6 Steps to Success for Deploying the iPad in Business Applications

Posted by Paul Tobin on Mar 9, 2012 9:08:00 AM

A certain tablet "reality" is beginning to set in.  It's the reality that the tablet is interesting, fun and very entertaining.  A world of excitement and discovery awaits the new user.  And so does a world of distraction if you're not careful.

As I stated in my previous post, the iPad is a wonderful product, but it's struggling to find it's way in the business world as something more than just an expensive accessory.  As the IDG study points out, in today's business world the iPad is used primarily as an accessory (in their words, a supplement), rather than a true productivity tool in, and of, itself.  And so, if you're looking to deploy iPads for more than just another way to access email, book an airline flight, or relax with a movie, read on.

The iPad won't be denied a key role in business.  The iPad momentum is too powerful; the iPad interest too high; the iPad investment by businesses is too great; the iPad potential still untapped.  But, while it finds its way, we as business professionals need to be very careful that we don't create more of an expensive distraction than a productivity enhancement. 

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To that end, I offer the following six steps to success:

1. Choose your use case carefully

In my previous post I mention that the iPad can play a revolutionary role in shoulder-to-shoulder selling.  This is not a new concept in selling.  It came into play with the first sales force automation technologies years ago.  At that time, industry leaders envisioned a new selling technique where selling moved from face-to-face to shoulder-to-shoulder as people shared information on a computer screen.  But, the true potential of shoulder-to-shoulder selling was never realized due to the awkwardness of the computer platforms like the laptop or the desktop computer.  The iPad changes all of that.  It's an excellent platform for shoulder-to-shoulder selling in the pharmaceutical industries, dealer channels, distribution channels and much more.  It's an exciting example of where the iPad can be a game changer.

2. Organize your material thoughtfully

A sales person in a shoulder-to-shoulder situation needs to be adroit, fluid and responsive to the specific interests of the customer.  The salesperson must be able to jump seamlessly from, say, a product walk-around to a slide deck to a spec sheet, without looking clumsy and wasting the customer's time.  You must organize your information architecture with an eye to facilitating that experience.

3. Prepare your materials properly

At the time of this writing, Microsoft Office is not available in native code for the iPad.  This means you need to either provide your materials in a universal format (e.g. pdf, jpeg, etc.) or you need to convert Office docs to Mac docs.  Or both.  This can be a monumental task, so keep that in mind.  Finally, limit your content to only the materials that will be used in front of the customer.  Anything else will be a distraction.

4. Train your users thoroughly

A sales person that isn't confident is a sales person that's going to fail.  Your users will not, initially, be confident nor comfortable with shoulder-to-shoulder selling using the iPad.  They'll need to be trained.  Web-based training can be an effective way of training them.   Additionally, they may need to be trained on how to use the Mac version of Office.  It's easy, so this won't take long.  But, depending upon your content, it may be necessary.

5. Keep the material fresh

With the growing saturation of 4G networks, and the ability of the new iPad 3 to run in both 4G and wireless, there should no longer be obstacles to keeping the content fresh and up-to-date whether your iPads are used in-store, in-field or in transit.

6. Measure and motivate consistently

Setup your iPad solution so that you can easily report on sales productivity usage in the field, including number of actual shoulder-to-shoulder sales events by sales person and also measure which assets (videos, documents, slide decks, etc.) are most used.  Finally, a successful transition to shoulder-to-shoulder selling will require change management and so you should consider incentive/motivation programs to ensure a successful adoption.

A full deployment of iPads into either a captive sales and service channel or a non-captive distribution channel can be a very expensive and time consuming effort.  If not done carefully, your iPads will result in a very expensive accessory, with little or no direct impact on your top line revenue.  Following the 6 steps above will help you achieve success with this new and exciting tool.  Good luck with your deployment!

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