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Prepare a Distributed Workforce for a Post-PC World

Last week, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad 2 (s aapl), the successor to Apple’s all-star tablet computer. During the event, Jobs talked at length about “post-PC” devices: what they are, and how they should be best-designed to usher in a new era of computing.

Apple described the iPad as its third post-PC device, with the implication being that there would be many more to follow. And follow is exactly what the rest of the electronics industry is trying to do now; regardless of whether you think we’re already living in the post-PC era, or just standing on its cusp, there are steps that businesses with distributed workforces should take now to ensure they won’t be left behind.

Prepare Tablet SOP and Deployment Policies

Take stock of the jobs your distributed workers are doing. Identify where a tablet might make a job much easier, or even replace a notebook or desktop altogether. If you’re a remote worker yourself, itemize the pros and cons of tablet use and prepare a business case to present to your employer about why it might be a better tool than those currently available to you.

Using input from workers and from company management, establish standards and procedures that govern when and where tablets get deployed, to whom, and with what limitations and expectations. If you don’t use tablets yet in your business, some preparatory work should help expedite deployment when the time comes, and cut down on any potential confusion or work disruption.

Migrate Data to the Cloud

The post-PC era will not involve dumping loads of files and documents onto local storage. Apple devices (s aapl), for example, have a set limit, and when you hit it, there’s no switching out a micro SD card to free more space. It may not be the model that eventually wins, but even so, I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue that hard drive space is at the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to making choices about post-PC devices.

If at all possible, put data in the cloud, either using your own servers or someone else’s, and try to keep it platform and software agnostic. Apple may be handily winning the tablet war, but smartphones are also a class of post-PC device, and Android (s goog) is clearly a contender in that arena.

Focus on Employee Experience

Being post-PC isn’t just about using devices that don’t resemble traditional PC models. As Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky argued in a recent editorial, it’s about providing a satisfying total experience to device users, which trumps any individual concerns regarding specs or component details. Think about your remote worker’s experiences in the same way.

Teams in the post-PC era will depend not on occasional, incremental upgrades to their hardware deployment. It isn’t enough to sign an equipment lease that lets you upgrade x number of Dell (s dell) towers to the next level up every two years, complete with an upgrade to Windows X. This is an outmoded and inefficient way of thinking about tools. Instead, IT deployment should be strictly and smartly needs-based, with the experience of the user as the primary motivating factor.

If you stay stuck in a PC mode when the rest of the world moves into a post-PC phase, you not only run the risk of losing touch with employees, but also with customers and the rest of the marketplace. If you start getting ready now, and keep in mind that a change in attitude can precede any change in deployed hardware, you should be able to keep pace with or anticipate the post-PC curve.

Photo courtesy Flickr user nrkbeta

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3 Responses to “Prepare a Distributed Workforce for a Post-PC World”

  1. When I’m at the airport corresponding with my office on a tablet, how am I doing it? I’m balancing a pad on my lap while I type on a flat screen. Even with Swype (sorry Apple) it’s still not as efficient as a keyboard. If I want to be productive, my tablet needs a keyboard. When I add a keyboard, you have a poorly performing laptop. I’d rather write on the Atari 400 or Timex Sinclair. Yeah, that’s right. I’m bringing in the old man throwbacks. Smartphone + laptop. Done.

  2. I almost got excited when I saw the title for this piece in Google Reader. Almost…

    The Employee Experience section is close to what I expected when I saw the title. But not because of the “experience” word, but because of the “needs-based” approach that was lightly glazed on. The future of enterprise IT is indeed made up of many devices and policies, but IT needs to go back to the drawing board in respect to those policies and device management issues. IT should not drive the experience, it should enable teams to do so. In a sense, not driving the experience, but enabling then moving aside so that users/teams are able to work around the tools they need, without hiccups because of policies or device/software limitations.

    When Jobs mentioned the term “post-PC world” I am sure he meant this, not making another device subset or packaging platform the barometer of whether we’ve moved forward or not.

  3. The problem is that users will want these before there is a real need. So far the iPad has not been designed for working people. I know several people who would love an excuse to get one “for work.”
    But there are design flaws for busines use for example:
    – the lack of USB or VGA port (to connect to projectors)
    – the strong reliance on cloud when some business do not have unlocked visitor WiFi
    – the lack of keyboard (unless you can type long documents while looking down at your lap)

    All make this a consumer not commercial product