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Is the iPad Really a Good Business Tool?

 

The iPad juggernaut rolls on at an astounding pace!  Wall Street projects sales of 55 million iPads in 2012!  And, according to Apple's recently released quarterly report (January 24, 2012), 15.4 million were sold in Q4 2011 alone!  With that Q4 news it brings iPad sales in 2011 to over 40 million!  So much for the "year of the iPad killer."

prm, partner relationship management, channel management software

AN AMAZING PRODUCT, BUT IS IT A GOOD BUSINESS TOOL?

Astounding performance in all regards.  The world has rarely seen anything like it.  But, with all this excitement surrounding the iPad, we have to ask: is it a good business to business tool that increases the productivity and effectiveness of employees and business partners?  Or is it more of a business to consumer product designed for consuming media like books, news, entertainment, product information and the like?  Or both?

In a news story that was somewhat of a surprise to me Forbes (Jan 20, 2012) states that over 90% of iPad owners worldwide claim that they use their iPad primarily for work.  And one in four received their iPad from their employee. Based on this story alone, it seems that it must be one really great business tool.  But, if so, why are the top 10 apps downloaded from the App Store consistently games?  The fact is, despite all the hyperbole, and the absolutely astounding success of the product, the iPad may be a much better consumer tool than a business tool.

IDG, in their recently published survey "iPad for Business, Survey 2012" (Jan. 16, 2012) sheds a bit more light on this.  In this in-depth survey IDG concluded "...IT and business professions do resemble consumers: they mostly use their iPads for media consumption."  And earlier in the survey they state, "For most, the iPad isn't a substitute for an existing tool or device.  Instead, it's a supplement..."  And finally, they deliver the stats that support their conclusion: "The iPad hasn’t prompted the majority of IT and business professionals to abandon any other device. Only 12% say that their iPad has “completely” replaced their laptop. Just 6% say it has supplanted their PC."

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I own several Apple products, including an IPad 2 (which I received from my employer) and an iPhone 4S.   I use a Dell XPS running Windows 7 as my primary computer.  My wife owns an iPhone 4S and a MacBook Pro.  I've paired my iPad with a Logitek Zagg bluetooth keyboard which also doubles as a protective case.

Now, I suppose I could just ask SIRI if the iPad is a good business tool, but I'd probably get a biased answer, so I'm going to give you my own opinion divined from considerable experience and research.  Hopefully, some of you will also share your thoughts on this subject

MY CONCLUSIONS

I think the answer is, in most cases, no.  It's great for browsing the web, reading articles and books, basic emailing, etc.  But, when it comes to producing business materials and doing serious business work it's woefully ineffective.  Problems include: typing and screen interaction can be clumsy, the screen is small, business software is sparse (currently no Microsoft Office, for instance) and the software that is available, such as Pages, Numbers and Keynote (Apple's version of Office) is nice but very limited in its tablet incarnation.  And heaven forbid if you're attempting to produce anything using the on-screen glass keyboard!

SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER SELLING WITH AN iPAD

This is one business application where the iPad can excel.  The old way of face-to-face selling has given way to shoulder-to-shoulder selling.  In this new style you sit or stand next to your prospect and present information on a computer.  You might present a video walk-around of a vehicle, or perhaps a slide presentation or an electronic brochure.  This is the way selling is often done these days in a number of industries, including the PRM (Partner Relationship Management) space and throughout a distribution channel.  and it's one instance where a tablet can provide real value.

So, before rolling this out as a business tool ask yourself: will your target users need to produce materials?  Or will they primarily be consuming materials and/or presenting materials?  If it's the latter, then an iPad is a viable, yet maybe not the best, option.  But, if your users need to be productive I suggest that the iPad will amount to little more than a business accessory or, as IDG states, "a supplement".  And, worst yet, it may be a distraction.  It may be used surgically, such as in shoulder-to-shoulder selling situations, but you will still need to provide a laptop computer which will be the way real work is done for quite some time yet.  The breadth and depth of business software and the maturity of the operating systems such as Windows 7 and Mac OSX simply allow more and better work to get done more quickly.

By the way, I produced this blog entry on my iPad 2.  Could I have done it more quickly on my laptop computer?  Honestly, yes.  But I like using my iPad.

About LogicBay
LogicBay’s Partner Relationship Management (PRM) Technology is rich with best practice workflows making it easier for organizations to do business with channel partner re-sellers. The result: More engagement and Mindshare. Greater Efficiency and Cost Savings. Alignment with Channel Partners. And, Performance Improvement for the Entire Sales Enterprise.
Premium White Paper Download this premium white paper to learn Partner Relationship Management Best Practices – make it easy for dealers to do business with you, heighten dealer engagement, gain mindshare and maximize financial returns. Learn about LogicBay’s Best Practice Framework including methods for more effectively training and monitoring dealer employee certifications.
Premium White Paper Link to LogicBay’s Library of Partner Relationship Management White Papers. These white papers provide best practice ideas on a Channel Readiness and Performance Improvement strategies. Topics include subjects such as: Effectively launching a LMS for the Channel, Applying Lean Principles to Channel Management, Channel Life-cycle Management, Partner Portal Technology Unification, and much more.
Premium White Paper Link to LogicBay’s Library of Client Case Studies. Learn how LogicBay’s PRM Solutions and Technology have created significant performance gains for clients such as Caterpillar, HP, Daimler Trucks and Outdoor Living Brands.

Comments

The point Paul makes about utilizing iPADs to support dealer sales people and service technicians is a good one. What better way to sell a new customer than to have PAD in-hand and be showing off the best features of the latest product. Read more about LogicBay's initiative to support this trend here.... http://www.logicbay.com/Portals/23667/docs/pr_tabletstrategy.pdf  
 
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Posted @ Friday, March 02, 2012 12:31 PM by Todd Grant
I have seen the iPad at work at three different companies. Here are my "findings." 
 
Dealer Sales team of a truck manufacturer – The iPads can be a good "supplement" to the sales process. For sales people who take the time to learn and understand how use an iPad to make a presentation, they do help the average sales person improve their presentations. Instead of having to learn a lot of product knowledge and be a good presenter, they can, with a few clicks, allow the iPad to present to the customer. There are also certain applications (like fuel economy calculators and so on) that are beneficial. Of course, ALL of these iPad applications were already available on the salesperson's laptop. The iPad just makes it easier to present.  
 
Sales, Service, Parts Team of a drivetrain component manufacturer – This manufacturer has provided its 400+ team with iPads. These individuals are in the field every day calling on customers and solving problems. Also used as a supplement or presenter's assistant, the iPads do help these folks with their daily contact with customers. It's physically easier to show customers information from an iPad than a laptop when out in the field. But these people, when they get to the hotel, fire up their laptop to finish the day's work.  
 
Marketing Company Owner – This individual is an Apple lover. She has an iPhone 4s, iPad2, MacBook Air, and Apple TV. When she first got her iPad, she thought it was the greatest thing. But she quickly realized it was really only good for "viewing," not working. What she found is that her MacBook Air, one of the smallest and thinnest laptops available, does everything she needs. She can show presentations or information to a client, and she can "compute" on it, too. So she has stopped using her iPad2 completely. It sits in her drawer. So sad. 
 
So I think Paul's description of the iPad being a good "shoulder-to-shoulder" tool is correct. But there's no way the iPad will obviate the laptop in the foreseeable future. 
 
By the way, I produced this blog post on my Dell laptop. I don't even remember where I put my old iPad! 
Posted @ Sunday, March 18, 2012 9:55 AM by Jim Bennett
Here's an interesting article from ComputerWorld about this very topic: 
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9225106/What_does_the_new_iPad_mean_to_business_
Posted @ Tuesday, March 20, 2012 6:28 AM by Jim Bennett
Jim, great comments on how you've seen the iPad applied...and not applied...in business. It would be interesting to check in with the drivetrain company and see if the iPads are actually getting much usage in the field.
Posted @ Tuesday, March 20, 2012 4:26 PM by Paul Tobin
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