Blog Post

Could I do 80 percent of my work on an iPad?

As part of the recent IBM (s ibm) announcement, Tim Cook recently said:

“There’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t be like that. Imagine enterprise apps being as simple as the consumer apps that we’ve all gotten used to. That’s the way it should be…”

Since I’m a big proponent of using an iPad for productivity, I thought I take a look at how much of my time could be spent using an iPad to do my work.

I have two jobs: my day job, and my freelance writing business. For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to eliminate my freelance job from this equation. I’m doing this because my freelance business tends to focus on the iPad anyway, and as a writer all I need is an app that accepts text inputs. Also, my freelance business doesn’t take up much of my time — probably about 5–10 hours a week.

So, for this article I’m instead going to focus on the 40 hours I work at my day job. My day job I work as a business analyst working to help business lines in my company improve workflows and help implement IT projects. I’m also responsible for administering our web-based project management (PPM) tool.

By the numbers: how I spend my work day

I reviewed my time sheets for the month of May and found that my time was spent in the following ways:

Project work: Time spent in project-related meetings and working on deliverables. The tools I use for these tasks are Word, Excel, Visio, and OneNote. My chief deliverable is a Business Requirements Document, which lists the requirements that must be fulfilled as part of the project.

Break-fix: Handing day-to-day administration of the web-based PPM tool. I can use any modern browser to do this.

Reporting: Time spent generating reports from our PPM tool. The majority of my time here is spent in Tableau.

Team Meetings: Weekly team meetings. For the most part, I take a few notes, but most of the meeting is a general discussion about topics that filter down.

OOO (Out of Office): Vacation time. Yeah, I am so not working on day job stuff then.

The chart below shows how I spent my time during the month of May.

Screenshot 2014-07-25 10.05.30

How much of my day could I spend using only an iPad?

When I’m in a meeting, I can get by with only an iPad. Most times, I do only bring my iPad. It’s perfect for taking a few notes and referencing material that’s been emailed prior to the meeting.

Of the tasks I perform, there are a few that I simply can not do on an iPad. The Tableau app only has a reader on the App store; I can’t edit any of my workbooks. Since that’s the entirely of the time spent in Reporting, that whole slice counts against the iPad.

I then broke down the time spent on Project work as follows:

Screenshot 2014-07-25 10.05.53

Meetings are easily an area I can use an iPad. I’m already doing this. Most of the time I will only bring an iPad with me since it’s perfect tool to take notes or reference material distributed prior to the meeting. I’d say 99 percent of my time in meetings I either could just bring my iPad or already do.

Our process for creating the requirements documents involves three general tasks: creating the actual requirements listing in an Excel template, running a pivot table to group the requirements into sections, and then importing them into Word. In Word, we write the narrative around the requirements — the business problem to be solved, the current and future state of the system, and any gaps between the two states. A Word macro then formats the requirements properly. Lastly, we use Visio to create any diagrams we need.

The actual writing I could do in Word on an iPad. I’ve never done it, mind you, but if my work laptop (a Windows machine) was having a problem I could get by with my iPad. I would likely need an external keyboard and because of how heavily we use Styles in Word, I’d need to have the document already created. Word on the iPad can read the styles in an existing document; it just can’t create them. I also couldn’t run the macro to format the requirements as Word on iOS doesn’t support that — and I don’t see macro support happening for a long time, if ever.

The Excel component I also can’t really do on the iPad. There are a lot of references to other tabs in the spreadsheet that are collated onto the area we write the requirements. While it’s possible I could make light edits, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that task on an iPad.

Diagramming on the iPad is in a state of flux. Omnigroup is no longer selling OmniGraffle 1 on the iTunes Store while it works on version 2. There are no details on their site about the new version, but a key one for me the ability to read and write Visio files. Version 1 didn’t and I don’t know if it will be added.

Also, because so many pieces of my Requirements Document come from different apps, how hard it is to move data between apps aids to this problem. It may get a little better with iOS 8, but I expect it will take time before apps start communicating better.

When I took a lot at the percentage of time I could use my iPad as my main device, I got the below chart:

Screenshot 2014-07-24 19.17.02

It comes to about a 49 percent to 51 percent split, with the non-iPad side slightly winning. Remember, a huge part of the non-iPad time is taken from my Reporting task. One task, in my case, severely affects the results. I had a pretty good idea where I spend my time, but had never really sat down and determined how much of my day I could use an iPad. Included in this number is the break-fix time since that just needs a web browser.

Final Thoughts

How people spend their work days is obviously variable. I think the results I came up with are expected for anyone who uses a computer; some tasks can be done on an iPad, some can’t. In Tim Cook’s case, as CEO of Apple he’s probably not spending a gigantic amount of time using a reporting package to generate a report — he’s got people for that. Like most managers, I bet Tim spends a lot of time reading reports that have funneled up the chain. Tim can also cook the books (ouch, bad pun) a little since he works for the company that makes the iPad and his computer. Like many tech companies, Apple eats its own dog food, so I’d expect it to be on the leading edge of iPad usage.

In my case, I expect my iPad usage at work to remain the same; it’s great for meeting and notes, but not so great for generating my documents. One thing I have thought about, though, is writing the narrative to my documents on the iPad. I want to see how iOS narrows my focus and if that speeds up that portion.

20 Responses to “Could I do 80 percent of my work on an iPad?”

  1. Cliff Stamp

    Really, it fascinates me so much that so many of you are debating the fine points of iPad use but can’t seem to get down a small paragraph without typos and grammar errors. Sloppy. If your message is important enough to put out there, it’s important enough to get it right all the way through. Again, most amusing.

  2. The better question is what percentage office workers could do 100% of their work on an iPad? I would bet the number is high. For decades, PCs have been used as ‘terminals’ for hosted (internally or SaasS/Cloud) applications simply because PCs are so cheap. And SaaS/Cloud is taking an increasing share of the computing work-load.
    The big hold-out is Microsoft Office, which as fended off attacks, also for decades. Nadella wisely sees that this is his fortress and must be defended by cloud offerings and by support on the iPad.
    Looking long range, ARM 64, Metal, and SWIFT ensure that the iPad and iOS will increase in capability, gradually increasing the percent of the work-load they can handle.

  3. Andre Andraos

    Users today have more choices, other than Office, for productivity apps, If you factor that in, plus the the advent of the corporate cloud computing apps, mobile devices will be the only device you’ll need. The PC’s are still relevant, for now, while the technology evolution to mobile devices takes hold. Just like workstations gave way to desktops that gave way to laptops will give way to iPads – it’s just a matter of short time!

  4. Richard

    I like my iPad and MacBook, but love my Surface Pro 3… a full function device in an amazingly slim form factor – and with both touch and full mouse, keyboard and app/programme support (+pen/ink)

    (and a nice high resolution 12″ screen)

    Great device that I suspect the writer could do close to 100% of his work on.
    (and connect to a display port large screen / plus USB peripherals so act as a full fledged desktop too .. so saving costs on buying both a pc laptop and iPad device.

    I’m sure someone will knock my comment based on earlier Surface versions or just a lack of ever having tried one – but Microsoft really have rapidly evolved the Surface range – and the Pro 3 is a remarkable device.

  5. I use my ipad with a Bluetooth keyboard all the time. Anything that I can’t do natively on the iPad, I just use Microsoft Remote Desktop for, from my ipad – so your Excel/Macro and tableau stuff would probably work fine. Assuming you have a PC you can remote log into.

  6. Could you just go online and use Google tools? I do this on my Asus laptop. I think the only thing I would be missing would be remote keyboard, mouse and connection to a 32 inch tv used as a large viewer.

  7. Barry Davis

    I could do most of mine on an iPad. I am a business analyst as we’ll but the company I work for uses vendors and most often their BA’s write the requirements. Most of our time with requirements is reviewing them for mistakes which often there are a lot. The rest is meetings, UAT testing, and for me project management since my major projects are now moving outdated workflows to a new platform. Got to get rid of all of the spreadsheets and emailing used to simulate workflow. I would be more interested in talking or herring about your experiences being a business analyst since I am still green.

  8. kleronomia

    Do 80% on an iPad? Lie. And an advertisement to the empty-headed ones out there with money to burn. iPads, ipods, and iphones are for talking and playing. When it’s time to work sit down somewhere with Windows and start typing.

  9. Obviously depends on what your job is and how you work. I suspect most CEOs could get by just fine with an iPad, especially if they have a decent full-size Bluetooth keyboard. 80% (or more) of their time is probably spent in either email or reviewing reports and documents created by others.

    For other staff in the office, maybe not so much.

    • hundoman

      So how do you protect a CEO’s data when even with the best mobile management solution as there is no way to completely, via policy protect any iOS device.

      Apple has no valid Apple ID licensing policy for corporate needs since they are completely consumer focused.

  10. Great write up. I agree with the 50/50, that is similar to my work day as well. However, to fill the other 50, Ive started using an Amazon Workspace to fill the gap on my iPad. Just my 2 cents.

  11. Steven L.

    It’s important not to confuse “could do” with “could do comfortably”. I don’t use Break-fix so I can’t address that specifically, but it’s pretty common for webapps to treat iPad displays simply as 1024×768. Which is a good thing, I suppose, because at native resolution many on-screen elements could be rendered unusable. However… 1024×768 is really cramped these days.

    Also, without a mouse, one would be forced to do the up-down dance between the display and keyboard pretty constantly. God help you if you decide to skip the hardware keyboard and just use the touchscreen: there goes half of your display real estate…

  12. hundoman

    I can do 100% on my Windows 8.1 Pro tablet with full Windows OS support as well as I have full touch OS support. Also don’t forget the included keyboard option so you can actually get some real writing done.

    • Hildy J

      Not to mention my Win8.1 tablet has a stylus to ink notes directly in OneNote or highlight a presentation I’m giving in PowerPoint. And while small companies may not have a suite of security software, mine does, and it all runs on Windows – OSx (or Linux)is iffy and iOS (or Android) is dead in the water. Ditto with Extranets, web conferencing, and a lot of training software.

  13. Is it iPad or iOS that is the issue? The only apps I can’t run on my Mac are very specific MSFT apps, like MSFT Project. If a client says they have to have Project, I’m stuck with running Windows in a window using parallels. Other than that, the iPad discussion is only slightly different.