Tablets Take Root running a business

When I think of tablets — the iPad in particular — I think of watching videos, browsing the web, and enjoying games. Putting things off, in other words. But what if there’s a legitimate place for tablet computers in the workplace?

Infoworld recently ran an article about a New York law firm named Proskauer that equipped its sizable team of lawyers with iPads. This wasn’t merely a generous bonus for a job well done. Proskauer’s attorneys are now predicted to use their tablets for their primary computing hardware: “Today, more than 500 Proskauer lawyers use iPads to generate superslick PowerPoint slides, Excel spreadsheets full of sky-high figures, and verbose Word documents. Lawyers pass this electronic paperwork back and forth among clients. They even present material on their iPads to judges.”

The utility of tablet computing is especially evident in the medical care setting. As more medical practices change to electronic health records systems (EHRs), doctors and nurses are finding that using portable hardware is a natural (and necessary) shift.

And tablets are spreading far beyond the clinic and courtroom. CIO.com recently published a slideshow of tablets in action (hat tip to Infoworld). You can see these slim instruments at archaeological sites, on the battlefield, and even in the cockpits of planes.

For Proskauer, the switch to a tablet-centric office had its hiccups. “Rolling out the iPad actually turned out to be quite a significant investment in time, much more than I would have thought,” said Steven Kayman, chair of the technology committee at Proskauer, in an interview with Infoworld. “There’s just a hundred decisions that have to be made along the way.”

Call it the early adopter tax: technology trailblazers must solve hitherto unknown problems on the fly, with no template to follow. The law firm had to address these questions: Would lawyers pay for apps they needed or would the tablets come with a preset menu of apps? Would personal use be allowed? How would tablets impact the network — specifically security?

Though these questions weren’t simple, they were undeterred. And the firm isn’t looking back. “You’ve got to be forward-thinking,” Proskauer COO Gurwitz told Infoweek. “It’s clear the world is transforming.”