The iPad first arrived in US stores on April 3, 2010, a little over two years ago. At this time, there was a sense that this device was going to change things. Change defined as something much more meaningful than hurling an angry bird at a pig. When two-year-olds waddled up to the TV and began swiping it with their fingers to try and move the images, it became clear that the intuitiveness of the device was going to remove barriers to electronic adoption previously in place. Observations were solidified when adults in their late sixties began using the device with ease.

Many in the information business began to realize that this iPad was a game-changing device. It was intuitive, reliable and portable. In a way, it had a few qualities of an old-fashioned, well-designed paper form. The information on the screen was clear, concise and easy to read. But that's where similarities between a piece of paper and the elegant device ended. With this technology, information could travel two ways. With this screen, one could actually read a bill without having to strain their eyes. With this device, one could control the collection and distribution of information in real-time.

Tablets are changing the way business is conducted
While many information professionals had this revelation, many were still considering how the popularity of the iPad and its tablet competitors has changed the way business is conducted. How is business driving the adoption of this technology to realize true business-level benefits? How does it fit in the bigger picture of information management?

Sure the device is nice for the Board of Directors to review reports without having to dredge through piles of paper reports or carry those heavy laptops around, but what about the meat? What about the cost savings? What about the speed to market? What about the instant access to better information? What about instantly measuring and forecasting across the enterprise to improve the bottom line? Has the device been able to make its way out of the boardroom and into the field of knowledge workers?

Well, the short answer is yes: its happening and businesses are reaping the rewards. The edge in mobile data collection and distribution of information is in the ability to deliver a complete range of bottom line benefits through innovative digital solutions that allow companies to better manage their knowledge. To achieve this requires a different way of thinking with regard to how business gets done. Legacy systems that support core functions are not built for this type of communication and to successfully deploy tablets, a transformation needs to occur.

Keys to Business Transformation

GET YOUR TEAM members on board. These changes affect the entire organization: marketing, IT, accounting and more. Be sure to get buy-in at the department level to assure a successful transformation, making sure all departments understand the benefits to the organization as a whole. They will be more likely to help the project succeed if they believe they are part of the process and not being forced to do something they don't really understand.

ALIGN. The transformation is a chance to assess business objectives and how the processes, systems and technology currently in place are supporting them. Ideally, after the transformation, you have created alignment with business goals and the process and technology are working in a manner that directly supports the business.

MEASURE. Take special care in measuring the impact you will experience through the transformation. Where are you when you start? Where do you expect to be afterward? What is the bottom line impact on the business? Are they working? Where do we need to focus our efforts to improve and realize the results we wanted?

Enter the platform
Best practices for interactive, on-demand and structured document design and distribution dictate a single centralized platform to manage communication assembly and delivery across all channels, including the tablet. Think about your own user experiences. People jump from their smartphone to their laptop, to their iPad and then to their desktop computer faster than an angry bird can fly into a pyramid of pigs. Others may never even touch an electronic device and stroll to their mailbox for their information. Managing these communications in multiple disjointed systems can not only end up driving your IT department crazy, but it can damage the brand, the customer experience and reduce retention rates. A single, flexible platform eliminates silos and inefficiencies that can occur when organizations adopt new ways of communicating. While we know more changes are on the horizon, no one knows exactly what those changes will look like. Therefore, platform flexibility is extremely important. Certainly, data from systems throughout the enterprise will be at the core of the communications. This means data needs to be aggregated and accessible via the centralized platform so it can be leveraged and increase the relevance of communications.

Platforms also need to provide workflows that audit the internal assembly and approval of the communications regardless of delivery channel. This allows for tight compliance control and gives management insight into previously murky IT procedures and approval processes that are often hidden in a myriad of emails. Business-level users must be able to use the platform to create and make changes to communications without involving IT, speeding time to market and allowing for more nimble customer communication.

To bite the bullet and create the foundation for communication, both internal and external allows companies to realize many of the bottom line benefits the tablet can offer. They can now ask themselves some questions: Where can tablets be deployed to serve the business? Where are the opportunities for quick, quantifiable ROI? How can our information be leveraged to grow the business? Below are a couple examples of how a solid platform foundation and tablets are impacting the business.

Tablet makes way into healthcare & insurance industries
In only two years, the tablet has found its way into doctors' offices, replacing clipboards, and operating rooms, collecting real-time operational information that is then used to improve patient care. Nurses hand patients the tablet to collect information on outcomes like post-op flexibility and pain levels. This information then makes its way into centralized databases that allow caregivers to measure their work against others performing the same procedure thousands of miles away. Healthcare executives are using this information to improve the way they do business (cost per surgeon/per procedure) and the way they care for patients (linking procedural information to patient-reported outcomes).

Now consider the insurance vertical. The insured are entering auto accident claim information, taking pictures, recording notes and being advised on where the nearest auto repair or salvage facility is, all on apps. Adjusters are using tablets to go to accident sites or salvage facilities to assess damages on vehicles and are getting real-time estimates. Information and signatures collected on tablets end up on regulated forms that are delivered to the consumer in various channels, including email, paper mail or apps, on their own personal tablet.

"In the last couple of years, our needs for digital forms management and document creation have evolved such that we required a software platform that helped us standardize our forms from both a company and compliance standpoint, implement new forms and products more quickly and efficiently, and provide improved flexibility with our forms-design that allowed us to communicate with our customers more effectively." - President, large auto insurance company

So, what's next?
As the tablet market matures and as prices fall, so will the barriers that keep people from communicating electronically. Is paper going away? Absolutely not. Consumers will use paper for many years to come. Can paper be decreased from business processes and internal information exchanges and rewards gained? Absolutely.

Right now, there is a desire for many companies to understand how to leverage the use of the tablets to benefit the business. Many IT departments have been directed to develop apps to support various information exchanges for lines of business, which is great and a move in the right direction. But to truly align the business with the technology the tablet offers, data must be organized, content must be organized, processes must be scrutinized and systems must be aligned. All of which is much more complicated than sliding your finger across the screen to hurl a bird at a pig.

MIKE MULCAHY is vice president of new business development for OBRIEN. He has extensive experience in implementing complex technology solutions such as digital billing and marketing, streamlined form/document/content management and multichannel delivery with an emphasis on compliance and security. Mr. Mulcahy's broad skill set and experiences serve as a foundation for seamlessly working with and across operations, information technology, marketing, customer service, and other functions critical to the implementation of complex solutions.