Here’s a stat that should convince any skeptics that the iPad has a role in the enterprise: Bausch + Lomb found that its customers had 80% higher recall of product details when the information was presented to them by a sales person using an iPad vs. traditional paper brochures.

That comes courtesy of Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner Research VP, during her session at Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2011 on iPad deployments in the enterprise. The session focused mainly on deployments at Bausch + Lomb and Both rolled out significant iPad deployments – 1,700 and 1,500, respectively – in a matter of weeks, Milanesi said.

Bausch has found customers to be more engaged in meetings with iPad-toting sales people, at least in part because the presentations are more interesting, with features like embedded video that are simply not possible on paper.

Both deployments as well as other Gartner research show that the iPad fits best for customer-facing applications., for example, can demonstrate exactly what its applications do and there’s a “lead by example” factor, Milanesi said. Additionally, Bausch + Lomb is using iPads on its factory floors, to react to problems faster and speed troubleshooting.

iPad rollouts are not typical IT rollouts, however. For one, it’s hard to pin down a return on investment because many of the costs involve data plans and roaming charges, not just hardware. And there are costs that IT may be saving because support is mostly self-service. Both companies also found a soft benefit: a positive attitude toward IT. And the only training required is on the apps, not the hardware.

Milanesi’s advice to companies embarking on an iPad project is to be clear about what they want to achieve both with clients and internally; don’t do it just in response to the hype. If you don’t already have executive buy-in, make sure key execs get an iPad in their hands and play with it. In fact, for many companies, that’s where the iPad push comes from: executives who are using the devices on their own and push IT to adopt.

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