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How can IT select the best tablets for business?

Choosing business tablets doesn't have to be a chore, but it does take consideration. IT must know what tasks employees need to do before deciding if tablets can bear the load.

Today's workers want tools that can help them get their jobs done as efficiently as possible, whether at the office, in their homes or in hotel rooms halfway around the world. Tablets can often fit the bill.

But IT departments can be a predictable lot, gravitating toward what's easiest to manage and support -- both in the short term and over the long haul. There's good reason for this, as most administrators have enough problems without adding to their loads. Thus, IT shops must carefully consider which tablets to add to the mix.

One of the most important factors IT must determine, when choosing tablets for business, is what workers need to stay productive. Some need the heavy lifting that goes with Windows. Others need to run only certain types of apps, and do better with the more user-friendly environment that comes with a mobile OS.

Tablets are not going to be appropriate for all users.

When IT admins do choose tablets for their organizations, they should determine what tasks users need to perform and what apps they require to accomplish those tasks. Tablets are not going to be appropriate for all users, and the users who need tablets for business do not necessarily require all apps. Many organizations have already created a wide range of mobile business apps, so implementing a new iOS device, say, is a natural evolution.

The flip side of the productivity coin is the user experience (UX), which IT must also take very seriously. To some degree, UX comes down to what people are used to and how much change they're ready to embrace, which can be highly subjective and unpredictable.

Choosing a tablet based on UX is not straightforward and can come down to the technical specifications of the tablets. For example, consider how the iPhone and iPad have been instrumental in getting users to rethink their work habits. To a great degree, Apple set the standard in what enterprise users expect from mobile device usability.

Before selecting an enterprise tablet, identify what tasks users need to perform and what it takes for them to perform those tasks. Certainly, the ability to integrate tablets into the organization's current infrastructure is an important consideration; so is whether the tablets can help users to be more productive, and whether the devices meet their UX expectations. If IT fails to meet these two requirements, then it doesn't matter how easily it can integrate tablets for business needs.

Think you know enterprise mobile devices? Put it to the test.

It can be a chore to pick the right mobile devices for business users. Put your knowledge to the test with this quiz on Samsung devices, iPhones and more.

Be careful of thinking only in terms of tablets as a desktop replacement -- despite the hype coming out of both Microsoft and Apple. If all users need is a smaller, cheaper desktop, a tablet might not be the answer. There is little point to bringing in a device designed for portability if the users themselves are not portable.

Tablets can be powerful tools to help users get their jobs done, and both the Surface Pro and iPad Pro can offer the enterprise a number of benefits. Despite their differences, they share many of the same features, with portability and flexibility at the forefront.

Whichever enterprise tablet IT chooses, there is likely to be a period of adjustment for both administrators and users. The growing pains of tablet adoption can be well worth the effort, as long as the right tablets end up in the right hands.

Next Steps

Discover the best business uses for tablets

Driving factors behind enterprise tablet adoption

Could tablets usurp desktops in the enterprise?

This was last published in February 2017

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