iPad-Photo1-300x198Many of us have embraced the iPad or it’s competing sister, the Android “Pad”, as a personal device or a cool gadget.  And, while the iPad is truly a great personal device, its capabilities have real application in business.  Why use the iPad in your business? Just like most technology, it’s all about being more efficient.

10 Ways you can use the iPad to add value to your business

1. Notes. Between internal and external meetings, I typically attend at least 15 meetings per week.  It is really hard to keep track of notes.  On paper, they end up scattered all over between briefcase, folio, and desk.  By using an app like Evernote, which syncs notes in the cloud, I never lose notes, and have access to them from the iPad, my Android phone, and my PC.  Plus, the iPad just seems less impersonal in meetings.  It doesn’t give the impression like sitting behind a laptop, that I am surfing the web, while everyone else is discussing something important.

2. Handwriting. If you’re not too into typing, there are some good apps to do handwriting recognition, or just store handwritten notes.  Consider an app like 7Notes, and a stylus pen of your choice to get setup for handwritten notes. Incidentally, 7Notes has a plugin that lets you recognize handwriting and store to Evernote.

3. Product Literature. People like feeling high tech.  Using a device rather than paper promotes a progressive image.  Using the iPad to display product information in the form of a PDF or other file is not really that high tech, but it looks good, saves paper, and with one touch the literature can be emailed to the client.  If you want to see the glitz of tech in action in a retail environment, just check out the Apple Store.  Every piece of product display literature and signage is on an iPad with electronic checkout from an iPhone with a built in card swipe.  What kind of image does Apple promote? Very efficient, and even cool.

4. Microsoft Office. But it’s Apple, right? It has to be a hassle to read Microsoft documents. Wrong.  There is a multitude of free or low cost applications that allow both reading and editing Word, Excel, and other traditional  PC formats. Check out Quickoffice for a start.  For help with transferring files, consider Dropbox or box.net.

5. Communication. Need to communicate with video? Cameras, mic, and setup are built-in. Use Skype, or for a more business oriented approach try Webex, GotoMeeting, or Fuze HD.  The iPad offers a lot of freedom to move around and be portable, even while chatting, at least if you stay in Wi-Fi range.

6.  Staying current. The iPad is great for staying up with your reading.  Trade publications and technical reading are made easy with a variety of news sources and applications.  I like the CNet app for tech news.  Almost every news and magazine outlet has applications available. The kindle reader also comes in handy for reading a variety of material, including a number of free books available on business topics.  In addition, most libraries have electronic books for checkout using Overdrive, Kindle Reader, or a variety of readers including Adobe.

7. Capturing Information. The iPad is great for capturing pertinent information.  Consider using its camera like a scanner.  On the road and need somewhere to store expense receipts?  Take a photo.  Need to capture a document like a contract?  Take a photo.  Use an app like Cardscan or Camcard to scan business cards.  If you have gone electronic with your documents using Laserfiche, consider using the iPad app to capture documents, convert into full text searchable records, and even start a workflow to, for instance, approve your expenses.

8.  In the Field. The iPad works great for quick notes and for photos.  A building inspector might use it to gather information, photos, and even a quick copy of a blueprint.  A builder or subcontractor would find value in documenting the building site, or sending a photo of the completed job, or an unforeseen issue.  With the right backend system, the information collected could initiate a work process at the office.

9. Manufacturing. If you are a manufacturer you may find use in QA, or even on the production floor.  It is a great way to provide production drawings or info to employees. Consider making that job  electronic rather than paper.  What benefit might come from always having the latest drawing on the floor via iPad, or having an associated checklist updated at every step of the way?

10.  Forms. We have long been filling out paper forms for almost every possible reason.  Sure, forms can be made electronic with the PC, but that does not solve the portability issue.  The portability of the iPad opens lots more opportunity.  Consider using the iPad for employees who don’t have computer access.  They could fill out their HR forms from a shared (and maybe tethered) iPad.  New employees could fill out applications this way too. The savings comes from the portability and accuracy of the key entered data.  No more translating handwriting.  And, in many cases, the key entered data can automatically feed another system without having to be read and keyed again.

Uses for tablets like the iPad are many.  It’s easy portability, ease of use, and myriad of software apps, make it extremely versatile. It fits needs that the PC and laptop do not.  It is rarely a replacement for these more traditional devices, but it does fill a gap, and open some possibilities that may have been simply not practical in the past.

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