This is the second in a series of articles on whether an iPad can be a useful productivity tool for a consultant.
The iPad has become a nearly constant companion at work, a trusted colleague that I’m coming to rely on more and more. It’s beginning to feel strange if I don’t have it, and even stranger if I need to make a note the old fashioned way with pen and paper. That’s a good thing, because it means that the iPad is proving to be useful. And admittedly, I was hoping it would be, but I’ll try to not let that influence the results of this experiment.
For most of my career I’ve heard about the mythical paperless office. One of the most noticeable impacts that the iPad has had at the office is the amount of printing I’m not doing anymore. Most of the time I’m only printing something because I need to give a hardcopy of something to someone else. Various sources seem to suggest that the average office worker consumes somewhere around 10,000 pages of paper every year. I’d like to think that I was nowhere near that number even before using the iPad, but I definitely know it’s less since I’ve been using it. If I look at just one example, an average status report for one of my weekly meetings is about five pages long – that’s anywhere from 20 to 25 pages per month – maybe not much in the grand scheme, but considering that the report just ends up in the recycling box at the end of the meeting, it’s a needless consumption. Multiply by various meetings throughout the week and the number does begin to add up. I’m not suggesting that the iPad alone will give us the paperless office, but it’s a step in the right direction, at least for me.
Here a document, there a document, everywhere a document – it’s all about accessing the information you need, when you need it.
I wouldn’t be able to reduce my reliance on printing paper if I couldn’t get at the documents I needed. Luckily there are quite a few options to make this possible. Documents at my current client’s site are stored in SharePoint, and fortunately there is a wireless connection that allows me to connect directly to our SharePoint site using the iPad’s Safari browser; from there I open whatever document I happen to need (with one exception, but I’ll speak to specific document type issues in another article).
Documents that someone has emailed to me are easily opened from the Mail application; there’s native support on the iPad for pretty much every popular form of email services, including Gmail (which I use for my personal account), and Exchange (which is used both by my client as well as by Online). Of note is that I can easily access both Exchange accounts at the same time, something that I can’t do as easily using the Outlook client on my laptop (unless I use my desktop browser to access one of them).
If I know I’m going to be somewhere without wireless access to my client’s network, there are a couple of other options I’ve been employing. I either open the document while I’m still connected and “print” as a PDF to my iPad’s internal storage, or store the document using a cloud-based storage service; currently I’m using DropBox for that purpose.
The point is that I haven’t come across a situation where I couldn’t (at least with a bit of foresight) get at the documents I needed. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but it’s not my fault. No, really.
A few weeks ago, while away from the office, I couldn’t access anything despite the fact that my iPad was showing a strong connection to my provider’s 3G-network. It took a few phone calls and a trip to one of the provider’s brick-and-mortar locations to get it resolved. I never did get a good explanation of what happened, other than they “needed to reset something” at their end. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, other than I hope it doesn’t happen again. It reinforced how reliant I am becoming on the iPad; I suppose we often take things for granted, until they’re no longer available to us. And I suppose that’s also another sign that so far, there’s more fact than fiction to this story.
Next month I’ll talk about using the iPad to take notes and write documents. As always, if you have any thoughts, questions or comments, feel free to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.
Read all the posts in this series:
Conclusion - http://ig.obsglobal.com/2013/03/the-end-is-near/