iPads run amok: Does your company need a tablet policy?

With tablet mania in full swing, should IT take charge, back off or strike a middle course in trying to control everyone's new favorite gadget?

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"We have a central place of information where users can go to learn how to use functions, find out what apps are available, [learn] how to use the apps, and to get answers to general questions," he explains. "We needed to beef up first-level support, knowing that there would be a groundswell of devices, and we had to educate users to utilize self-service online."

SAP's MicroApps Gallery classifies apps into three categories: internal, external and playground.

Internal apps, of which there are currently fewer than 10, give traveling employees access to CRM, ERP and internal social media services; external apps, now numbering around 50, are built for the SAP sales teams to demo to customers; and playground apps, of which there are about 40 to date, can be upload to the gallery by anyone to solicit feedback from SAP colleagues.

'Embrace the technology'

Back at RehabCare, CIO Escue doesn't appear to be overly concerned about the support burden on IT. His group helps users connect their iPads to their home computers and encourages them to make their devices their own for personal use. His thinking: "We suspected they'd take better care of the device if it's got their personal stuff on it."

The strategy seems to be paying off. Internal benchmarks show that the help desk group had 1,800 device replacement tickets in 2009, and that number plummeted to fewer than 150 in 2010 (including smartphones, laptops and the iPad).

RehabCare IT currently supports just under 1,000 iPads, 2,000 iPhones and 9,000 iPod Touches, which it uses as inexpensive wireless devices that allow part-time and freelance workers in the field to access the company's healthcare apps.

For now, Escue is content to stick with the corporate-owned mobile device strategy and a commitment to Apple gear. Nevertheless, he is mindful of the broader changes under way and thus can't rule out supporting other tablets and platforms over time.

"While our policy doesn't preclude people from bringing in their own technology, if we truly support BYOD [bring-your-own-device], then people might go out and buy other devices," he says. Rather than trying to exert control over users' technology choices, Escue adds, "the smart thing to do is embrace the technologies and leverage the heck out of them."

Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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