Is Microsoft Office for iPad the Answer to Enterprise Mobility?

With last week’s news that Microsoft launched Office for iPad, this consumer tablet may seem more attractive than ever as an enterprise mobility solution.
Before making the decision to deploy these consumer devices throughout your enterprise, consider these points:

  1. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
    According to VDC Research, rugged device TCO is measurably lower in comparison to non-rugged device TCO. It costs more to purchase, deploy, maintain and repair non-rugged, consumer devices in business environments than it does to purchase, deploy, maintain and repair rugged devices in business environments. The full report outlines the findings in detail including loss of productivity from non-rugged device failure, lack of accessories to support mobile workflows and inability to support current systems.Also, don’t ignore the cost of Microsoft Office on a device.Microsoft generally charges a monthly fee per device which should be taken into your overall cost calculations.
  2. Enterprise-Readiness
    Microsoft Office will provide great productivity tools for mobile workers, but it does not replace the iOS operating system.Many enterprise applications run on Windows operating system.Deploying a device that doesn’t support existing software and systems means new software or apps will need to be purchased and implemented – increasing costs,training and deployment time.
  3. Your Workflow Requirements

By far the most important of all points to consider is this one.What workflows are you automating and what are the specific requirements of the workers performing those workflows?Understanding your workflows is critical to understanding your mobile device requirements. It will also help define what other mobile technology is needed, such as accessories, wireless services, in-vehicle solutions and software. A mobile device alone isn’t a comprehensive tool for most workflows and . A tablet alone is often not sufficient either.

The first step is to look at how the work is being done now. Then, define what can be improved – or how the work should be performed for the most efficient, accurate result.
Once these are understood, the answers to important tactical questions (like the following) become clear.

Microsoft Office

  • What environment is the worker primarily in?
  • How remote are employees?
  • Can you rely on “an always connected” application, or do you need “store and forward”?
  • Do your workers need a higher amount of power, specific carrying case or a vehicle mount?
  • Is a barcode scanner or camera needed?
  • What operating system is needed to run all the software systems?
  • Is data entered more easily with a keyboard, a stylus or by touch?
  • How sensitive is the work being performed and what level of security is needed?

For example, EMTs need to be hands-free so a carry case is required. Some users will not be able to recharge their tablets during the day therefore an extra battery is necessary. In a healthcare environment the proper positioning of the desktop dock is vital to address. Insurance workers rely heavily on photos, so an intuitive, image capture and documentation software is essential.