Businesses can create value by embracing iPad: SFU research

Oct 18, 2011

Since its launch in 2010, the Apple iPad has garnered a global reputation for being among the most innovative consumer technology products. According to a new study from Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, however, that reputation is equally deserved in business – especially as firms leverage the popular tablet and others like it to improve operations and boost sales or customer service.

The recent study, entitled “Deciding When to Use Tablets for Business Applications”, published in the most recent issue of MIS Quarterly Executive, is authored by professors Leyland Pitt from SFU and Pierre Berthon of Bentley University, with Beedie School of Business graduate student Karen Robson.

Their research argues that like many disruptive technologies, tablet computers such as the iPad are already changing the face of corporate computing, and will likely have an even greater impact in the future. Pitt and colleagues provide a set of frameworks that can be used to identify when and where a tablet computer device and its applications within can add value to an organization – whether it be in areas as disparate as health care delivery, hospitality, or automobile marketing.

“Computer tablets like the iPad are probably the world’s first truly ‘personal’ computers and are already changing the face of corporate computing,” write the researchers. “By being on a constant lookout for good examples of applications in a wide variety of settings, and asking questions such as “How would that work in our business?” and “Could we do something similar in our organization?”, organizations can identify how applications on table devices can shorten, short-circuit and shape business processes, and thus create business value.”

The researchers maintain that in identifying possible tablet applications, organizations would be wise to learn from the successes of like-minded firms.

“Decision makers seeking to introduce tablets into their own organizations could therefore benefit by identifying successful tablet applications in other organizations, and adapting them for their own use.”

Recommendations for Using Tablets in Business

The researchers provide five actions that Information Systems organizations can take to ensure that the deployment of tablets provides business benefits:

1. Regularly scan relevant media for effecitve, creative use of tablets in a range of business settings, including some websites they have found particularly useful: Engadget, CultofMac, Mashable, Wired, AppleInsider, TechCruch, and MacWorld.
2. Consider the Inscriptive (input) Informative (output) functions of information systems, and the interaction between them, to envision how tablets might enable these activities to be performed more effectively.
3. Explore opportunities of moving applications that are purely Isolative into the Contextive and Contextual space to provide customers with superior service and improve the productivity of employees.
4. Compare the 3 C-Abilities (Configure-ability, Consume-ability and Context-ability) of tablets versus other mobile devices, recognizing that even small changes in the technological capabilities of these devices may require changes in how organizations think about using these devices.
5. Envision the needs of customers and employees using relevant strategic or business process models. For example, the application that permits boarding passes sent to smartphones for air travelers was developed by understanding that travelers might not have access to a printer to print a boarding pass prior check in.
6. Envision employees accessing the organization’s information systems via mobile devices.

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