News International has revealed how consumerisation of IT, especially the Apple iPad, has transformed the media company’s use of technology in the business.

The impact has been so much so that News International is now one of Apple’s biggest customers in the UK, despite Apple’s history of being more of a consumer technology provider than one for enterprise.

“We had zero Apple footprint before the iPad. We are now the fifth biggest customer in the UK in terms of desktops and laptops and so on,” said Paul Cheesbrough, News International’s CIO, who was on a consumerisation of IT panel at the 451 Group’s recent Hosting and Cloud Transformation conference in London.

“The iPad isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s to explore the consumer applications, [for example] the way you can move data around. We are taking a lot of what we are learning [from The Times] iPad app and bringing it into the enterprise.”

Consumerisation of IT has also taught Cheesbrough to focus more on the browser.

“We put a lot of time and effort into putting everything into the browser for the employees. We won’t put in any systems that we can’t do virtualised or cloud-based,” he said.

To this end, News International has deployed Google Apps for its staff. Although Cheesbrough admits Google Apps has its shortcomings (“It is a more basic version of Microsoft Office, for sure”), he said it benefits from more collaborative features, such as video chat.

Google’s UK head of enterprise, Robert Whiteside recently said that connecting employees can make them more productive and develop different working practices that can solve new business problems.

News International has embraced social media to achieve this staff connection. It uses Chatter from Salesforce, and Cheesbrough is hoping to develop “Facebook-esque” social network among the staff. It also uses Twitter to monitor the service status of its Times app, where customers complain if they have difficulties downloading it.  

“We’ve got more connections between all types of people – journalists, sales, marketing are talking to each other about things they wouldn’t talk about before,” he said.