Best uses for an iPad in business

Anthony Caruana
13 August, 2014
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iPad in business, apple, ios, macworld australiaWhen Apple released the iPad back in April 2010 it was criticised as being a solution looking for a problem, a cute consumption device with no business value and a sign of Apple losing touch with reality. Flash forward to today and we see a different picture – one where IBM has announced that it will develop enterprise apps for the iPad. Some are even saying that the desktop PC era is dead.

So, where does an iPad best fit in your business?

Before racing out to your favourite reseller and ordering iPads for everyone, it’s important to start with specific use cases where an iPad makes sense. Typically, these will be situations where people need to either access or input information away from a traditional desk-based workspace. This can be anything from a police officer to a warehouse storeperson.

Let’s look at some specific scenarios.

Retail

Walk into most retail stores and you’ll find a series of racks or shelves with products. But the real hub of the store will be a counter and point of sale terminal – in the old days we called these cash registers. But today, point-of-sale systems are far more sophisticated than cash drawers and calculators.

Given so many transactions are cashless these days, there seems to be little need for a cash register in many situations. There are several cloud-based point of sale solutions such as Lightspeed, Kounta, SapphireOne, Vend and Checkout. We looked at those a while ago.

Moving your point-of-sale systems onto iPads means your staff can move out from behind the counter and engage with customers. It also makes it easier to answer customer queries from the floor and opens up some more floor stock for products you can sell.

Mobile sales forces

This is probably one of the most obvious scenarios. Send your sales reps out on the road with an iPad and you’ll do away with all the paper and complex ordering processes you’ve been using.

The reality is that an iPad is not a panacea for all the hassles associated with mobile sales teams. Before throwing an iPad at each representative, take a look at your business processes. An iPad can make data entry and access much easier but it won’t work if all you do is take existing paper-based or laptop-friendly processes and migrate them straight to the iPad’s multi-touch screen.

Look for ways to leverage the iPad’s capabilities. For example, tapping on pre-written items is an easy way to make data entry faster. Use images of products rather than only text, so that finding information is easy.

If you want to get the most value from your iPad, look at your end-to-end processes, including how data will go in and out of the iPad, so that there’s no need for information to be double-handled or re-entered.

The creative professional

Whether you’re a musician, designer, architect, photographer, videographer or any number of other occupations and vocations, the iPad is a brilliant way to show off your work and to let your clients have input into the finished products they’ll buy.

Let’s say you’re designing a new kitchen for a client. You can measure the space using a device like the Leica Disto. You can then, from a library of different cabinet styles, start to show your clients a three-dimensional model of the kitchen. You can even add colours and textures to the model so that the client can really see what they’re going to get.

Perhaps you’re a photographer. You can shoot some images, load them into your iPad with Apple’s Camera Connection Kit and let the client choose which ones they like best. With the right app, you can even watermark them and send them directly to the client if they need more time to think.

The possibilities are almost endless.

Wherever you need to access information using a lightweight, instant-on device that looks elegant and has excellent battery life – the iPad is a viable alternative.

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