As a writer and television producer, my tablet is my most important business tool.
I use it in place of a computer to write proposals, create presentations and pitch ideas. I do my accounting and invoices on it, craft project budgets, create website templates and even edit videos. This device has saved more than time. I travel a lot for work, so my tablet’s small size is as magical as its technology. (In fact, I don’t think I’ve carried a laptop bag in years). And since I’m usually working with different teams on four or five projects at once, it lets me stay in touch seamlessly.
Because of their relatively low cost, lightweight and easily adaptable touch-screen technology, tablets make perfect sense for a number of business applications. So if you haven't already taken the plunge into tablets for your company, think about investing in a few that can be used to assist your front office, back office, factory floor or retail space. With that in mind, here are eight essential uses for tablets in business.
Whether you’re working with a team across town or around the world, collaboration tools like WebEx can make it easy to set up group video chats, share information and collaborate. Many of these apps let you record meetings for posterity, and they come on a sliding scale of price and services to meet the needs of a variety of businesses.
2. Project collaboration
Collaboration apps let you organize your notes, create to-do lists, save links to websites or videos and anything else you want to keep close at hand. There are many popular options out there, so give them a try to find your favourite. You can share them with your team and work seamlessly together, which is a necessity in today's work environment. And other document sharing apps will also let you send large files to collaborate together in real time.
3. Creating presentations
Who hasn’t done a PowerPoint presentation at some point in their career? Now it’s even easier using Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote for tablets, and displaying a presentation on the device can also be handy in offsite meetings or guided tours of factories, warehouses or the like.
Adobe Spark is another of many tools in Adobe’s suite of tablet apps that let you create professional looking presentations using video, photos and text. Plus, with an Apple TV attached to a display screen in your boardroom, it’s easy to just ‘throw’ your presentation from your tablet right up onto the screen — no setting up a computer or dealing with confusing wires ever again.
4. Booking meetings spaces
Is everyone always fighting over the boardroom in your office? If you don't have an existing room reservation tool in place, you can buy a low-cost Android tablet for under $60 to mount on the wall outside the meeting room. Then set up a shared calendar on the tablet and let people use that device to book the room. By creating the shared calendar and giving access to the entire company, anyone in your office can check availability and book the room right from their desk.
5. Accounting and invoicing
There are dozens of tablet apps available to help small businesses do their accounting, payroll and invoicing from a tablet. Some of the more popular include Invoice2go, QuickBooks Accounting, FreshBooks and Kashoo. Be sure to get your accountant’s advice, as many pros have a preference on which one integrates into their workflow.
6. Factory management & inventory control
Apps like Production Manager integrate with wider systems in order to help companies that have multiple manufacturing facilities manage production and sales. They can track your inventory, e-commerce transactions, discounts, taxes invoices, shipments and deliver
Several tablet apps are available that work with a barcode scanner to help you keep track of inventory in your warehouse or retail storefront, like StarCode, Inventory + and Retail Store Manager. Choose from simpler systems if you have one location, or more robust applications that can track inventory and sales across multiple locations.
7. Retail point of sale
The cash register as we know it is a thing of the past thanks to tablet-based point of sale solutions. Such systems like Square, ShopKeep and Shopify POS can be invaluable tools at a brick-and-mortar or pop-up location, letting you easily create inventory and product lists, keep track of customers and take payments by debit, credit card or cash. These systems are often much more affordable and can be hooked up to a variety of digital cash register drawers, tablet stands and scanners.
8. Environmental controls
“Smart home” applications that let you control the furnace, lights and other functions have as much of a place in the office as they do at home. Consider integrating smart devices into your office like light switches, thermostats and automated blind controls that you can monitor and control remotely. You’ll save money on your operating costs, and have more peace of mind.
For a local option, check out the Lyric Premium Home Automation System from AAA, an MTS company. Control your lights, thermostat, locks and more with the Take Control app, and create a custom “scene” that can make everything happen at the same time — so you always arrive in comfort and never leave forgetting to lock-up or switch off a light.
The best way to determine how tablets could improve how you do business is to think about the problems and challenges you currently face — then search for that word on the app store to see if someone has invented a tablet app to solve it.
Up next: More business tips in How to choose the right Internet for your small business.