Managing iPads in the enterprise is simple and hassle free, according to the IT Manager of a Victorian council that has adopted 18 of the devices.
The council in question is Alpine Shire, a local government area 300 km north of Melbourne that is home to the Victorian Alps.
The council has deployed iPads for three applications, one of which is conducting remote asset inspections so that staff can enter data about items like bridges and footpaths. Councillors and senior managers also use iPads to view documents, helping to cut an annual printing and copying budget of $6,000 along the way. Staff at the council’s Visitor Information Centre also use the tablets to help them sell advertising and other promotions.
Collings says Council started with two iPads – it purchased one and won another at a conference – and initially trialled them for use with its asset inspection application. A port of that program into a web application format did not work well on the iPad, thanks in part to mountainous terrain and spotty 3G wireless coverage. A native iOS app developed under the iOS Developer Enterprise Program has been more successful, thanks to its facility allowing users to load business apps onto an iPad without also publishing it into the App Store.
Collings and his team have created a set of apps they pre-load onto iPads before handing them to staff, who then receive extensive training on the apps to ensure they will quickly become productive. Users’ Council email is configured, and Collings offers to include their personal email address too.
The IT Manager says he has experienced “some issues with versioning” as apps become incompatible with changes to iOS, but that this is easily remedied by a quick synch with iTunes in the office to update any broken apps.
If necessary, Collings will update iOS itself, but says “we don’t update unless people have a need for it.” Lacking a management app to do bulk updates, Collings performs them manually but says “We haven’t had an iOS update problem so far.”
Collings is unfussed if iPad users chose to synch their iPads with personal iTunes accounts and add other apps.
The iPads are proving reliable. “We’ve only had two issues, in both case the SIM was not detected and we fixed it by turning the iPad off, removing the SIM, re-inserting it and re-starting the iPad.”
Collings has, however, decided that the working life of an iPad is unlikely to exceed two years. One reason for that decision is that the current fleet will pay for itself in two years by reducing paper consumption, but another is that he does not want to lose access to innovation in a fast-moving product category.
“We are awaiting the iPad 2 and we are hoping there is a camera in the next model,” he says.
“We’re thinking about a camera for future apps and want to give users the real benefit of the iPad. We did not want to just give users email.”