By mvaughan on Mar 06, 2013
Steven Chan, Senior Director, Oracle E-business Suite Applications Technology, holds his iPad mini.
As Oracle continues to develop its strategy in the mobile space, it’s always interesting to hear what Oracle executives are doing and thinking around available mobile devices.
Steven Chan, Oracle Senior Director of E-Business Suite Technology and a regular blogger, recently traveled around the world in about 30 days with only an iPad mini. He went from the U.K. to Hyderabad, India, to Hong Kong and Shenzhen in China, all in about four weeks.
Why bring just a mini? His number one concern: security. How could he keep his computing device physically safe, given such a wide range of locales and conditions? “I could slip it in my suit pocket. This was my primary reason to take my mini instead of my regular iPad,” Chan said. “I could keep it with me at all times.”
He said he thought that he would miss his laptop. “I expected it be painful,” Chan said. “I expected the smaller form factor to be difficult to adjust to, but it was surprisingly easy. I was worried about the ‘squint factor,’ but that turned out not to be an issue.”
In contrast to an iPad mini, “You have to make a deliberate choice to carry an iPad around with you. This is tricky for guys, and I personally don’t like to carry a murse or briefcase all day.”
He said the smaller size made a big difference when reading books or using it for extended periods. “I read a couple of books a week, and you really feel the extra weight [of the larger iPad] after a while. When I picked up a mini the first time, my reaction was, ‘This is the device I’ve been waiting for!’”
Photograph by Martin Taylor, Oracle Applications User Experience
What surprises were there with this device?
“The unexpected business benefits,” Chan said. “In the middle of a conversation with a customer, I could show them a technical road map. They didn’t know I was carrying it. All of a sudden, we can have a different conversation at a deeper level because I have more detailed information with me.”
He also found that having easy access to email was helpful. “Our lives are in email,” he said. “You can keep an email stored on the mini, which is really something. I have a terrible memory; that’s why I write my blog. But not everything makes it to the blog. There is lots of internal stuff: technical debates, contents of new release patch sets. So having my email handy offline allowed me to have certain conversations straight away, instead of saying, ‘Let me get back to you later after I return to my office.’”
Having the iPad mini with him at all times also helped him to be more efficient. “At the UKOUG conference, I had a standing-room-only session,” he said. “At the end, someone came up and asked me if the slides were going to be available. I said, ‘Hang on’ and sent it to him right there. One less thing to do later.” Chan also remarked on the difference between an iPhone and an iPad mini. “Sending a business-caliber e-mail on an iPhone is tedious. The mini is just easier to use for that level of written communication.”
Chan said he’s also been using features he hasn’t tried before. “I’m using the ‘voice dictation’ button with everything now,” he said, “composing emails, sending texts, searches in Safari, creating new calendar entries. I hadn’t used that before.” He tried it because the iPad mini’s portrait-mode keyboard is smaller. “The requirement for greater precision while typing on it is just enough of a disincentive that I now prefer to simply talk instead of type,” he said. “I talk faster than I type, so I’m finding that my data-input rate has increased instead of decreased.”
That surprised him: “This is completely counter-intuitive. Am I the only one?” he said. “If others are doing the same, then it makes me wonder whether our use of natural language voice input will increase as form factors shrink further.”
How could the iPad mini change things for enterprise users?
When Chan was on the road, he found that he spent his time approving requisitions and handling other administrative transactions -- basically a lot of approvals. He wanted some specific capabilities on the road. “I would love a nice native app for expense reports,” he said. Oracle ACE Director and Fusion Applications UX Advocate Debra Lilley showed him the Fusion mobile expenses application. “I want this!” he said.
“An Accounts Payables clerk isn’t going to use a mobile device to enter transactions. Executive users are the ones who use these devices on the road. Fit and finish matter to executives,” Chan said. “We need beautifully-designed mobile apps. Mobile apps have to look dazzling; they need a certain polish. You can immediately tell the difference between an app designed for iOS and one that’s been ported.”
What does this mean for Oracle E-Business Suite? Chan said, “You can bet that this means we are looking at mobile computing beyond just running EBS in a tablet browser. We are looking at how work is changing because of these devices. We have some exciting things in the EBS labs right now.”
If you are interested in seeing where Oracle Applications are trending, check out the Applications sessions at Alliance, Benelux, and Collaborate, and sign up for a usability testing session at Alliance, Benelux, or Collaborate to help guide the design of our mobile applications.