3 Reasons to Use a Tablet for Business

Apr 24, 2012

“Everyone in our office has an iPad,” says Stephen Jackson, co-founder and general manager of RDZ Media Group, LLC, a New York City–based mobile social media agency. “You really have to consider what you’re going to do with the tablet,” says Jackson. “In the beginning, it was a toy. Now, we see it as a serious business device.”

More and more, business owners are realizing that tablets can be used for more than games and catching up on TV shows—and they can actually be a boon to their businesses. Here are a few ways you can take advantage of tablet technology:

1. Social Media Management
If you’re not already using social media for your business, please remove yourself from the rock you live under and get started. Still here? Good. iPads and tablets are a great way to make the most of social media, and their portability means that you don’t have to wait until you’re in front of a computer to respond to your customers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

“We believe in communicating with our users on social networking sites. Our team has their iPads in front of them at their computer, and they’re coding and they’re answering emails and responding back to questions via social networking on their iPads,” says Amos Winbush III, founder of CyberSynchs, a universal synchronization platform that stores and transfers data through different devices. He points out that tablets can also be used for creating social media, too: “Some of my tech people bring in their Samsung Android tablet. It was actually the first tablet to have a really great camera, and it took video as well.” Although laptops also come with camera capabilities, their usage differs than a tablet or iPad with a camera. “I have an app where I can scan a business card using the iPad 2 camera and save the card data to my contact list—not easy to do with a laptop camera,” says Jackson.

2. Multitasking
Tablets and iPads can go a good way towards streamlining your work life and your home life. “Think about what you do on a daily basis that an iPad would free you up to have more time to do. For me, it was about being able to work from anywhere and not having to wait till I come back to an office and sit down in front of a PC,” says Jackson. “I don’t carry a lot of stuff to meetings anymore. I just carry my phone and my iPad. If it helps you get out the door more and see more clients and see more people, then by all means think about investing [in a tablet].”

Although some business owners may dismiss iPads and tablets if they already utilize laptops, there are some big differences between the two. Laptops are more powerful, but depending on your company’s needs, a tablet may be more convenient. “Laptops are heavier, bulkier, and require that you have access to a Wi-Fi connection if you are working outside. My iPad boots twice as fast as a laptop and because I am running apps which are less code-heavy than laptops, I get to work faster. I can carry my iPad in one hand and type, browse the web, and so on. It’s very difficult to hold a laptop in one hand and type or use the touchpad. My iPad with 3G service means that I do not have to carry around a Wi-Fi hotspot. I can log onto the internet from practically anywhere,” says Jackson.

Winbush agrees. “I’m not tied down to a big clunky computer. The usability of it is so much easier,” he says. The CyberSynchs team has frequent lunches out, and Winbush often brings his iPad to be able to respond immediately to emails and other business matters. Winbush also uses his iPad to take notes during meetings; he then emails himself a copy for his records. As iPads are more portable than laptops and more convenient than carrying various books, magazines, and newspapers, Winbush also uses it on to catch up on books he’s reading, the latest news, and his favorite websites while he’s on the train. “It’s my home-away-from-home when it comes to technology,” he says.

If you have a retail-based business, an iPad can be useful in terms of inventory and sales. “If you have a consumer-based product, if you have a brick-and-mortar store, and your orders are coming in offline, you can do that from your iPad. Technology is vastly growing and you don’t need a cash register all the time now. You can utilize a credit card swipe machine and attach it to your iPad, and it works perfectly fine,” says Winbush. Jackson uses a specific app that allows him to create sales proposals, manage budgets, and create presentations all in one, which is more efficient than switching between and managing several different computer programs. Restaurants, too, can use iPads to keep track of their stock or even to manage staff, in place of timecards.

3. Traveling
Tablets and iPads also make doing business easier when you’re on the road. “I use it especially when I’m traveling and doing a lot of emailing, writing, and research,” says Caroline Green, principal of IvanExpert, a Mac-focused technology consulting firm. “It’s portable. It’s light. When I’m traveling I can do personal stuff on it too. So, I can use it for reading a book and also for doing work, and I don’t need to bring two devices.” Green also points out that iPads can be useful for those who travel for sales— whether it’s cross country or just to a meeting downtown. “If you do any sort of sales in person, it’s an amazing sales tool. Handing people the iPad and letting them scroll through a presentation on their own is incredibly powerful,” she says. Jackson recommends investing in a VGA (video graphics array) adapter so you can connect your iPad to a projector.

With his iPad, Jackson says, “I have the freedom to go anywhere, be anywhere, and still be effective. I can actually go online. All I need is an internet connection, and my smartphone has 4G, so I can create a Wi-Fi hotspot immediately. I can conduct a conference call or meeting from almost anywhere.”

Getting Started
If you’d like to start integrating iPads and tablets into your day-to-day business, it’s best to start at the top. “Your senior members ought to use them first before distributing them to the entire staff, especially if you’re not a tech company,” says Jackson. He also recommends involving your IT team, so they can integrate the tablets into your company’s existing systems and make sure they’re secure, as easily and as seamlessly as possible. “iPads in the office become another device that is accessing the company’s internet and using bandwidth, so the IT people should be involved early on when the decision is being made to allow staff to use iPads. The IT department will have to determine how to secure access to the iPads and how to lock down data to the iPad, should one become lost or stolen. You may want the IT department to create a safe list of approved apps to use for business purposes,” says Jackson.

“You also want to take a look at the apps that you will download and how well they work together,” says Jackson. Before you start downloading apps, take time to research them and read the reviews. If possible, download the free or lite version before committing to a paid version.

If you have people on your team that are hesitant about using an iPad or tablet, Green recommends starting the team off with basic functions like email, using tablets in meetings to record and take notes, and browsing the internet. If you’re not willing to purchase iPads for everyone on your team, you can rent them. Jackson recommends Tekserve, an Apple specialist located in Manhattan.

Michelle Court is the associate editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at mcourt@nyreport.com.

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