As a small business owner, it’s often necessary to look through the hype of new products to figure out whether they really are useful or just the next passing craze. Without a doubt, there have been few products that have generated more craze than tablets, and, in particular, the iPad, which my company uses.
The Big Picture
First, it’s important to think of the iPad as part of a larger overall approach to technology and not a stand-alone device. Taken on its own, the iPad can make your everyday workflow simpler and more reliable. It really flexes its technical muscle when you consider it in the context of your team’s mobility, communication, organization and data sharing. Add the integration with cloud computing and millions of apps, and the iPad becomes an extremely powerful hub of information technology.
The Simple Every Day
You probably use a calendar to manage your days, a task list to maintain your commitments and contacts to keep track of people in your life. With its most basic functions, the iPad will replace a paper calendar, task list, and phone book and organize it into one device. I can remember rewriting my tasks from one page to another of my Franklin planner to clean up the mess and distraction of completed items. When appointments moved, I’d be scratching them out or drawing an arrow up to the correct time. All of these changes on the iPad are tap, drag and edit, and all of the information is stored in one place that goes where you go. Add in the power of the iPad’s connectivity and cloud computing, and all of this vital information is backed up and synced to your other devices automatically, most commonly with Apple iCloud and Google Documents. Make an appointment on your iPad, and it shows up on your computer and smartphone.
Having this information backed up also ensures you won’t lose anything if one of them is lost or stolen. All tablets, including Android- and Windows-based tablets, operate similarly.
For as long as I can remember there has been a focus in remodeling on finding ways to breach the communication barrier between the field and office. The cloud system and email on iPads do this.
By placing iPads in the field with our project managers, we have eliminated the need for paper-based binders. We place all of the relevant documents in the cloud, and our project managers have access to what they need when they need it. As client selections are made, our selection spreadsheet is updated in the cloud. Things like appliance specifications, architectural details, etc., no longer require a trip to the jobsite to drop them off. That cost savings alone more than pays for the devices.
We implemented email in the field years ago with smartphones, but the iPad’s larger screen and touch keyboard make it much easier for our team. When an email conversation is happening between a client and our office, we carbon copy the project manager, so he can stay in the loop. This avoids mistakes and miscommunications while enabling our field team to participate.
Sales, Selections and Client Vision
Have you ever tried explaining to a client what something will look like? On an iPad, you can show him or her a photo of what you’re discussing, and the client immediately can tell you whether you’re on the right track. Remember, your clients don’t really know how to tell you what they want. They just know it when they see it, and they will be more confident in their decisions when they’ve seen photos first. I probably don’t have to tell you the value these same photos can have during a sales presentation.
During the sales process there also is a lot of information gathering. Because the iPad is a small mobile computer, I use a word processor, spreadsheets, sketching apps and the iPad camera to collect this information and keep it in one place. The information then is easily shared with my estimator or subcontractors when we do the project pricing.