The IT group is also making a concerted effort to communicate with users more frequently, and it has instituted programs like an "app tip of the week" email newsletter.
Solving Support Issues
While the iPad and other tablets may be relatively easy to use, experienced tech managers say IT should still come up with a formal training program to acquaint users with the utility of new devices and to let them know about any new usage policies and application delivery mechanisms.
Software giant SAP has rolled out 3,500 corporate-issued iPads in its finance, executive management, sales, marketing and service units. At SAP, Web 2.0 technologies like wikis and other new self-service support tools are playing a key role in acclimating users and in easing the help desk's support burden, according to CIO Oliver Bussmann.
"We have a central place where users can go to learn how to use functions, find out what apps are available, [learn] how to use the apps, and to get answers to general questions," he explains. "We needed to beef up first-level support, knowing that there would be a groundswell of devices, and we had to educate users to utilize self-service online."
At RehabCare, CIO Escue isn't overly concerned about the support burden on IT. His group helps users connect their iPads to their home computers and encourages them to make their devices their own for personal use. His thinking: "We suspected they'd take better care of the device if it's got their personal stuff on it."
The strategy seems to be paying off. Internal statistics show that the number of device replacement tickets submitted to the help desk plummeted from 1,800 in 2009 to fewer than 150 in 2010 (including smartphones, laptops and iPads).
RehabCare IT currently supports just under 1,000 iPads, 2,000 iPhones and 9,000 iPod Touches, which it uses as inexpensive wireless devices that allow part-time and freelance workers in the field to access the company's healthcare apps.
For now, Escue is content to stick with the corporate-owned mobile device strategy and Apple gear. Nevertheless, he is mindful of the broader changes under way, and therefore he can't rule out supporting other tablets and platforms in the future.
"While our policy doesn't preclude people from bringing in their own technology, if we truly support [a bring-your-own-device policy], then people might go out and buy other devices," he says. Rather than trying to exert control over users' technology choices, Escue adds, "the smart thing to do is embrace the technologies and leverage the heck out of them."
Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.