Tablet PCs and the Mobile Small Business

— By Jill Billhorn, vice president of small business, CDW

Mobility started as a trend and blossomed into a tech necessity that’s picking up speed within the small business community and across all industries.  Small businesses everywhere are reshaping business models to accommodate and empower their employees through the use of both personally-owned and company-owned mobile devices. 

With the rapid advances surrounding mobility in the workplace, business owners and managers are sometimes left wondering if the introduction of tablet PCs at work is actually improving business. Does working a tablet in addition to a traditional desktop or laptop increase employee productivity?

The good news is that we know there are definite benefits to employees using mobile devices. But what are the potential hurdles? How can small businesses determine what types of features and functionalities employees want – and need? And how can you put your small business in the best position to succeed? 

Why Choose Tablet PCs? Why Now?

Allowing your workforce to use tablets is critical not only to maintaining a competitive edge, but also to boost productivity and your organization’s bottom line. The Tablets@Work poll, conducted by technology solutions provider CDW found that 84 percent of employees using tablets for work say that the devices make them better multitaskers. 

On average, employees are spending a little more than two hours daily on their tablets, gaining more than an hour of productivity each day. 

The Tablets@Work poll also found that the use of tablets in the workplace is on the rise with employees using personally owned (59 percent) and company-owned (34 percent) mobile devices to increase efficiency on the job.  These findings reinforce the results of CDW’s recent Small Business Mobility Report, which found that 94 percent of small business mobile device users agreed that mobile technology makes them more efficient. 

What Do Employees Want in a Tablet?

In the Tablets@Work poll, respondents identified various functionalities and features on their ideal tablet “wish list.”  Respondents pointed to email, long battery life and Web browsing as the top three must-have features on their wish lists, indicating that practical functionality take precedence when it comes to executing work tasks on tablets.

1. Preparation Equals Smooth Mobile Integration

As with any technology trend, taking the time to prepare will make incorporating tablets into the work environment much easier.  Here are a few tips to consider.

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

In order to reap the benefits of mobile devices, it’s important to set realistic goals that are specific to your unique business needs.  Do you want mobile devices to increase efficiency and productivity? Consider a pilot program using small groups of employees within each department. This can help determine the ideal feature set for your mobile devices. 

This may include devices with longer battery life, industry-specific applications, durability, Web browsing capabilities or applications that support document development.  The key is to get on board with mobility, but not without research into how mobile devices can help your small business.  Identify the greatest benefit that mobile devices can bring to your workplace – focus and build from ther.

3. Security is still the name of the game

Do not overlook the importance of a layered security system when incorporating mobile devices into your workforce.  There are multiple ways that unwanted users and/or wireless connections can pose a security threat to your business. 

Network Access Control (NAC) gives IT managers better control security by letting them customize user privileges for various employee groups and for guests.  All mobile devices that access your network should be equipped with a strong security system complete with password protection, encryption and multi-factor authentication

4. Have a solid mobile device management (MDM) solution 

An MDM solution applies software with policy and security management capabilities across different operating systems or platforms.  When incorporating mobility into your workforce, it is critical to have a solution in place to properly manage employees and their devices.  An MDM solution can help, and it should always include application management, policy and inventory and security management.

Small businesses continue to grow as they adopt mobile technology in order to remain competitive in today’s market.  When used correctly, mobile devices can increase your small business’s overall agility, productivity and efficiency.

Jill Billhorn is the vice president of small business at CDW.

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