iPad at Work on Dirty Jobs: 5 Lessons Learned

A small consulting firm in the construction business deploys iPads in the field, and learns plenty about the pros and cons of Apple's consumer device in the enterprise. Check out the lessons learned on cases, heat, set-up, and more.

Thu, July 29, 2010

CIO — Nearly a dozen iPads have been put to work on rooftops and in basements at dirty construction sites, from San Francisco to Las Vegas. Joseph Daniels, president of D7 Consulting, a quality-assurance consulting firm, deployed them only a couple of weeks ago—and has already learned a lot.

D7 Consulting wanted to change the way its field employees made out reports, discarding pen and paper for electronic data entry that taps into a cloud service. And so D7 Consulting entered and won a promotional contest put on by Box.net, a hosted content management services provider, for free 3G iPads and service.

Earlier this summer, D7 Consulting employees tore the wrappings from the shiny iPads, signaling the beginning of a two-phase rollout. D7 Consulting is now in the middle of the process, with half of the 20 iPads in the field today and the other half set to go there soon.

Here's what D7 Consulting has learned so far:

D7 Consulting wants to replace this ...

... with this.

1. iPad Greases the Change Management Wheels

Many of D7 Consulting's field employees, called quality assurance observers, are veterans of the trade. Suddenly, they were being told to change the way they create reports, using a new-fangled cloud service, Box.net. Hoping to stem resistance, the straight-talking Daniels delivered a hard line to his 20 or so field employees: "Get on board or get out."

Clearly, D7 Consulting's size gives it the flexibility to adopt cutting-edge technology and mandate employees use it. On the upside, the company's employees are pretty high on the tech-savvy scale.

Nevertheless, CIOs at small and large companies face similar problems in major technology rollouts. There's even a benign name for it: change management. Truth is, change management can be the biggest factor in the success or failure of an implementation at any size company.

The iPad can help grease the change-management wheels, Daniels says. The iPad is one of the most sought-after consumer electronic devices on the market today. When iPads arrived at D7 Consulting's southern California headquarters, people didn't look at the devices with fear or skepticism, rather they eagerly looked forward to using them.

"Almost everyone has used an iPhone or touch device, so getting them up to speed on that device was really a non-issue," says Terrell Woods, design and reprographics lead at D7 Consulting, as well as the in-house tech guru charged with iPad and Box.net training. (As a small firm, D7 Consulting outsources much of its IT needs).

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