with the iPad. This team should be comprised of members of the technical, operational and business sides of the organization who have the ability to connect with internal stakeholders and external consultants and developers.
By creating a support team early on in the process, it will make it easier to navigate company policies.
Secondly, Bishop said, the enterprise needs the team to acquire buy-in on the budget for this from various decision-makers around the company. iPads cost around $500 apiece, even at at corporate rates, and they have ongoing service costs, so they are not inconsequential to capital expenses.
By engaging other company members into the integration process (IT, marketing, sales), Bishop said, you may also reveal additional ways that the iPad could be used, which in turn creates additional expenses.
Be Aware of All the Expense Factors
“It is important to look beyond the purchase of the iPad and to keep in mind additional hardware that is essential: iPad cases, data plans, support, programmers, security, distribution, virtual private networks, virtual desktop networks, apps and the pilot program, and so on,” Bishop said.
Unless a company has the desire and budget to spend money on its own mobile development and support for its sales team, the easiest and less expensive way to keep up to speed on changing software is to work with an external developer, Bishop said. These developers make it their priority to specialize in designing apps for small businesses and large enterprises that are solely related to the iPad.
Chris Preimesberger is Editor for Features and Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz