Case study: iPad at Guardian News & Media

As part of their Digital First initiative, Guardian News & Media (GNM) decided to make iPad available to their staff at a discounted rate on a shared purchase basis. Jigsaw24 partnered with GNM to deliver this transformational project for 1200 users, without increasing support costs for the IT team.

The Digital First initiative

“All media companies are facing huge disruption through the internet, and we’re no different,” said Andy Beale, GNM’s Technology Director. “Our audience is consuming our products and interacting with us now onba number of platforms, and our feeling is that we should be on all platforms, whether that’s a hardware one or a software one.” As part of preparing themselves for the shift away from print publishing to digital, GNM decided they wanted to help their staff get access to the latest digital device, iPad.

“Putting these devices in the hands of all our staff is an important part of communicating that message and saying, ‘this is our direction’, but it also helps them on that journey. Not everyone here is a digital native. We have a really broad, diverse mix of people working here and we need to take them with us,” Andy explained.

Using shared purchase to engage employees and lower costs

While GNM’s leaders were all for helping employees become comfortable with the latest technologies, simply giving 1200 iPad devices away wasn’t an option. “The commercial constraints are incredibly important for all media companies,” said Andy, “so we came up with the idea of shared purchase, which would allow us to avoid taking a lot of assets and devices on to our own overheads, yet provide large numbers [of devices] if people were interested, while keeping costs down and giving employees some responsibility in the process.”

Under GNM’s scheme, employees had a three-week purchasing window during which they could buy an iPad with accessories at a subsidised price, and pay off the cost over a year. Because they wanted staff to be as comfortable with the devices as possible, GNM chose not to dictate what
they would be used for – staff could use them in the workplace or at home, and the GNM technology team would configure and provide training for each user regardless.

GNM’s tech team didn’t have the time or resources to manage an iPad purchasing scheme internally, so our team built them a branded online purchasing portal that would let staff buy approved devices over a secure, centralised system with 128-bit SSL encryption. Once the portal was live, we helped stage a launch event at GNM’s London offices, where we were on hand throughout the first day of the scheme to offer employees advice on which model would suit them best, and whether they’d need any accessories or adaptors.

“The launch event worked really well, because as well as ‘come and get your iPad’ we had a show and tell – ‘this is how you use your iPad, this is how it works, here are some of the interesting apps you can download’ – just to answer some of the technology questions people always have,” said Executive Director Adam Freeman. “The feedback from staff was fantastic. They were saying thanks for the offer, but actually it was really great how you helped us to understand how to use the iPad.”

90% take up and fantastic feedback from staff

“Now on a day to day basis I’m in a room and everyone’s on an iPad, and they’re all taking notes on them, presenting ideas on them, showing each other documents,” said Adam. “We’re also definitely seeing more confidence in the digital platform. When we talk about iPads and how people are using them, [staff] are much more au fait with what an app is, how it works and the user experience. It’s making it easier for us to have a shared language that’s digital, because people are experiencing it for themselves.”

“We ask staff for feedback on a lot of different things and it’s quite hard to get people to feed back – particularly journalists, who are by their very nature questioning and challenging,” said Adam, “but we had about a 90% take up on our iPad offer. I’ve never been in a room with hundreds of people, presenting opportunities, and had that many hands go up that often.

“In terms of innovation, what’s really important to us is that tablets and smartphones are going to be the place where the majority of our content is consumed in the very near future. When I look back on this, having had six months of people having these products, it’s going to be even more beneficial in two years time than it is today, because everyone will be writing for tablets. [The iPad] is the next 20 years of the organisation, not the last six months.”

“People find themselves doing extra bits of work because it is just so easy and mobile.”

But it’s not just a change in attitude that GNM have seen. “There’s no doubt that it allows more flexibility in working, so the fact that people can log in wherever they are, work whenever they want to – that’s definitely making us more flexible in terms of supporting people working in different spaces, working from home, working on the move. We’ve just invested in America, for example, so we’ve put a new team into the US this year and had a lot of people go from our UK office to there, and outside of the time difference you wouldn’t know where they were, because they’re using the same systems, the same technologies.”

Staff have also found themselves picking up jobs out of hours. “You’ll be sitting on the sofa and whilst you’re on YouTube you find yourself checking your work email and thinking, ‘I’ll just answer this one…’” explains Ben McLeavy, Remote Communication Specialist. “People find themselves doing extra bits of work because it is just so easy and mobile. The main thing for me about iPad is that it is very portable, and it’s very instant. There’s no booting time, so it’s very much pick up and play – or work.”

Delivering better experiences but no extra support costs

“The initiative has been fantastic for morale,” said Adam. “It’s allowing us to make more informed choices because the people – particularly the journalists who are not at the forefront of digital product development – have got iPads themselves now, so when we talk about the new publishing opportunities iPad and tablets give us, they can easily see what the consumer experience would be like, whereas before it would have been, ‘What’s this new thing that you want me to be involved in? I don’t understand how it works.’”

And the scheme’s impact on GNM’s IT team? “We’ve not seen any increased overheads from an IT point of view,” said Andy. “We’ve taken on an extra 1200 devices, many of which are used in the work context, and we’ve not had to do anything in terms of supporting those.”

Want to find out how your business can get the benefits of iPad without increasing support costs? Get in touch with the team on 03332 409 219, email us at B2B@Jigsaw24.com or take a look at our dedicated Apple for business site.

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