IT execs hope iPad, PlayBook can boost decision-making process

Chevron and TD Bank have started evaluating various tablet devices in efforts to improve workflow

Tablets like Apple's iPad and the upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook will change and improve the way corporate employees work and make decisions, contend IT executives at Chevron and TD Bank. Both companies are evaluating and running trials on such devices.

"New mobility strategies are going to change the average workflow in companies," said Peter Breunig, general manager of technology management and architecture at Chevron, in a telephone interview Wednesday prior to speaking at the winter meeting of the Innovation Value Institute Consortium in Toronto.

"The presentation of information [to decision-makers] will change," Bruenig added. "What you can do on an iPad or other tablets gives IT different options for presenting information quicker and connecting the [worker] to the information."

Breunig said that connecting executives with business intelligence data while they are away from their desktop computer will likely have a profound effect on the speed of decision-making. "In 1990, it was the PC desktop with Excel, but now you can give them mobile platforms that are more powerful and more compact," he said. "That's like having calculators on steroids, with tie-ins back to corporate data stores. That's an opportunity, in my mind."

Breunig said that Chevron is starting pilots with multiple mobile devices, including the BlackBerry. He added that he hasn't yet handled the BlackBerry PlayBook 7-inch tablet that Research in Motions expects to ship in the first quarter in North America.

Breunig said he likes the idea that the coming PlayBook can be tethered to BlackBerry smartphones used by workers. That feature would enable more security through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, he added.

"You worry about security and you worry about policy changes over who owns the devices," Breunig said.

IT managers have long raised concerns over how a corporation can protect its sensitive financial and personnel data on a device purchased and owned by an executive or sales manager on the road.

IT managers are especially concerned about protecting information on devices after the owner has left a company. Analysts say Research in Motion is addressing the issue in its the BlackBerry Bridge software that will run on the PlayBook.

"Who owns a device and the data...is an issue we have to work on," Breunig said "It's not as simple as it sounds."

TD Bank is currently running trials with iPads and also plans to evaluate how PlayBooks and other devices run customer-facing applications used by mortgage specialists and investment advisors, said Dave Codack, vice president of employee technology and network services.

"We absolutely see the benefit [of tablets]," Codack said in a separate interview prior to the conference. He said said the firm is testing nine different patterns of work with 250 workers in separate trials that will finish in late 2011 and 2012. For example, mortgage specialists will test the use of a tablet to take an order while visiting a customer in a home, he said.

The PlayBook "has the security fabric built and intuitively that [device] makes sense," Codack said. Tablets and workforce applications on them are "not revolutionary, but help you think in a forward-looking and value-added way."

Finding more ways to be forward-looking was the reason Codack said he was attending the winter IVI conference.

He wanted to determine whether IVI's approach for making IT investment and operating decisions could be put to use at TD Bank. The financial services firm has a federated approach to IT systems, where several CIO's run various pieces of the operation. The IT operation may benefit from a more comprehensive approach, he said.

IVI has created the the IT Capability Maturity Framework,which has been compared to better-known IT management schemes such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library and Six Sigma. About 100 companies, including Chevron and five other other global energy producers, are using the IVI process, said Martin Curley, an IVI director and global director of innovation at Intel.

Bruenig said Chevron is "really just adopting" IT-CMF as a way to infuse innovation and find efficiencies as the company undergoes IT changes that began more than two years ago after the arrival of a new CIO.

Curley said Chevron and the other five major energy companies compared IT operations in the past year to benchmark ways to lower IT costs and add value to their organizations.

The use of tablets and other mobile devices are seen by all the IT-CMF companies as a way to push out critical company information in different ways as well as "to receive and capture information in ways that managers couldn't before," said Ralf Dreischmeier, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. "There's a further level of richness [with mobile devices] that companies never had before," he said. "You can be a much more efficient player."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about it leadership in Computerworld's IT Leadership Topic Center.

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