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CIOs looking for ways to say yes to the iPad in the enterprise

CIOs are looking for ways to say yes to the iPad in the enterprise, despite the technological and cultural challenges associated with new mobile devices.

Is it possible that the iPad is becoming the apple of IT's eye?

That's the impression you'd get from Rich Adduci, CIO at Boston Scientific Corp., or Jo Hoppe, CIO at Parexel International Corp., or CIO Allan Hackney, who's in charge of IT at John Hancock Financial Services. They were among what seemed like a torrent of CIOs with an iPad-in-the-enterprise tale to tell at the recent CIO Executive Leadership Summit in Boston.

IPad fever raged halfway across the country at the recent Fusion 2011 CEO-CIO Symposium in Madison, Wis., where the buzz was all about enterprise mobility. Kristin Kirkconnell is testing iPads with 100 sales agents before rolling them out to the 4,000-some agents of Madison, Wis.-based American Family Mutual Insurance Co., at which she is senior vice president of IS. Don't ask for the details, please. It's a project that "could really give us a competitive advantage," she said.

Consumers love iPads. Business executives flash them on planes and trains. More than 80% of the Fortune 100 have deployed or are testing them, according to company executives in a discussion of Apple's first quarter results, the latest available.

But IT-sanctioned deployments of the iPad in the enterprise?

"People are surprised by how quickly it is happening," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president in the mobile device group at Gartner Inc. "Our main advice to CIOs has been to go out and get one and make sure you know what this thing is, because like it or not, it is coming into your enterprise."

IPad in the enterprise: Toy or tool?

In fact, Gartner's exhortation may be moot already. Go to any gathering of CIOs these days, from Boston to Wisconsin and beyond, and chances are good that many of your colleagues are not just using an iPad. They also are brainstorming about how to deploy the iPad in the enterprise -- at scale, in a way that ensures the corporate data is secure and accommodates the trend to employee-owned devices (aka BYOD, "bring your own device"). They are comparing notes on mobile device management products, exchanging tips on tablet security and seeking advice on stocking up their enterprise-hosted app stores. Whether they're deploying iPads to thousands of field reps (as is the case at John Hancock and Boston Scientific) or building an iPad application destined for hospital bedsides to track managed hospital patient trials efficiently (as contract research organization Parexel is doing), CIOs appear eager to say yes to the iPad in the enterprise.

If you think about it, the iPad is an extension of the iPhone. It's the same device, from an IT perspective.
Carolina Milanesiresearch vice president, mobile device group, Gartner Inc.

The push, by the way, is not coming exclusively from the business, said Ted Ritter, senior research analyst at The Nemertes Research Group Inc. in Mokena, Ill. He has seen a tremendous spike during the last three months in inquiries from CIOs about the iPad specifically and tablets in general, he said, adding that he had just got off the phone with a CIO who had won an iPad at a conference this year. "Within a few weeks, all her direct reports had iPads and the security guys were scratching their heads trying to catch up," he said.

IPhone opened the door for the iPad in the enterprise

The rapidity of iPad adoption in the workplace might be surprising, but IT departments' embrace of it is not so mysterious, Gartner's Milanesi said. "If you think about it, the iPad is an extension of the iPhone. It's the same device, from an IT perspective," she said. The iPhone sneaked into the enterprise on a platform that was not optimized for the enterprise on a number of fronts -- notably, security. "We got there over time. The iPad came in with a platform that the IT department felt comfortable with," she added.

The new tablet form factor might well call for more security, simply because employees can carry more content on it, experts agreed. With the hardware encryption that came with iPhone 3Gs; with the work by the likes of Cisco Systems, Citrix Systems and others to develop applications for managing these devices; and with Apple's own marketing push, if not technical assistance, to make these mobile devices more enterprise-appropriate, the uptake of the iPad in the enterprise makes sense, Milanesi said.

Certainly the cultural and technical challenges of managing large deployments of mobile Apple devices are not as formidable as they were for CIO Dick Escue, who oversees IT at St. Louis-based RehabCare Inc. Before he launched iPhones for employees and, later, iPod Touches for some 10,000 therapists, his tech services guys had sounded the alarm on the iPhone, he recalled. RehabCare was a BlackBerry shop. Prepare for an onslaught of requests for the iPhone, they said, and warned him to "make a preemptive strike and kill it" while he still had time.

"I said, 'Here is what you are going to do. You are going to go to the Galleria [the local shopping mall] and buy 12 of these devices; and as soon as Exchange is on them, we are going to give them to every vice president in this company, because you're right, they do want one,'" Escue recalled. He instructed IT staff to report to him how long it took to load Exchange, and said he would check with the help desk a month later on how it went. "The answer was, it took seconds to load Exchange; and we never got a single phone call."

Dr. No a no-no

That was Escue's department's first step, he said, of "not being typical IT, saying no to everything," but he didn't have a lot of company. Some the now-recommended best practices for adapting consumer technology to the enterprise had not taken hold yet: enterprise-hosted app stores modeled after native Apple app stores, for example. An enterprise app store lets CIOs draw boundaries around which external apps employees can download, and shrouds internal enterprise apps from public app stores.

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Plus, because there were few use cases and the technology was immature, peer feedback was limited about other best practices: employees' self-registering their personal devices and freeing up IT from providing support, for example, and using certificates -- unpopular on laptops, but critical, according to some experts, for providing a good user experience. In addition, the now-burgeoning mobile-device management vendors that profess to help with all that stuff were scant, said Escue, who went with MobileIron Inc. because of its Apply iOS savvy.

"We refused to be that IT department that was always saying no to everything," Escue said. "If you are really going to think you are going to stand there as an enterprise and say no in the face of unbounded technology for the consumer, you're foolhardy."

That doesn't mean saying yes indiscriminately, Escue stressed. RehabCare's early deployment of iPhones and iPod Touches allowed the company to significantly reduce the time it took to assess and document patients eligible for rehabilitative care, and boosting business.

Parexel's Hoppe agrees. She oversees IT in a highly regulated industry dealing with life-and-death matters and highly confidential data. IT there does not adopt new technology willy-nilly.

"It is a balance of risk and innovation, and requires some discerning eyes," Hoppe told her peers in Boston.

If Parexel had adopted electronic health records three years ago, for example, it would have wasted a lot of time and money because the standards were in flux. On the flip side, Hoppe's IT department is building a system to automate Parexel's Phase 1 critical trials, which are done in hospitals, are data intensive and require constant patient monitoring. iPads will be used extensively in the implementation, she said. "This is an area where early adoption made sense because of the business applicability."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer.

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