Why Tablets Are the Future For Distributed Teams

If you’re serious about giving your distributed team the best possible tools for maximum productivity, tablet computing devices should be at the top of your equipment list. The time will come when operating without a slate in a remote working situation will be a major disadvantage that few companies will not have rectified, so it makes sense to anticipate the curve and start deploying them well in advance. Why? Because in the same way that they’ve changed consumer approaches to everyday computing tasks, so too can they change the nature and composition of a remote worker’s average daily productivity picture.

Tablet > Smartphone

Tablets, be they Android (s goog) or iOS-powered (s aapl)  (I’ll reserve judgement on RIM’s offering (s rimm) until it actually hits the market) make tasks that are a chore on a smartphone — like tackling and actually responding in full to email, document reading, making edits to presentations, annotating PDFs (s adbe) and keeping a creative notebook — a breeze. In fact, the only thing a smartphone really has going for it over a tablet is portability, since in most cases, so long as you have a data connection you can use a tablet to make voice or video calls one way or another.

For many employers, issuing a smartphone also won’t be necessary as much as it has been in the past, because of increasing smartphone adoption in the consumer mobile market. While the tablet market saw explosive growth in 2010 thanks to the iPad, and promises to top even that performance in 2011 with the introduction of Android 3.0-powered devices, they still won’t be nearly as prevalent as smartphones, and so attention would be better-focused on getting tablets into worker hands.

The In-Between Gadget

Tablet computing exists somewhere between smartphone and traditional computing. Making sure that distributed workers have the entire spectrum covered will ensure there are fewer potential gaps in their daily workflow. The tablet can operate as a “just right” middle ground solution, perfect fro tackling tasks that were too demanding to complete on a smartphone, yet not worth the effort of taking out a laptop and getting it booted up.

My iPad does this especially well when it comes to communication. Where my iPhone lets me provide the most basic answer required to communication requests via email, IM or social media, the iPad lets me provide a complete response without a substantial time investment, with quicker turnaround and in situations where I’d normally not prioritize immediate action. Because I feel able to do more, in other words, I will. Tablets, like smartphones before them, decrease the number of excuses for inaction and stimulate greater productivity.

Inward and Outward-Facing

Tablet computers are unlike smartphones and notebooks in that they are not only useful among team members and employees, but also as client-facing sales, marketing and reporting devices. They lend themselves to sharing and presentation.

If you or your employees meet with clients or customers on a regular basis, a tablet is a device that pays dividends in terms of the impression it gives off. An attractive wrapper makes a hard sell easier, and a bitter pill less difficult to swallow. Not only that, but it represents your company as cutting-edge and able to adapt to the rapid pace of technological change. And combined with proprietary apps, tablets can keep your branding and message cohesive, even if your sales or service force operates strictly on a distributed basis from a decentralized office.

Technological fads can seem to come and go, but the tablet isn’t just a fad. It’s a true game-changer for business that’s here to stay, and it’s tailor-made for the continuing rise of the distributed workforce. But to say that the two go hand-in-hand would be to understate the need for business and distributed workers to act; obvious benefits aside, tablet adoption needs to be driven by key enterprise stakeholders from the ground up. The earliest voices evangelizing this change will be the ones longest remembered.

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