Replace Your Mobile Paper With a Tablet

By Jack Rosenberger  |  Posted Thursday, November 21, 2013 13:21 PM

By Jack Rosenberger

It’s odd how, after attending a multi-day national conference, a few specific moments of the event stick with you, as though they have taken up lodging inside your mind, and the others gradually disappear. I recently had the pleasure of attending SIMposium 2013 in Boston, and Neal Campbell, a CDW senior vice president, headlined a general session titled “Total Mobility Management: Making IT Simple.” At one point early on during his presentation, Campbell flashed a slide of a real-life stack of office paper on the auditorium’s main screen and, with enthusiasm, delivered a pithy phrase I have yet to forget: “Whenever you see mobile paper, you’re seeing a tablet waiting to happen.”

Campbell’s statement provides a simple guiding principle: When you observe employees handling paper forms, such as invoices, work orders and customer surveys, it behooves you investigate how the data process can be digitized via a tablet (or other computing device). By extension, one should explore all paper-based processes in your organization to see how they can be digitized—and then reduced or completely phased out.

Studies have shown that organizations that embrace technologies and deploy them intelligently and efficiently have a competitive advantage over the ones that don’t. For instance, mobile technology leaders have four times as many customer engagements, interactions and sales, compared to their less-technology astute peers, according to a recent IBM global IT study on mobility. Likewise, a CDW study found that nearly three-quarters of IT decision-makers said the use of tablets and smartphones has increased productivity in their organization—and 25 percent said the devices significantly increased productivity.

Tablet adoption, however, is not as high as one might expect. Only six in 10 larger enterprises use tablets and smartphones in the workplace and only 47 percent of small businesses use tablets, according to CDW.

Besides helping to cultivate innovation, iPads and other tablets are also important differentiators for companies that want to attract the leading job candidates. The organizations that provide their workers with the best tools, and allow or encourage them to use them creatively, are the organizations that will attract and retain the best talent. Also, in today’s workplace, with the consumerization of IT and a workforce that is increasingly comprised of Millennials, many employees have tablets at home and expect to have them at work.

However, like all types of innovation, innovation with tablets comes with a price tag. CDW’s Campbell has cautioned that the “device is less than half the investment,” citing the related costs of mobile security, infrastructure, storage and IT support.

Jack Dorsey’s iPad

With Twitter’s recent IPO, cofounder Jack Dorsey has been a popular news subject, and several articles have described his use of iPads. A Cult of Mac article reported that Dorsey uses an iPad for nearly all of his computing needs, citing his tweet that “90% of my computing is now on the iPad (with a keyboard dock). And I love it.” Likewise, writer D.T. Maxx in a New Yorker profile of Dorsey, reported that Dorsey’s tech companion is an iPad Mini. “Everything he reads, works on, or thinks about resides either in the tablet’s memory or in the Cloud,” Maxx wrote. “He carries no briefcase or folder, and has no desk at work [Square]. In my visits with him, in the course of several months, I never saw him handle a piece of paper.”

When I read passages like this one in The New Yorker, the still-elusive dream of the paperless office seems like a not-too-distant reality, especially for organizations that are digital natives.

About the Author

Jack Rosenberger is the managing editor of CIO Insight. You can follow him on Twitter via @CIOInsight. You can read his previous CIO Insight blog post, “Why Co-Bragging With Your CMO Is a Smart Idea,” by clicking here.