From the February 2012 digital issue.
One of the most frequent questions I have received in my CPE presentations and consulting engagements over the past year is; “Why do I need an iPad for my firm?” It’s an excellent question because it is an important strategic decision as to whether or not you should start deploying these in your firm. While they are relatively inexpensive on an individual basis, the investment can rise significantly when you purchase them in bulk.
Now that I have had the opportunity to use an iPad for the past year for both personal and business use, I have come to the conclusion that even at the current price levels for these devices, an investment in a tablet can be justified for every “information worker.” Of course, accounting and tax professionals are some of the most intensive information workers in business today, so I believe the baseline justification exists. My basis for this conclusion is that it is all about personal productivity. Employees in general are an expensive investment and professionals to an even greater extent. Therefore, if we can provide them with tools that allow them to get things done more efficiently, at a reasonable investment, then we should.
As a point of reference, the focus of this article is on the use of tablet devices in an accounting and tax practice. However, I make a number of specific references to the iPad simply because it is the de facto standard for the tablet device market with approximately 70% of the market share according to a report released by International Data Corp. for 2011. I believe that the tablet platform will become much less important in the future because the most successful app developers will build their applications to work on all of the major platforms.
Can I replace my PC with an iPad?
This is probably the second most frequent question I get asked about the iPad. I think it is important to understand the role of the tablet vis-à-vis the PC or laptop. iPads are not designed to replace laptops, rather their role is to complement them. The iPad is essentially a utility tool that extends the reach of your information system. Think of it as a “consumption device” for consuming information such as viewing documents, conducting research via the web, participating in online meetings and video conferences, and working with e-mail.
Your PC or laptop is the “production device” that is designed for data entry and information processing such as entering transaction data, creating spreadsheets, composing documents, etc. There are definitely overlaps between the two devices and many people who currently utilize a laptop only as a consumption device can forgo the laptop in exchange for a tablet. But for most accounting professionals it is more appropriate to have both tools at their disposal.
140,000 apps and counting.
That’s how many “apps,” or applications, were available on the Apple AppStore at the time this article was written. They are what bring life to the iPad and expand the scope of its functionality. The iPad comes with a core set of apps that for many business users can be enough to justify the investment. A quick rundown of some of the more practical “built-in” apps include:
Mail – Allows you connect to multiple email accounts, including synchronizing with MS Exchange.
Calendar – Synchronizes with MS Exchange to keep your calendar up to date while you are on the go.
Contacts – Maintains a database of contact information that can also synchronize with MS Exchange
Notes – A traditional Yellow note pad for composing meeting notes and attaching them directly to an e-mail message.
iBooks – the library for storing and reading your eBooks and PDF files.
FaceTime (iPad 2 only) – This app lets you have a face to face video conference with colleagues, clients and others.
Reminders – A simple app that keeps track of your to do list. These will sync with your to do list in MS Exchange.