The Generation Game

generationI’ve been reading with interest some recent stirring of the debate around the digital natives starting to enter the enterprise.

On one side, Jason Hiner’s post from TechRepublic:

"What’s going to change

  • Many users will bring their own equipment (primarily laptops and smartphones)
  • Users will often select their own apps and tools
  • More workers will be mobile and will telecommute at least part-time
  • IT won’t have as much centralized control of resources (unless you’re in a high-security environment)
  • Data security, privacy, and confidentiality will be even more complex to manage

What can IT do

  • Think like shepherds rather than generals
  • Make user education a top priority and use a peer-to-peer rather than paternal delivery
  • Start looking at technologies like application virtualization for locking down your most important apps and data, no matter where they’re accessed from
  • Develop specific policies for telework in collaboration with HR and senior management "

On the other Larry Dignan’s post from ZDNet:

"So what really happens when these Millennials run into IT departments at large corporations where they are most likely to work? They will run into a brick wall and realize that it makes sense to centralize some IT functions. They’ll realize Web 2.0 is insecure. They’ll realize you can’t share intellectual property on Twitter. They’ll realize that remote data wiping is pretty cool when you lose your phone. Bottom line: If there’s any touchy feeling collision course between Millennials and business, the latter will win.

Why? Ultimately these people have to get jobs–and often these jobs are at places like Johnson & Johnson and General Electric. Sorry folks you won’t be bringing your own management practices–and latest greatest Web 2.0 apps–to those places. You may bring along your helicopter parent (another classic Gen Y stereotype), but mom can’t compete with Six Sigma. Your Baby Boomer mom will get chewed up by Six Sigma"

My position on this is slightly different.  I asked some colleagues from another team the kind of questions they were asked by students at graduate recruitment events.  While not a scientific result they weren’t asked about bringing their tools and technologies into the enterprise.  I also find it difficult to even comprehend making a business case that is based around catering for the needs of the millennial.  What I do observe are the following business challenges and this is where I feel our focus should be:

  • Knowledge Transfer : getting information, tacit knowledge, years of understanding flowing between the generations.
  • Time management : the older information workforce are generally financially secure, many no longer wishing to work full time, many just wanting part time hours (my father is a classic example of this).  How does the enterprise make best use of their time?  Do they face them to customers in a consulting role?  Do they utilise them within the enterprise to coach and mentor?  How do we manage that valuable time.
  • Effective working : how do we remain effective as organisations during this massive change within the workforce, how do we make best use of the technology – which lets face it the digital immigrants have written and the digital natives utilised.  My point here is that the natives haven’t asked for this technology but they’ve adopted its availability.
  • Adoption : Following on from my last bullet how do we as "IT" find and deploy tools which will be widely adopted and give best value to the organisations where they are adopted.

Its a complex area but a transition is taking place, web 2.0 is emerging within the enterprise in a form more aligned to business needs – will the millennials entering the workforce enhance that rate of adoption.  Personally I doubt it, there are many of us in the web 2.0 world who are the immigrants driving the technology into the enterprise, the natives aren’t quite at that level of influence yet, but it’ll be good when their voices are influencing things too!

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