The iPad is transforming the way businesses use technology. More than just a consumer phenomenon, the iPad is disrupting business models and power structures within corporate information technology (IT) departments. Within 90 days of being released, the device was already adopted by 50 percent of Fortune 100 companies. This unprecedented rate of market penetration represents a fundamental shift in the way technology enters the enterprise.
IT departments have traditionally had complete control over the selection and management of technology, but that iron-clad grip is being threatened. Corporate employees, who are consumers themselves, are bringing their own personal devices into the workplace. While many IT departments have moved quickly to ban this, such a ban is very difficult to enforce, especially when executive leaders are among the offenders. Even when it can be enforced, the ban puts significant pressure on IT departments to support the popularized consumer technologies demanded by the employee base.
Many industry leaders have begun to recognize that it can be in the company’s best interest to support this trend instead of fighting it. Gartner Inc., the market-moving analyst and technology advisory firm, issued an advisory recommending that businesses embrace the iPad. Gartner went so far as to say that, because the iPad is such a disruptive technology, there will be significant obstacles to its adoption, and that top executive management should get involved to clear barriers to the iPad within the enterprise.
“It is not usually the role of the CEO to get directly involved in specific technology device decisions, but Apple’s iPad is an exception,” said Stephen Prentice, Gartner Fellow and vice president. “It is more than just the latest consumer gadget, and CEOs and business leaders should initiate a dialogue with their CIOs about it if they have not already done so.”
Disruptive technologies can be both powerful and dangerous to companies that employ them, and the iPad is no exception. But according to Prentice, “Even if you think it is just a passing fad, the cost of early action is low, while the price of delay may well be extremely high.”
Just as Apple was bringing the iPhone up to par for enterprise use, the ingredients were swirling to create the perfect storm that would change the mobile and wireless landscape forever. The global economic downturn of 2008 put pressure on corporate spending and left companies looking for ways to cut spending any way possible. As many employees with corporate-owned mobile devices started buying their own personal iPhones out of their own pockets, companies realized that they could reduce their wireless spending while simultaneously increasing worker satisfaction. It turns out that lots of employees are more than willing to cover all or part of their own wireless expenses if they can carry the phones they want. As the IRS decided to start cracking down on personal use of corporate mobile phones, it only put more fuel on the flames. The result was a fairly dramatic and rapid shift within the industry from corporate-liable to individually-liable wireless plans.
As more people wanted to use their personal iPhones at work, companies shifted to individually-liable wireless plans.
By June of 2010, the iPhone had achieved 80 percent adoption within the Fortune 100. At first glance this might sound quite impressive, considering the traditional purchasing cycle within the enterprise, but it’s important to understand that most of these enterprises were not purchasing the devices for the users. They were giving their users the option of using an iPhone.
Genentech is an example of a forward-thinking organization that was quick to embrace consumer choice. The San Francisco-based biotech firm, now part of the Roche Group, previously had more than 5,000 BlackBerry devices. Even though most Genentech users loved their BlackBerrys, as the company began lettings users choose the phone they wanted, these users switched en masse to the iPhone. By late 2009, Genentech had more than 5,000 employees using iPhones and only 1,500 with BlackBerrys.
While the iPhone was brought into the enterprise mostly by individual users, the iPad is taking a different path. The first few devices brought into the enterprise environment in many cases were personally-owned devices, but companies very quickly saw the benefits of the iPad and began purchasing the devices in bulk.
For example, the medical device industry has demonstrated widespread corporate adoption and deployment. By the end of 2010, less than nine months after the release of the iPad, Medtronic had deployed 4,500 iPads, Boston Scientific had rolled out 2,000, and St Jude Medical, Abbott Labs, Zimmer Holdings, and Stryker had all rolled out units as well. Within many of these same companies, mobile phones were transitioning to individually-liable deployment models and away from the centralized corporate-liable deployments of years past.
This seems to represent a very interesting trend in consumerization, where even corporate-driven centralized deployments seem to be migrating to consumer-oriented technologies. In the context of the history of the computing industry, this appears to be a reversal of a trend in which technological innovations were driven by the government, then moved into the private sector, and finally were brought to consumers.
This trend developed when the only organization with the necessary resources to finance development of new computing technologies was the federal government. Once the heavy research and development costs had been covered, the cost of the technology would come down to the point that it could be used by private sector businesses. Over time, the costs would continue to fall until eventually the technology would even hit a price point that would make it acceptable to consumers.
Through the Internet and personal computing revolutions, not to mention the on-going march of Moore’s law (simply stated, computing power will double every 18 months), the historical trend of technology going from government to the private sector and then to the consumer has been flipped on its head. In many ways today, the consumer has the most advanced technology, which is then working its way into the business world and then finally the government.
Not only is the consumer technology itself (like the iPhone or iPad) making its way from the consumers hand into the corporation, but the consumer’s desires are now able to impact purchasing decisions within the enterprise. This trend is only beginning to emerge, and it’s unknown how far it will go. One thing is clear though: today’s enterprise employee is also a consumer, and those users will continue to have significant influence over the technology decisions of their corporations.
It’s all about the apps
It’s easy to forget that when Apple first launched the iPhone there was no App Store, no iPhone SDK, and no developer ecosystem. People thought their phones were great for making voice calls, checking their e-mail, and maybe even browsing the Web. The average user had no idea that their phones could run “apps.”
Even though the first generation iPhone did not support native apps, when Apple did introduce the iPhone SDK and the App Store it really was nothing new. Windows Mobile had what many viewed at the time to be a thriving developer ecosystem with more than 20,000 mobile applications available. What Apple did with the App Store, though, was simplify the user experience. It made the act of installing an app onto your phone into a clean and straightforward process. Then it ran primetime TV commercials about all the apps available in the App Store and how easy it was to install them on your device. Apple took a geeky, complicated process of installing software onto your mobile phone and transformed it into an incredibly simple experience.
Apple was able to build the App Store on top of its already successful iTunes platform, and as a result it already has nearly 100 million credit card numbers on file. As an owner of an iPhone or iPod touch, you didn’t have to give Apple a credit card number for its file, but you couldn’t download free apps until you did. The result was a thriving ecosystem built around the impulse purchase.
The vast majority of downloads from the App Store are of free apps, but this hasn’t prevented the gold rush in which tens of thousands of developers quickly developed apps for just about anything. The App Store launched with just 500 apps, but quickly grew to 5,000, then 25,000, then 100,000. It will likely hit the half million mark in mid-2011.
First with the iPhone
There’s an app for that. And that. And that, too.
As the App Store exploded with growth, the average consumer discovered there was an app for almost anything. As Apple’s TV commercials stated, whether you “want to read a restaurant review, read an MRI, or just read a regular old book” there was an app for anything. Want to play a game? Recognize a song on the radio? Pay your bills? Order a pizza? Start your car? Unlock your front door? iPhone users quickly realized that there really was an app for almost anything they could imagine.
The auto insurance industry provides an excellent case study for how Fortune 1000 organizations first began to embrace consumer-facing mobile applications. In April 2009, Nationwide Insurance launched Nationwide Mobile in the iPhone App Store. The app provided Nationwide’s customers with an “Accident Toolkit.” In addition to calling emergency services, the app could file an accident report that used GPS to pin-point the user’s exact location and captured pictures of the damage with the camera. It even provided a flashlight feature. The company then ran an extensive primetime TV advertising campaign that showcased the iPhone app. In addition to providing a great marketing message, the app offered a huge value proposition to the customer by replacing manual labor-intensive processes with self-service functionality that consumer could use right from their phones.
By December 2009, Geico Insurance had launched its own Geico GloveBox app in the App Store, and shortly thereafter began featuring the app in television commercials along with its trademark cavemen.
By the spring of 2010, almost all the major auto insurance companies, including Allstate, American Family, esurance, Farmers Insurance, Progressive, and State Farm, had all released iPhone apps. State Farm continued in the tradition of running primetime TV commercials to announce its iPhone app. Nationwide took this trend to the next level, and ran a second television campaign around another iPhone app it developed called Cartopia. This app was marketed not only to existing Nationwide customers, but was also designed as a lead-generation engine where users could comparison car shop and even run free vehicle identification number (VIN) checks on used vehicles. The app could then instantly provide auto insurance quotes to car shoppers on the go, who already had taken the time to enter the vehicle information into the app.
Take a moment to imagine that you work for one of these auto insurance companies as a claims adjuster. How would you feel about the fact that your employer is giving better technology to consumers than to you, the employee? How would it make you feel that, in the time it takes to boot up your company-provided laptop, you could pull an iPhone out of your pocket, install an app from the App Store, log in, start a claim, capture GPS coordinates to get your precise location, and take several pictures of the damage with the built-in camera?
For another example, let’s look to the retail industry. Most major brick-and-mortar retailers, like Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Home Depot, Macy’s, Target, Toys “R” Us, and Wal-Mart, have consumer-facing apps. Several of these apps, including those from Best Buy and Target, have the ability to use the camera in the iPhone to scan a barcode on a physical product and pull up additional information about the product, including detailed technical specs and product reviews.
Now take a moment to imagine that you work on the sales floor of a retail store. How would you feel if a customer came up to you to ask a question but already had more detailed information about the product on his or her own mobile phone than you have access to on the rugged handheld scanner provided to employees by the store?
These thought exercises are not just imagined scenarios; rather, they are real-life situations faced by thousands of corporate employees every day. As a consumer, you have grown to expect an app for everything, and to expect that all your favorite brands will provide you with apps to complete your consumer-oriented branded experience. But as an employee, you can’t access the same information from your phone that you can from your desktop or laptop. Sure, your IT department now finally allows you to synchronize your mail, calendar, and contacts with your phone, but why do you still have to boot up your computer when you want to run some reports? Why do you have to be at your desk to “approve” workflow requests? Why can’t you run the apps you need to do your job from wherever you’re doing your job? Why can’t you access the information you need, when you need it, where you need it?
As a result, it’s not a matter of whether enterprises are going to embrace employee-facing iPhone apps, it’s a matter of when. In the same way that consumerization trends brought support for mobile platforms into the workplace, enterprises must also recognize the demand and even outright expectations of employees to have apps for business purposes. The release of iOS 4.0 with the over-the-air deployment capabilities of in-house enterprise apps has accelerated the rate of adoption within many enterprise IT departments.
By the end of 2009, Genentech had developed over 30 in-house apps for the iPhone and had deployed its own Genentech App Store for employee use. An example of these apps is shown in Figure 1-5. In an interview, Todd Pierce, Genentech’s CIO, said, “I spent $10 million making my purchasing system usable on SAP. I spent $10,000 making it usable on my iPhone. You do the math.”
Now with the iPad
The iPad launched with ability to run around 200,000 apps that were originally designed for the iPhone and iPod touch. While the user experience wasn’t necessarily the greatest, this helped kick-start the iPad’s explosive adoption. Even though the web-browsing experience on the iPad is quite good, many major websites have provided iPad-optimized apps that take the browsing experience to the next level. Think about the typical user who spends extensive time on a computer browsing the Web on sites like Bloomberg, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, or Weather.com. The iPad apps for those sites provide an extremely rich and engaging user experience that in many cases is significantly better than the websites themselves consumed on a traditional computer.
From day 1, the iPad was viewed as more than just a consumer device. With apps like Apple’s Keynote to give presentations, the device was quickly embraced by professionals to show a slide deck to a colleague. Whether in a conference room or at a restaurant table, the iPad is simply more convenient than a laptop ever was, and as a result it was quickly grabbed by professionals to use for business purposes. After that, it didn’t take long for companies to see the potential for the iPad.
As one of the first organizations to embrace the iPad, Mercedes-Benz developed a custom application that it rolled out to 40 pilot dealerships in June 2010. The application, called MB Advantage, gives dealership employees access to the point-of-sale system right from the iPad.
Mercedes-Benz salespeople can access their point-of-sale system from the sales floor on their iPads.
Mercedes-Benz sales people can use the iPad to take credit applications and look up marketing programs with the prospective customer right next to the vehicle on the sales floor. The iPad has also been used to replace paper-based forms for the lease-vehicle turn-in process in which the dealership employees needed to fill out an inspection checklist for the automobile.
Andreas Hinrichs, the VP of Marketing for Mercedes-Benz Financial, has been quoted in a press release as saying, “MB Advantage on iPad allows Mercedes-Benz dealers to increase their mobility and efficiency, from the initial finance and lease process through the lease turn-in process.” By the end of 2010, Mercedes-Benz had also added the ability to capture customer signatures for certain documents right on the iPad.
But Mercedes-Benz isn’t the only automaker to embrace the iPad. BMW developed a custom iPad application to display interactive vehicle info and pricing at trade shows. The app includes many photographs and videos, and features a digital configurator to allow consumers to design their own vehicle. GM also launched a “Chevrolet Dealer” app for iPads, which gives salespeople access to available vehicle colors, options, and pricing along with dealership inventory.
In the context of apps, let’s revisit the example mentioned earlier of the medical device industry. Medtronic is the world’s largest medical device manufacturer and was one of the first large corporations to purchase significant quantities of the device. With the rollout of 4,500 iPads, Medtronic may have had the largest iPad deployment of 2010. Within weeks of the device’s coming to market, the company ramped up a team to begin developing internal applications for the iPad. According to Mike Hedges, Medtronic’s CIO quoted in the Wall Street Journal, “The iPad enables our sales employees to do a much better job of engaging in a really different way than we’ve done before.?”
Boston Scientific, another Fortune 500 medical device manufacturer that deployed more than 2,000 iPads within months of the device’s launch, is in the process of developing many employee-facing applications for the iPad. At a conference in late 2010, Ray Elliott, the CEO of Boston Scientific, talked about why the company is investing significant money into the iPad platform even while it’s in a cost-cutting mode. He said, “We’re beginning the process for our sales force of downloading more than 20 specific product apps and opportunity to get into pricing, time efficiency, expense reports, filling out requests and all the other things that we manage to do to take time away from the sales force.”
It might seem surprising that a Fortune 500 CEO would spend time during a company conference to talk about IT strategy relative to deploying iPads, but it’s becoming increasingly common for business executives to talk about IT, especially as it relates to the iPad. In November 2010, the Gartner analyst firm issued an advisory to CEOs, recommending that they clear any obstacles that IT might have in the support of the iPad.
This represents a radical and disruptive shift in business-as-usual for corporate IT. The iPad is shaking things up, and organizations have an opportunity to take advantage of the potential of the technology to improve mobile worker productivity and efficiency.
iPad in the Enterprise
Having taken the enterprise by storm, iPads are now in the hands of workers in virtually every level of companies in almost every industry, and users are beginning to demand line-of-business applications to help them be more productive and efficient from wherever they are. From business intelligence and executive dashboards to customer relationship management and order capture solutions, the iPad has incredible potential to leverage existing investments in information systems and enterprise applications. Even many paper-driven processes today, from sales presentations to survey data capture, can be dramatically enhanced through the introduction of the iPad.
This book is a guide for how business and IT must collaborate to develop a mobile strategy to properly take advantage of this transformative technology. Readers will also learn about the high-level software architectural options, the importance of design and user experience, application development tools and techniques, and best practices for deploying and managing iPads in the enterprise.
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Wale Falade is Nigerian. A Business Systems Analyst, Technology Enthusiast and a Linux Server Administrator.
He engages actively in improving online visibility of Nigerian brands.
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Posted in: Gadgets, Mobile