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Either the title got your attention, or you thought “Yawn. Another article about the iPad. How boring, it’s just another boy’s toy”. And this is what happened when I took my iPad home to my mother. But, you can’t deny how easy it is to use – give an iPad to a 3 year old child and you will see how long it takes to get Cinderella up on YouTube.

And this epitomizes the problem – the iPad signifies a paradigm shift in thinking for those of us in Generation X, which is where most of the people in the enterprise software market sit. For Generation Z (aka Digital Natives) like my niece, there’s no paradigm shift to be had – the iPad is wired into her brain already and there was no World Before YouTube.

Life before the cellphone

One of our sales execs, Nick, remembers life before the cellphone. He remembers leaving a sales meeting and having to drive down the road to get into a Red Telephone Box, where he would spend 30 minutes feeding coins into a silver phone. The perceived benefit of the carphone was contactability and a feeling of control from the sales director.

In fact the business benefit that was eventually realized was much more interesting: appointments could be made and changed on the move and if one customer was unable to meet, another appointment could be made at short notice by means of a simple call. No more travelling from one end of the country to the other only to find out that a meeting had been cancelled, 5 minutes after leaving home.

So What?

So what does this have to do with SAP and the iPad? Well with the cellphone, the salesman was ready to grab technology with both hands. That was in 1988 and 22 years on, salespeople have technology overload. They have their cellphone and laptop and numerous IT based sales tools. Technology is frequently problematic and SAP CRM is complicated.

This is where the iPad comes in.

1) It’s always there for you when you need it

I hate using 3G on my laptop, and I’m an IT person. I get my laptop out, open it, switch it on, login, fiddle around with my 3G card, login to 3G, usually several times before it works, and then go to Google to look up my train times.

Or, I pull my iPad out and open a train time app. I can have the answer from my iPad before I’ve even got onto the internet on my laptop, and with a lot less hassle. It just works.

2) It’s always there for you when you need it – with power

I missed a step last time. I get my laptop out, open it, switch it on and find out the battery is dead. On a good day I get a few hours out of my laptop. More if I get an extension battery that weighs my bag down. Then I get the power out, scurry in the Virgin train for a power point, only to find out that the power points have tripped today. We’ve all been there.

I usually get 2 days of normal use out of my iPad. On a heavy day I come home with 20% battery left, having used it all day long. It is designed to be power efficient from the start and so you don’t have to worry about finding charge.

3) It’s kind to your back

When did we end up carrying so much stuff around? There are days when I come home and my back is literally aching from the piles of stuff I carry around with me, and most of it is technology. There are other days when I go to sales presentations with just the iPad and its projector cable, and those are much nicer days! And remember there’s no point in taking a power adapater with you, you won’t need it until the evening.

Fundementally you are more likely to take your iPad with you, more of the time. Which means it’s there when you need it, and you won’t need physiotherapy.

4) It is a social device

This is harder to quantify and probably something that you need to see to believe. Have you ever sat with a laptop between two people? It is a strange experience because it is a barrier to communication. As if like “this is my laptop, leave well alone”. Looking at someone else’s laptop is prying, it is very personal.

You don’t get this with the iPad. I’ve done sales presentations using the Keynote software on it and you can open the presentation and flip it around to a small group of people (2-3 max). Let them tap through the presentation, and talk at their pace. The iPad becomes a point of social communication and not a barrier.

5) Even your Chief Exec can use it.

I ended up with a spare iPad on the first day of its release, don’t ask why. Our friends in Sybase were kind enough to give me a copy of the Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP CRM – beta, for iPad. In addition I loaded up the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer software onto the iPad.

So I gave this to our Chief Exec, meaning that he had an iPad with his SAP CRM 7.0 accounts on it, as well as his management reports from SAP NetWeaver BW. I’ve not seen the iPad since.

But actually he is a poor example, because he’s pretty tech savvy. I was at a CRM Special Interest Group last week and I homed in on two representatives of a well known global drinks manufacturer that runs SAP. There was mixed feelings as I handed the device over to them, and clearly an apprehension that this was Technology and Technology was for Technologists.

This illusion was shattered seconds later when I just asked them to try to interact with it by guesswork. A minute later they were flicking between account screens, through their sales process in their mind and they had transitioned into my 3 year old neice.

Conclusion 

The iPad changes the game, fundementally. It isn’t about features and whether it has a camera or if the screen is big enough or if it’s a bit too heavy. It doesn’t matter that it will be improved and replaced, and every other organization will try to copy it. That’s just normal in the technology world.

The point is it shatters some universal paradigms of mobile technology. It is easy to use and it fulfills the needs and wants of the sales force. Just imagine being able to sit in front of a customer and tap through the different clothing ranges you have to sell. You create a quotation on the spot, tapping through sizes, colours and other configuration variants. Tap a button to calculate pricing – including all the complicated pricing routines you have in your ERP system – and include customer specific discounts.

And then you close the sales order.

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10 Comments

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  1. Greg Myers
    Although I’m sure many more will disagree.
    I was, just a few short years ago, an Apple-hater. Being an IT Pro who can build my own computers and servers. I hated the closed nature of Apple devices and that they were both Hardware and Software provider.

    The iPhone changed my mind. Namely the iPhone 3G when the App Store opened up. I kept trying to find some other device that would be just as good as the iPhone or do just as much. There simply isn’t one. I know the Andriod fans will start chiming in now, but Android still can’t do what the iPhone does. It’s getting better, but it still lacks that Wow factor.

    The iPad has indeed changed the game again. This is the first time that as an IT Professional, I can see the direct benefits of Apple being both Hardware and Software manufacturer. The operating system is meant for just that one device, and that makes it incredibly fast and efficient. Whoever described the iPad as being able to tear a window off your PC and be able to walk around with it was right. It just works, and works well.

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    1. John Appleby Post author
      What Apple did with the iPhone and iPad was to think about the user experience first and features & functions second. The 5 things I articulated above are more important to salespeople in my opinion than anything else.

      This might be in part due to the autocratic nature that Apple took when developing the iPhone but I think it is mostly that they sacrificed functions for usability.

      My guess is the next raft of companies producing tablet devices will try to compete on features, and they will all miss the point!

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  2. Mark Chalfen
    Great article, really hits the spot. Some of your example really show where the Ipad and other tablets will be used in the future.

    Do you envisage all business users using a tablet (ipad)?

    Would a Finance user (my area) be using an Ipad to process ERP transactions? I believe that the “old” desktop will still have its place for a number of years or am I wrong?

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    1. John Appleby Post author
      There have been some articles writing about why everyone will be using an iPad in 5 years time and I think that’s taking it a step too far.

      This is a subject of a whole new blog but I think devices will become more focussed to process based UIs in the coming years.

      The iPad is the ideal device for a sales process based UI due to the portability and its social nature.

      Clearly what Finance people need is neither of those things, but rather, speed of entry and reliability, perhaps?

      I am certain that if a device was produced that was more focussed on the financial process than a regular PC, it might be popular.

      But you are clearly right – that device is not an iPad!

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      1. Mark Chalfen
        I agree – people wont be using an IPad to run BI reports on in 5 years in my mind.

        The touch screen functionality of the Ipad is amazing, but I dont think Finance users will be postings a journal without using a keyboard.

        Some reports could be navigated via touch screen technology, but how will excel spreadsheets be enhanced? The future will be amazing.

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      2. Gregory Misiorek
        iPads are for reports and iPhones are for transactions. Cocoa and Safari allows access to tables, uhm, schedules (bkpf, bseg, glt0,…), and if you need an adding machine, it’s $1.99.

        how many beans do u need to show and how many to put away for the future?

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  3. Bala Prabahar
    I never ever purchased apple products in the past. I pre-ordered iPad 3G 64gb with no idea of what I was buying. 3 months later, I realize iPad is probably the best purchase I’ve ever made. It just works:) simple, elegant, fast, easy, sophisticated, hi-tech, income possibilities due to holes created by iPad in software dev etc are the reasons why I love iPad:)

    This is a great blog, John!

    Thanks,
    Bala

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    1. John Appleby Post author
      I quite like my iPad too but unfortunately it is usually just another piece of technology in my bag. That’s why I think it is a great sales tool – with the right apps, it is all a salesperson needs.

      I have already heard anecdotal evidence that salespeople are walking back into the offices in large enterprises with their laptops and demanding to swap them for iPads.

      I think that may be a bit premature because the apps don’t exist yet for sales enablement – watch this space though!

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  4. Andreas Vogelsang
    You hit some interesting points here. I also believe that in a couple of years most sales persons essentially will use mobile devices.
    We are just beginning to use all the possibilities these devices offer. And probably not only sales will be affected by it. Probably someone will develop an app especially for finance and then the finance manager wants it as well.

    Just one remark: Please don’t focus too much on Apple products. We also should consider that there are a lot of good products and applications based on open technologies out there, e.g. Android.

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    1. John Appleby Post author
      Hi Andreas,

      I think you raise a fair point but all I’m trying to say is that it is Apple that has changed the game – not Asus and the netbook clones and not the awful Windows XP based tablet devices which were available on the market prior to the iPad.

      Apple has created the start of a paradigm shift and others are following. Those will include the current netbook players (Dell, IBM, HP, Asus) and will include the current smartphone players (Android, Windows Mobile etc.).

      When such a suitable device exists I think that Android et al will get some good press. Do you think that such a device exists now and is worthy of it? For my money, Android is still a little immature to the enterprise mobile market. That will – of course – change!

      Regards,

      John

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