When the CEO Gives iPads to All: One CIO's Story

What happens when your CEO decides to give iPads to thousands of employees as a surprise reward? One CIO who had to make it happen shares his advice.

Last summer, KLA-Tencor, a Silicon Valley semiconductor equipment maker, rebounded from the market doldrums to post annual revenues of $1.8 billion. The happy CEO surprised the company's 5,400 employees by telling them that they would each be rewarded with a shiny, new iPad.

"The whole euphoria of an iPad started, and we had to get into high gear," says CIO Ashwin Ballal, charged with the massive iPad rollout. "That's when my nightmare began."

While not officially supported as an enterprise device, the iPad would be allowed to tap into KLA-Tencor's network for e-mail, calendaring, contacts, Web apps and other purposes. Customer-facing sales and service technicians could use the iPad to access critical data over a virtual desktop.


[ Find out why one company is ditching sales laptops for iPads, reports CIO.com. | Check out 15 best iPhone apps for newbies. ]

Just call the help desk and get started, right? Ballal envisioned hordes of people calling once or twice in a span of a few days to find out when they would be receiving their iPads and how to hook them up to KLA-Tencor's network. "That's a good 10,000 calls to the help desk," he says. "We don't have the capacity to take that load."

The Enterprise iPad Frenzy

More CIOs will be facing iPad excitement: The iPad enterprise adoption wave has been swelling ever since the iPad began shipping last April.

Today, more than 80 percent of the Fortune 100 are deploying or piloting iPads, up from 65 percent in the September quarter, Apple said in its earnings call this month. iPad enterprise customers include JPMorgan Chase, Cardinal Health, Wells Fargo, Archer Daniels Midland, Sears Holdings and DuPont. "Generally, enterprise is much slower and much more cautious and uses things that have been in the market for a long time," said Apple COO Tim Cook. But companies have seen the value of the iPad, he said, "and they're really moving fast, and so I think we're just scratching the surface right now."

KLA-Tencor's Ballal didn't have a choice about the speed and timing of an iPad rollout. The CEO had made a promise to give iPads to employees as a form of appreciation; when you promise someone an iPad, you can't wait six months to deliver one.

So why couldn't KLA-Tencor just ship the iPads to employees? Employees wanted the gadgets right away, even though half lived outside the United States. "The big thing was the logistics of getting these devices to different parts of the world," Ballal says. "It was all the nightmare of shipping. The iPad wasn't yet released in the different countries when we rolled this thing out. We learned a lot about logistics."

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