It’s Time to Tame the Tablet for Enterprise Mobility

by , executive vice president of global client services for Verivo Software

The march of the tablet into enterprise mobility is inevitable.

As Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett notes in a recent blog post, tablet sales are expected to rise from the 56 million units sold in 2011 to 375 million in 2016, with 750 million tablets in use by then. Forrester expects that one-third of these tablets will be purchased by businesses.

Developers are also getting tablet-focused. According to research from VisionMobile, 50 percent of all mobile developers are now targeting tablets (even higher among iOS developers), up from just over a third of developers last year.

Anyone who has used a tablet knows the reasons for their appeal: large, high-res screens, an intuitive touch interface, long battery life, and easy network connectivity. But to truly tame the tablet for enterprise mobility, some key factors need to be addressed, including: the emergence of more tablet-focused apps, better security, especially given the bring your own device (BYOD) trend and how tablets are used at home, and training considerations.

Let’s take these factors one at a time. Given the number of developers now putting some focus on tablets, the apps eventually will come, yet each enterprise must identify what’s right for its users. In many cases, it will be a matter of exploiting the larger screen.

Mobile business intelligence is one likely area. Yes, smartphones can show a set of key performance indicators, but the tablet allows a fuller dashboard where you can easily show more KPIs, call up related charts on the same screen, or easily perform queries using a keyboard.

Another broad type of app that’s well suited for tablets are apps that hinge on multimedia and collaboration. This could be a demo app for a customer with video or infographics to convey information visually. Multimedia might also be used for training apps, or in health care settings to help patients understand therapy. Any mobile app that’s so visually rich that the person next to you wants to grab the device for a look is a good app for a tablet.

Perhaps the biggest concern with making tablets more enterprise-capable is security. With BYOD being widespread, tablets with enterprise data on them could easily be compromised. In fact, research from Nielsen shows that tablets are shared more often around the house than other mobile devices, which adds risk for all mobile users.

The result: a tablet left on a coffee table with an open enterprise connection is a bad situation for corporate data security. Family members aren’t data thieves, but content might accidentally get erased, data might get saved to a tablet unintentionally, or otherwise compromised.

What can be done for better tablet security? As of yet, most tablets lack the level of device-level security such as personas and administrator settings found on laptops, though this is starting to improve. The best answer is multi-level security, including capabilities you can get as part of a mobile app platform.

For sure, a company with tablet apps needs powerful single sign-on and authentication capabilities that integrate with popular directories. Security can also be improved by limiting what can be downloaded to a device, or via utilities that can partition and “wipe clean” enterprise data on a tablet. The right platform can also boost security by allowing administrators to define app entitlements by device type, location, time of day, or other parameters.

Better tablet security also overlaps with end-user training. If users understand how policies like having to re-enter a password if a tablet has been dormant, or disablement of wireless hotspot setup, are needed to keep enterprise data safe, they’ll be more likely to accept minor inconveniences.

Training can also help get the most business return on enterprise mobile apps for tablets. Because of the tablets’ richer form factor, tablet apps might be a bit more complex, which increases the need for some training.

Today, end-user training for tablet apps is often lacking. According to a recent poll by SAVO Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions, among sales professionals who use tablets, 67 percent are not being trained on best practices for tablet use during customer interactions. While much of the appeal of tablets goes back to their intuitive user interfaces that minimize training needs, in many instances, some level of training is appropriate.

For sure, analyst predications say we’ll be seeing much more of the tablet in the enterprise. Given that knowledge, isn’t it time organizations take steps to tame the tablet for secure, productive enterprise use?

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