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Your Company and the Tablet Revolution

Your Company and the Tablet Revolution

Over the past few weeks, numerous articles have been published citing the CFO's increasingly influential role in IT. So, as I read an advance copy of Nathan Clevenger's book iPad in the Enterprise, I realized it should be required reading for many finance executives.

In the book, due out in August from Wiley, Clevenger skillfully addresses the issue of IT consumerization, and how the trend forces technology like Apple's iPad square into the enterprise. The first hundred pages are spent building the case for why CIOs, CFOs and other executives need to consider enterprise iPad adoption. The second half (more for IT and developers) delves into issues such as the build vs. buy decision, architectures, integration, and management of external-facing and internal-facing apps.

Case studies are peppered throughout, showing the influence that tablet-toting employees have had on CIOs. Following the lead of these users, they show, resulted in increased productivity, unique revenue opportunities and greater customer satisfaction.

In one passage, Clevenger quotes Genentech CIO Todd Pierce about the power of Apple's disruptive mobile technologies: "I spent $10 million making my purchasing system usable on SAP. I spent $10,000 making it usable on my iPhone. You do the math."

It is that kind of math that reveals the power of the iPad and other tablet technology. Clevenger reports that Mercedes-Benz salespeople use the iPad "to take credit applications and look up marketing programs with the prospective customer right next to the vehicle on the sales floor." The technology also is used by the luxury car giant to digitally fill out and sign critical forms such as lease applications. I think about how many times I've left a car dealership as soon as the salesperson says he has to return to his desk or seek out a manager for details. If he could have accessed that data right there, he might have held my attention straight through to purchase.

Clevenger weaves in insight from executives across all industries, showing the variety of uses for tablet technology. He also brilliantly illuminates a key point that is striking many decision makers:

"Most major brick-and-mortar retailers... have consumer-facing apps. Several of these apps... have the ability to use the camera in the iPhone to scan a barcode on a physical product and pull additional information about the product, including detailed technical specs and product reviews. Now take a moment to imagine that you work on the sales floor of a retail store. How would you feel if a customer came up to you to ask a question but already had more detailed information about the product on his or her own mobile phone than you have access to on the rugged handheld scanner provided to employees by the store?"

The answer to that question likes in this comment from Allen Benson, vice president of business technology at Spectrum Brands: "The iPad may have started in the consumer's hands, but it will finish as the business device of choice for some time to come..."

For finance executives trying to grasp the magnitude of this evolution, I point to the advice my friend and former supervisor Network World Editor-in-Chief John Dix offers Clevenger's readers: "While there are risks involved, there is little question this consumerization of IT will slow down anytime soon, and smart companies realize it is better to try to channel the tide than fight it."

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