There's a lot of talk about how tablet computing will revolutionise certain industries and the media industry is often cited as at the heart of this transformation with its technology savvy authors and artists combined with content curators.
In the past year A&N Media, owners of Daily Mail and Metro and the largest newspaper group in the UK, has seen the number of people who use iPads to do all or some of their work increase to over 25 per cent of the business, and many of these are personally owned. This is, in part, the result of a staff promotion which saw more than 1,000 employees take advantage of £200 discount off an iPad within 24 hours of the offer being announced. If you add to this the increasing numbers that use smart phones there is a massive need to rethink how corporate applications and data are made available.
We are embracing rather than restricting social media; recent analysis shows that more than a third of internet traffic within our offices is Facebook usage which includes some journalistic research, some sales based relationship management but lots and lots of personal communications. We have relaxed rules for web browsing and allowed staff to download apps in a way that would have been blocked three years ago. A corollary of these policies have been investments in information security training and testing, network monitoring and data leakage protection but it still feels uncomfortable to some.
A guiding principle of our iPad adoption has been to make the Monday morning technology experience as good as, or better than, the Sunday night technology experience across our business. Our belief is that achieving this would make us a more innovative, creative, social media enabled business.
Senior management were the first to access email, board reports and business intelligence via (pin code enabled) iPads and were instrumental in our global adoption of Salesforce Chatter as the business wide collaboration tool. We have seen more people install the iPad Chatter client than there are corporately purchased iPads.
Sales staff can take iPads out when visiting customers to show audio visual marketing material, try different sales options and capture a signature to go with the contract. Our retail management teams are able to assess merchandising in the field and able to store photographs from store visits instantly. As much as the iPad has given us an easy device to use, the real enabler is Salesforce.com with its cloud based configurable software model.
We are now working on an Olympics tool that means our staff will not need to be in the office during the games and have been surprised at how easily our staff have adopted to new ways of working using easy to use, low cost apps such as Drop Box and Evernote.
We recently ran a “making IT easy” day and asked for one specific suggestion as to how we could improve the lives of our staff utilising technology. Single sign on, easier WiFi, access to all apps from a single portal and provision of (cheap) iPads were amongst the most popular suggestions. To this extent we have upgraded WiFi across all of our 60 offices so that login credentials work across the entire country without having to find hot spots or re-enter a user name or password.
But is this really revolutionary? Our Head of Innovation, Sam Duncan-Brown, reminds our business that these are mere evolutionary steps. For years we've envisaged our staff visiting customers with a tablet laptop (Microsoft pushed tablet laptops you could use a special pen to write on the screen for a long time), taking details, walking them through our sales packages and asking them to sign the contract on the screen. It never became a reality because it just wasn't all that intuitive. Of course the iPad changes that because of the subtle differences in form factor, weight, design and ease of use but the real difference is that historical technology selection has focussed on functionality and cost whereas now the key questions are about can it run on multiple devices, in the cloud and is it intuitive and enjoyable to use.
The combination of powerful and easy to use tablets such as the iPad, cloud based enterprise tools such as Salesforce, a rethink of information security and some clever infrastructure and integration work makes the social enterprise possible and makes Monday mornings only slightly more painful than a Sunday night.
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