Over the past few years, tablets have reshaped computing for many enterprise workforces. But tablets aren't general-issue devices for all employees; instead, companies equip specific groups of employees with tablets — with particular business goals in mind. High on the list of tablet-equipped roles are salespeople: According to IT decision-makers, sales professionals are the second most likely group of employees to receive company-owned tablets as standard-issue devices.

In a new report, "Empower Salespeople With Tablets To Drive Value For Your Business," we offer infrastructure & operations professionals some guidelines about how to deploy tablets to the salesforce at their companies. It's a different exercise than with traditional PC deployments: I&O professionals must work with business leaders, sales management, sales enablement professionals, and with sales reps themselves throughout the process. To reap the full rewards of tablets, the sales process itself must be reengineered, sales reps must be trained, and customer-facing software and materials must be developed. I&O can't do all of this alone, and must instead build new, deeper relationships with business partners.

Platform differences reveal variations in usage models. We frequently talk to enterprises that have adopted iPads, Android tablets, and Windows 8/8.1 devices, and the usage cases overlap but also reveal pertinent differences. For example, Windows 8.1 tablets often empower laptop-replacement scenarios. In some cases, sales reps use the devices both as customer-facing sales tools, but also as heavy-duty computing devices when they return to their desks: “In the office, personnel prepare for insurance sales consultations with customers, arrange appointments, manage schedules, enter consultation results, prepare reports, and so forth,” Kazumi Hashida, Manager of IT Planning for Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Company in Tokyo, Japan, told us.

While iPad remains a fixture in many enterprises, we see more Android and Windows tablet deployments as well. Logitech gave its salespeople a choice between platforms, and its Asia-based sales professionals chose Android devices.

The business benefits of equipping salespeople with tablets — and reengineering the sales process to take advantage of the devices — are potentially significant. In the report, we identify 8 ways that tablets are proving valuable to salespeople, generating tangible improvements in sales performance. Even more importantly, we find that sales will wind up using tablets… with or without I&O's help. Renegade buyers create significant shadow IT within sales organizations. Sometimes these renegade buyers are sales managers; other times, grassroots efforts from sales professionals themselves establish vigorous BYO programs. Nearly half of business leaders today say that they have independent budget for PCs and tablets, and sales managers are inclined to buy their own devices without IT department supervision if they feel it's necessary. So savvy I&O professionals will learn how to dance with these various constituencies to choose tablet solutions that create business value while also remaining secure and manageable.

We invite clients to read the entire report here.

J. P. Gownder is a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgownder.