Firm Looks To The Future — And Buys 40 iPads For Employees

January 11, 2011

Lancet Software owner Tom Niccum, second from left, recently equipped his 40-person staff with iPads.

This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for MinnPost.com.

A standard iPad holds 64 gigabytes of data. For one Burnsville businessman, it’s packed with an equal amount of symbolism.

Tom Niccum, president of Lancet Software, recently equipped his entire staff of 40 with iPads. With the devices going for about $500 apiece, Niccum’s gesture cost him a cool twenty grand.

But it was well worth it, Niccum said– in dollars and cents, as well as in the more intangible aspects of burnishing his firm’s image and inspiring his work force.

“It’s all about spurring creativity,” Niccum said. “Giving our folks cutting-edge tools inspires them.”

Lancet creates software tools for business intelligence. They help companies sift through massive amounts of data, looking for patterns and nuggets of insight.

Over the past year or so, Niccum said, he and his analysts have been urging their clients to use iPads. They’re portable, easy to use, highly graphic and mesh well with the software and technology platforms that Lancet uses.

Then one day it dawned on him and his management team: Why aren’t we using these ourselves? A purchase order soon followed.

The tablets have been well-received by Lancet employees, Niccum said: “We’re technologists at heart, so people are always interested in the latest devices.”

And they’ve actually led to some new business. One existing client saw its Lancet team on their iPads and decided it should have some custom applications for iPad and iPhone– which it hired Lancet to create.

But the most important results of the iPad experiment aren’t easily measured on the bottom line, Niccum said.

“It demonstrates to our employees that we’re a cool, forward-looking company,” he said. “Sure, we hope it will spur business. But we’re also confident it will help us develop a reputation as a fun, interesting place to work. Doing things like this makes a statement that we take that seriously.

“Coming off 2009, which was a difficult year for everyone, it was also a way of saying, this company is OK– we’re going to survive, we’re going to prosper. It was an action that looked forward, rather than hunkering down.”

And though $20,000 is a significant amount for any small business to spend, Niccum feels like he got more than his money’s worth.

“To be able to say to your employees, ‘Here’s a $500 device that will make your life more interesting and more productive’– I think we got much more bang than $500.”