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6 Steps IT Can Take to Bring Business Into Tablet Decisions

Tablets are the darlings of hypermobile employees and business leaders looking to improve their processes. Because each tablet-enabled business scenario is different, only business people--those meeting with customers, inspecting stores or sitting in decision meetings, for example--know what they really need from their tablets.

However, a critical concern has come to light: IT dominates the tablet decision process--and it shouldn't.

IT can't intuitively divine everything needed for tablet success in every business scenario. Even simple things like screen size, not to mention big choices like which platform, could make or break the strategy.

To avoid these problems, we have identified six steps that IT should take to show it's making a concerted effort to involve employees and business leaders. We call these "decision flash points" to emphasize how important they are:

1. Identify the business opportunity. Even at the outset of a project, you must include line-of-business executives and the employees who pester you for support.

2. Initiate the evaluation. Involve a member of the business team to make sure you take into account all the needs, potential barriers and desired outcomes.

3. Test and evaluate solutions. Get a business sponsor who will focus on employee adoption and business outcomes.

4. Recommend vendors. When it comes to the tools that employees use to get work done, your choice in vendors matters a lot. For tablets today, the choice is clearly the iPad. But employees also care about the applications. That's why they bring in Dropbox for file sharing and Skype for customer communications. Business needs to be involved here, too.

5. Implement the solution. IT must insist that business sponsors put some skin in the game and be part of the implementation.

6. Evaluate the outcome. One company found that tablet-wielding sales partners were 20 percent more profitable than their clipboard-wielding colleagues.

Ted Schadler and Simon Yates are vice presidents and principal analysts at Forrester Research, where they serve CIOs.

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