Tablets in the workplace: it's not just about the iPad

Digital devices are crucial to business performance

A school's success is judged on its performance in the classroom and in examination results. A local government agency is scrutinised for its adherence to data protection and security guidelines. Private sector organisations are increasingly demanding of technology to deliver improved customer service.

Digital devices are absolutely, 100% crucial to that performance, to the new curriculum and student engagement – and for enabling secure remote access on ruggedised devices. So what devices are you going to buy for your school or business? If you're like a lot of our customers, you've had in mind what you want before you started to shop around. And it's probably iPads.

Kids want them. Parents want them. Employees want them. If your organisation has a BYOD policy, you might already have a lot around. However, I hope that you may already have seen that there is so much more to providing a means to effective mobile working than turning to an estate of just one type of 'most wanted' device.

Business purpose

We can, and frequently do provide iPads and other devices to our customers and they have fantastic benefits. But sometimes they might not be right for business purpose. For example in education, they might not be right for the teaching methodology or the subjects on the curriculum. Intuitive, lightweight and capable though they can be, they are not designed specifically for education.

Devices that are specifically designed for education, or for young people, display a myriad of innovations that pay dividends when it comes to economical and pedagogical value. They are tougher, more suited to smaller hands and fingers, and can be carried and dropped without fear.

When Intel was researching the new iteration of its Classmate 3 device, which is 100% manufactured for the education market, the top teacher and student requirement was identified as portability without damage.

Tablets and laptops designed with a school in mind can carry applications that are essential for pupils to be able to complete subject lessons, such as full versions of Microsoft Excel and Word. They are simple to operate and as intuitive as the consumer device equivalent, and, crucially, they are able to work in conjunction with other devices, sharing and transferring information between student and teacher, to allow for BYOD or mixed device estate situations.

The same can be said for businesses in industries such as transport and logistics, who require mobile devices to track deliveries and process orders. Not only is a rugged device essential, but preference should be placed on one that can be easily adapted to business needs and secured from potential theft.

It's not that there's no room for consumer devices like iPads in schools and businesses, there's plenty. It's that there's room for other hardware too.

Purchasing decisions

So, my advice to anyone looking to draw some conclusions, and taking purchasing decisions back to their purchasing director, whether in a school, college or business setting, can be summed up in four points:

  • Look beyond the aesthetics of a device now – think about what it will look like after a year and whether it is robust enough to survive that use
  • Create a list of the applications and programs that your staff expect to use in the next year, and make a decision based on which devices can support their choices
  • Rather than making an immediate order for your chosen device, speak to your suppliers, tell them what features and functionality you need, and let them help you choose a suitable solution
  • Think about integration – how will your new investment fit together with your legacy IT hardware and current infrastructure to deliver benefits for the medium to long-term?

With these points in mind, you'll be much better prepared to equip for your needs.

  • Simon Harbridge is chief executive officer at Stone Group, a leading provider of ICT Solutions to UK public sector and education organisations

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