Brand owners attempt to leverage tablets

03 April 2012

NEW YORK: Brand owners in the US are still trying to make the most effective use of tablets to fulfil core business functions, with American Airlines and SAP among the early adopters seeing progress.

American Airlines rapidly introduced tablets across its operations, and found that pilots desired high-end devices to replace traditional papers and charts, engineers needed durable gadgets and first class and business passengers something different again.

"When you're in a conference room, you might think, 'This is great,'" Maya Leibman, chief information officer for American Airlines, told the Wall Street Journal. "But then you get out in the field and realise it doesn't work in a driving snowstorm."

Data from Forrester, the insights provider, showed 25% of computers being used for corporate reasons globally are now smartphones or tablets. Moreover, these devices seemingly have unique roles.

"Don't think tablets are an extension of existing legacy IT systems. They are not," said Lars Kamp, strategy lead for Accenture Mobility Services.

Chris Curran, technology innovation leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the business services firm, suggested conducting snall-scale trials with key staff members and resolving issues like ownership and personal usage was vital.

"There are organisations that throw caution to the wind and say, 'We need tablets,' then buy 20,000, push them out and wait for people to tell them how they're using them," he added. "You can't just say, 'Here's a tablet, go forth,' without a plan of attack."

Hyatt Hotels, the leisure group, also faced obstacles related to employees trying to utilise applications originally designed for PCs on tablets, and is thus updating these offerings for slates.

"The growth of mobile devices broadly outpaced our ability to quickly manage them," said John Prusnick, Hyatt's director of IT innovation and strategy. "We thought we could manage it on our own, but we realised we really needed better tools and support to manage all the devices we have."

Another longer term problem will be that tablets may require more regular replacement rates than PCs, even though the initial outlay is lower. SAP, the software group, has given 14,000 slates to staff, and expects to renew them roughly every 18 months.

Ricoh Americas, the printing company, allows employees to supply their own such appliances for work, but is yet to make a bulk corporate purchase, as these gadgets do not offer the same breadth of functions as a PC.

"I don't want to pay $1,000 for a laptop and $800 for a tablet. I would much rather pay $800 once and be done," Tracey Rothenberger, chief information officer at Ricoh Americas, said.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff