The hyper-portability of tablets drives worker productivity

The hyper-portability of tablets drives worker productivity

Summary: Drawing from new Forrester data, J.P. Gownder explains how tablets are driving business success by increasing worker productivity.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Tablets
9

Technology’s value to a business derives at least in part from its ability to increase productivity. The 1987 Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Solow demonstrated that technology increases the productivity of both capital and labor to create economic growth.

Some technologies radically reshape productivity. Take, for example, the cotton gin (1792), which fundamentally transformed labor. A quote from Wikipedia claims: “With a cotton gin, in one daya man could remove seed from as much upland cotton as would have previously taken a woman working two months to process at one pound a day.” By profoundly increasing worker productivity, the cotton gin revolutionized both the textile and agricultural industries.

We’re living through several technological revolutions of our own right now – in, for example, cloud services, mobility, and big data. One technology that leverages all three to some extent is the tablet, a device I follow very closely.

Tablets drive worker productivity through a variety of vectors. One of those vectors is portability. In our Forrsights Hardware Survey, we asked IT decision-makers who either support tablets today or plan to support them soon why they would do so. IT decision-makers’ #1 answer, at 62%? Because tablets are a “more portable form factor than the traditional laptop.” This response eclipsed end user preferences, ease of use considerations, and other possible answers.

So I&O is on board, but are workers taking advantage of this hyper-portability? In our Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, we asked global information workers who use PCs and tablets (respectively) where they use each device in a typical week. We found that:

  • Tablets empower workers to be productive in (far) more places. The Figure below shows that information workers use their tablets much more often than PCs in heterogeneous locations. The differences are significant for use in a different room or building at work, or in another work location or client site. The differences are vast for truly mobile locations like coffee shops, or for use while traveling or commuting. Tablets span the gamut of locations, while PCs don’t.
  • PCs, in fact, dominate only in one spot – at the work desk. Workers’ desks haven’t gone away, even if 29% of workers fall into the category Forrester calls “Anytime, Anywhere” information workers. Today, 91% of workers say they use their PCs at their desks. Certain hardcore computing tasks – think the creation of complex spreadsheets – might optimally be accomplished on a PC (or Mac). But the growing picture is that of a primary computer used at one’s desk, but a highly flexible adjunct computer – a tablet – being used everywhere else.
  • And tablets are rivaling PCs as the go-to device for taking work home. The #1 spot where information workers who own a tablet do work on it? At home: 68% of tablet users say they do so, compared with 43% of PC users. For applications related to staying connected – email and instant messaging, for instance – tablets fit the bill nicely, obviating the need to take a full-fledged work PC home on evenings and weekends.
pc_tablet_work_locations

Workers have become very adept at making both contextual device trade-offs (choosing which device to use for a particular task at a particular moment and in a particular context) and what we can call device hand-offs: Cloud sharing and storage services (whether via Dropbox, iCloud, Skydrive, SharePoint, or any number of others) facilitate device hand-offs, which involve using multiple devices to complete a task in iterative fashion. As a worker, I can (1) start the creation of a document on my PC or Mac, (2) read the same draft later on my smartphone while waiting in line to get lunch, (3) make edits later at home on the couch on my tablet, and then (4) share the document with a variety of co-workers from any of my devices. I have iterated across multiple devices on multiple occasions to accomplish my work goal.

Device hand-offs allow mobile workers to fit more work into a given day, optimizing the form factor they choose to suit their context and goals. Other Forrester data shows that workers are engaging in more computing applications, more often, in more places, and across more devices. They can complete work tasks more quickly, with higher quality, and – just possibly – more creatively. 

While perhaps not rising to the revolutionary impact of the cotton gin, tablets are nevertheless driving business success by increasing worker productivity. 

Topic: Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Love research papers

    Cram as many buzz words, and current trending references into a paper as possible, and try to blind from the fact that you've actually just pointed out the obvious.

    "People use PC's more at their desks, not on the bus/sofa",
    productivity, blah, portability, blah, cloud, blah, revolutionary, blah, blah.....

    PS: What is it about America, that you guys just don't feel happy unless you can work at every waking moment of the day? Have a break. Don't get that waterproof phone in case you need it in the shower......
    Boothy_p
  • Too much distraction

    Email has already been proven to be a time-gobbling monster with detrimental effects on productivity. Things get worse with all sorts of messaging clients popping up in short intervals and detracting way too much attention from the "real" job/task.
    Not only does the average office worker has email and msg. clients installed on her laptop/PC but also on her smartphone leaving less and less time for focused work. WP8 gets on step further by asking for attention via its "live tiles".

    That being said, just because someone can "work" (?) during commuting or traveling doesn't mean she really is productive. The average tablet has dozens of apps installed bearing no relation to work but inviting to play around. For example the iPad was never meant to be a business tool contrary to a PC which was an office tool from the very beginning. Only later then games took over.

    To turn a tablet into a productivity tool the employer would have to de-install all that geek stuff and install just business related apps. Additionally, a security system would have to prevent further installations performed by user = "I want my games back".
    EnticingHavoc
  • Tablets (Android/iOS) a thing of the past

    Why pay a data plan for (2) smartphone/tablet when both are capable of doing the same thing for the average Joe? Why not a phablet when it has both pros & cons of the smartphone and tablet (Android/iOS)?

    I find it more useful having a full capable machine (laptop) to do work and if I need to check my email then I would use my smartphone. If I need to send a file from my laptop then just plug in the smartphone to the laptop, transfer file and send.
    lares3k
    • Hopefully you aren't in Management

      Actually @lares3k you fall into the "I don't get it" category. This group is largely comprised of the sedimentary layer of IT-middle-management dinosaurs that enjoy lounging in tar pits when they're not business-disabling the companies they work(ed) for. Laptops are great for things they excel at, the same is true for Tablets & Smartphones. The key to successful business enablement is allowing users to leverage these technologies in a safe & productive manner in a way that fits into THEIR personal workflows & habits. Imagine that if you would: "Happy Users that are actually MORE productive than every before" because you enabled them too.
      smoody
      • you know smoody

        Why can't you make your point without insulting somebody. You must be really smart I bet.
        rickscr
    • I would counter that my tablet is making my smartphone a thing of the past.

      More and more the ipad mini is my go to device at home, commuting, breaks, meetings. Both of my phones are now doing the job my blackberry did 3 years ago... Email, a bit of surfing, phone stuff.

      I had an ipad 2. It didn't happen... It sort of replaced my netbook in instances, but was more non-professional stuff. My nexus 7 got the ball rolling, but was limited by wi-fi only. When I replaced it with my mini, that was it; smartphones semi relegated to backup devices... And phones. So much so that in fact when they get replaced I won't be looking anywhere above the £200 price point.

      Phablets may be good for some, galaxy s3/4's for others. This is the balance that works for me. Just use what's right for you. Until you try them, you don't know.

      My tablet makes me far more productive as at work I'm in work mode, but now I make notes and look things up commuting too.

      The arguments that BYOD makes your employees less productive with more distractions is spurious; those of us that go to work to work, will work, those that are lazy, disinterested, chatting all day will be that too.
      MarknWill
  • Tethered to Smart Pad May Be Hurting Productivity

    Being tethered to a smart-pad for the purpose of being "in-the-loop" may be cluttering the corporate communication paths and disrupting "real" work activities. Instead of focusing on the needs of your customers you may be spending your time spinning your wheels courting the whims of your managers.

    Ask yourself the following question ... "Are you spending more time cross communicating with management then you are providing a service to your customers?"
    StevenDDeacon
  • Cost of productivity and technology???

    So what is the ROI of allowing these additional technology devices into the mix? How do we justify a desktop and tablet and a smartphone and, and .......whatever is next on the horizon?

    As a college, we are struggling to justify the added costs of a tablet/ipad, especially when a staff member may already have a laptop and a smartphone. When a laptop is priced at $ 1,000 and now a Surface with all the components is equal to or more than the cost of a laptop, how do we justify that flexibility?

    Or we want an ipad to add to my laptop because my laptop is not flexible, too heavy, short battery life......Now the price of technology just increased $ 500! And for what? A device that allows me to surf and check email, but limited in what i need in an application tool.

    In times of tight budgets and do more with less, I am hard pressed to deliver unless we can truly define the ROI.
    jdburgs
    • Tablets for reading

      Tablets are great for research and education as a tool for reading. Phones too small and laptops does not make a good reading experience. Often you also have your computer screen open to write while you check things on the iPad. If you are cash strapped, maybe you shouldn't buy $1000+ Macs... Also you could use a $150-$250 Android or Windows phone instead of a more expensive iPhone... Of course I am comparing the real prices without expensive contracts.
      Oden79