By Pat Brans
We spoke with Sue Kozik, Senior Vice President and CIO of Independence Blue Cross (IBX) to gain insight into what CIOs are thinking about tablets in the enterprise now and in the future.
Mobile Enterprise (ME):
What is the role of tablets in the enterprise now and in the near future?
Sue Kozik (SK):
Inside corporate America, we see iPads becoming the device of choice in a supporting role to desktops and laptops. However, they are largely limited to a convenience capacity — responding to emails, browsing the internet or reviewing documents. Tablets, more so than smartphones, allow employees to stay connected and caught up.
For the most part, tablets have yet to replace laptops and desktops, but in the near future we believe this will change significantly with the onset of Windows 8. Windows tablets and convertibles will support the entire Office suite as well as other enterprise client side apps. With their compatibility and transparency for enterprise applications, we believe that Windows enabled tablets and phones will eventually become ubiquitous.
The “tipping point” has arrived where smartphones and tablets are outselling and beginning to displace laptops and desktops. Policies such as BYOD, as well as the entrance into the workforce by the next generation — who grew up with and are conversant with technology — are examples of catalysts that will push tablets to the forefront.
This isn’t a surprise since the three key items to drive technology are present — convenience, lower cost and added capabilities.
For what specific business processes do you see tablets used?
We would equip our sales force with tablets for mobile access to CRM. In fact, this is a key area where our IT department has had significant input from our sales business partners. The ability to take existing CRM solutions that were supported in a laptop-only model can now be opened to the tablet area. And it will be seamless with the announcement and rollout of Windows 8 and the supporting MS Windows 8 OEM tablet market.
IBX already supports iPhone and iPad for office-based messaging and calendaring capabilities, and we are in the process of introducing the Windows 8 platform. We know that in this ever-changing healthcare landscape, we need to be nimble and continue to evolve to meet the needs of our business partners and customers.
Are there any job roles at IBX that might require a rugged device, where a consumer tablet wouldn’t stand up?
In general, I believe tablets definitely need a degree of rugged and robust design (for example, the use of Gorilla Glass, scratch proof, drop proof and so on), and I suspect that all users of this technology expect that level of rugged capability. That said, as a health insurance company, we don’t experience the same “rough” treatment of technology that utility or telecom linemen have in their daily routines. So, we don’t have this particular requirement in our business.
How do you see the tablet form factor evolving?
The most important thing is battery life — this goes for all mobile devices. Without the ability to have at least 6-8 hours of continuous use, tablets will be severely hampered in the field. I’m looking forward to see long life batteries — ones that last two to three years before replacement.
In addition, screen size is always a problem. I am excited about new technology emerging around organic LED (organic light-emitting diode or OLED). This technology has low power consumption, allows for flexible thin device display and can literally be folded or rolled up into your pocket.
Therefore, it has the potential to have a small lightweight footprint that’s flexible and can expand to large sizes at low power. This is really exciting! I noticed that Samsung previewed a device at CES.
Eventually, tablets will be everywhere. We see early Windows tablets not being 3G- or 4G-enabled, which can limit adoption. But this will change over time.
Do you predict the tablet will replace the laptop computer?
Yes. The tablet is a rapidly growing marketplace for our consumers. On top of that, we are in a very complex healthcare environment, so IBX is looking at ways, through mobile solutions, to make the healthcare experience simple and meaningful for them. We are also enabling our associates with greater mobility and leading-edge tools. Our goal is simple: make it easy, make it happen and show we care.
What are the challenges in managing tablets as part of a broader device management strategy?
The challenges aren’t too different from our current policies and the way we support smartphones and other mobile devices. We have made infrastructure technology investments in security, monitoring, and remote control for smart-phones; and we see tablets falling into this same control category.
The biggest challenge in managing tablets or smartphones is the line of control, so security and remote control will continue to be on the forefront — especially as we go through the process of updating our BYOD policies. For example, we need to decide how much leeway we allow. Specifically, how we balance permitting the users to install and control their own devices with our standard software installation footprint.
Do you have a preferred tablet OS/device?
Like many others, here at IBX, we continue to watch with interest the Apple versus Windows versus Android battle for the consumer and the enterprise. We are leaning toward supporting Windows 8 OS for its ease of interoperability with our installed applications, ease of migration and other more sophisticated security and operational controls.
Do you see a big demand from employees for “BYOT”?
Yes, we are seeing increasing demand from employees to bring their own tablets and smartphones to work to use for both their personal and work needs. We support BYOD within the limits of our security and infrastructure policies today. We are currently reviewing plans to further expand the use of BYOD throughout our company in 2013.