iPad’s Entrance into Enterprise Is a Warning Sign for SaaS Companies

Thus far there have been a handful of notable deployments of iPad in enterprise, with companies like Audi and GE embracing the tablet paradigm, but not quite enough to roundly declare iPad ¬†an enterprise winner. Which is why it was surprising when Forrester’s latest report showed iPad sales in enterprise increasing by 68% in the next year.

So if we aren’t reading about massive enterprise deployments of iPad, then where exactly is this 68% percent growth coming from?

Adoption Will be Led by Users, Not Companies

Apple’s biggest iPad sales team are the users themselves. As Forrester points out, the company has made only small amount of formal effort to sell in the enterprise space, so the people driving this major adoption aren’t Apple sales people, but rather the employees of major companies.

In the past, companies handed down devices to their employees and employees were forced to adopt them. However, the change to an “always connected” work environment has meant that more employees are using their own devices for their jobs and this is leading to a consumerization of IT. Whether they like it or not, “iEmployees”, as Unisys calls them, are forcing IT departments to bend to the adoption of their devices of choice, and enthusiastic senior staff members are championing the adoption of iPad.

This isn’t just happening within large companies either. Another one of Forresters insights was that many small business owners are also adopting iPad because they can use it for both personal and business use, and startups like Square have responded with tools to help them make their iPads into business tools.

But will other software companies and service providers be ready when iEmployees become the norm?

Mobile Will Become a Deciding Factor in Vendor Evaluation

The “consumerization of IT” doesn’t just affect the IT departments of large companies – It affects every software and service provider in the enterprise space. As companies move to these mobile devices, they are going to expect the service providers they work with to meet them there, and this will become an increasingly large differentiator when companies are evaluating vendors.

Particularly in the field enablement space, SaaS companies are under pressure to take their product that has been trapped in desktop work stations and get it out into the warehouses, sales floors, distributions trucks and travel routes where it can be most useful.

When Markley Enterprises took their existing warehouse management system and starting using it on iPads rather than from a central work station, they found they were able to reduce the number of steps warehouse employees had to take by 30% and saved them a 1,000 hours a year in order entry time.

Old Mobile vs. New Mobile

Mobile isn’t an entirely new concept for many of these enterprise SaaS companies – they’ve long used specialty rugged equipment, but industry surveys are showing that companies are increasingly unhappy with these devices. 22% of businesses in a 2011 IDC study that the present generation of tablets defined by Apple iPad, are more suitable to their needs rather than their present equipment, such as traditional tablet devices or vertical application devices. Although the study doesn’t dive deeply into why, a one reason may be the large ecosystem of apps that exist for these devices means that they can be used for multiple different purposes, including word processing or employee training.

The senior CEOs and VPs that are driving the adoption of iPad within their companies are the same one who will be making the company’s purchasing decisions for software vendors – something important for SaaS companies to remember as they plan their 2012 mobile strategy.