Command from the head of sales: Get my entire staff iPads!

Credit: A2Gemma via flickr

There are two common story lines regarding the consumerization of IT in the enterprise. The first features a bottom-up invasion of personal devices into the workplace by employees who insist on using the best tools to do their jobs, tech staff be damned.

The second is a top-down affair in which some high-ranking executive falls in love with his or her personal device and insists to IT that the enterprise must embrace this cutting-edge technology.

The tale of how medical technology and services vendor St. Jude Medical ended up distributing more than 3,000 iPads to its sales force and other employees falls into the latter category, according to Mark Kreitz, mobility manager for the St. Paul, Minn.-based company.

“What happened was about a year and a half or almost two years ago, our then president of sales got an iPad and absolutely fell in love with it,” Kreitz tells CITEworld. “And he said, ‘You know what? My sales guys need to be able to do what they’re doing with their laptop on their iPad.’ So he contacted IT and we said, ‘We’ll make it happen.’”

Make it happen they did.

“We’ve rolled out more than 3,000 iPads,” Kreitz says. “Not only to the sales team, which consists of 2,300 to 2,400 people across the world, but also to support staff, development staff on-site, internal apps developers, as well as our marketing team and all the people that help our sales out.”

These sales pros generate a lot of revenue for the company: $5.61 billion in fiscal year 2011 alone. St. Jude is a major player in the medical technology industry, a publicly traded company (NYSE: STJ) with a market capitalization of $12.47 billion and competitors such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific and Edwards Lifesciences.

Among the sophisticated medical products developed and sold by St. Jude are heart valves and valve repair products, artificial pacemakers, electrophysiology catheters, and vascular closure devices. In other words, life and death stuff.

Now, instead of “lugging around a 9-pound Dell laptop,” Kreitz says, St. Jude sales pros can “take this tiny 1-pound or 2-pound device, go into a doctor’s office and give whatever presentation they need to give, show all of our marketing collateral, our catalogs and our products in 3D in real time -- how it works, the whole nine yards, standing right there in the doctor’s office.”

St. Jude Medical’s iPad program wouldn’t work, however, without another important element of the consumerization of IT – the cloud.

Even though St. Jude has opted for the iPad with the largest storage capacity – the 64GB model – Kreitz says even that is insufficient.

“We’ve got movies alone that are 5GB and 6GB,” he says. “You get a couple of them out there with good-sized apps and the iPad’s full.”

So the company embarked on a search for a cloud-based storage solution.

“We looked at a couple of options, some kind of internal storage box, DropBox, Google Docs, and Box just won hands down,” Kreitz says. “It was everything we needed it to be. It was secure, it was simple, there was no learning curve. It qualified not only for our legal parameters, but for the beginning stages of HIPAA compliance as well.”

The combination of the iPads and Box has enabled St. Jude to streamline processes, starting from the field. Explains Kreitz:

“What Box allows us to do in conjunction with the iPad is create a document, like a proposal for a contract or something of that nature, and the doctor could actually find it digitally, right then and there. It gets shot back up to a Box folder, so legal can grab it, our security team can grab it, whoever needs to see it grabs it, it gets approved within minutes or whatever the case may be. There’s no data transfer time anymore, and immediately the doctor has feedback and says, ‘Yep, this is good,’ and everybody’s happy. In regards to things like contractual obligations, we’ve cut that workflow down better than half.”

“The other thing that iPad and Box has allowed us to do is to just about get rid of our large file transfer system,” he says. “Why use this cumbersome FTP based system when I can just throw it into Box and the user instantly has it? So our iPads have allowed us to get data to the user and back to corporate office, and data and information in front of the person we’re trying to sell to faster and easier.”

Kreitz, who works in the company's Austin, Texas-based office, says St. Jude eventually plans to completely pull its laptops from the field once its developers create applications that allow sales people to enter and track orders from the iPad.

Getting each 64GB iPad into the hands of each St. Jude employee costs about $1,000, according to Kreitz. But St. Jude remains committed.

“We’re at 3,000 now and I can see doubling that by the end of the year,” he says. Beyond that, Kreitz says he can envision up to 85% of St. Jude Medical’s global workforce of more than 25,000 being given iPads for their jobs.

Sounds like a potential nightmare for IT, but based on his experiences so far, Kreitz sees no real problems.

“I’m the senior administrator for (mobile device management) Airwatch and Box,” he says. “I’m the one maintaining all the iPads in the field. I’m the only one doing it for 3,000 people. When you think about five years ago or 10 years ago, a good ratio for computer support was 100 to 1 for PCs and maybe 250 to 1 if you had Macs. I’m doing 3,000 to 1 and I don’t have too many people complaining. Between Airwatch management and Box management and ease of the iPad, the IT cost is cut down considerably.”

While Kreitz can’t put a specific dollar figure on how much St. Jude is saving from the iPad/Box/Airwatch combination, he cites several areas of improved efficiency and lower costs.

“We’ve cut down our data transfer rates by 50%,” he says. “In regards to data storage, we no longer have to purchase servers and drives to house internally because Box is housing all that for us. We don’t have to worry about capital expense any more for storage, which is huge. We’ve probably cut down our workflows by at least 50% just by using Box and the iPads to get data to the proper people as quickly as possible.”

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