CXO

Naked CIO: Generation divide in the workplace? Give me a break

Tech-savvy newbies will not be driving imminent technological change...

Too much is made of the mark the next generation of technologically literate workers is supposedly going to make on business. The real impact will come from changes in underlying user technology, says the Naked CIO.

An interesting article on silicon.com last week discussed 'millennials', the people born after 1985 who have grown up using technology and who are now entering the workplace. It suggested that this group has a much better grasp of IT and key technology processes.

Having worked in IT since the millennials weren't even millennials, I have seen cohort after cohort of young workers enter IT and the wider business community. Although they have an attitude to technology that may be more tolerant than previous generations, nothing much has changed in the aptitude they bring to organisations.

The biggest problem here is the presumption that hobby-driven technology - home PC, gaming and mobile device proliferation - is similar to business technology when it is clearly very different. The contrast is between application and principle. That situation is unlikely to change much over the next few years.

I believe it was Peter Cochrane at the CIO Forum held by silicon.com in 2005 who went so far as to say that there is no future for IT support departments because the skills of younger generations will allow them to support their own technology. I'm sorry, Peter. It never happened.

The biggest impact on the future of IT in business is not going to be the characteristics of a particular generation but rather the change in the very basis of user technology. The underlying technology layers will be largely unchanged but the convergence of three core emerging technologies will create a significant shift in how businesses use technology.

First, mobile proliferation has spread into business and the new frontier is mobile device application for business to business, business to consumer and even as an internal application. The ability for businesses to capitalise on this fast-growing technology and to re-engineer processes and systems to enable it will be key to growth and success.

there's no generation gap

Too much emphasis is placed on the generation gap when it comes to technology in the workplace
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Secondly, the advent of touchscreen and interactive voice response technologies that will eventually change user interfaces will also have a significant impact on business system design and functionality.

It will require fairly significant changes to the way systems and data work to make some businesses spend time and money on converting. Yet such change will be a necessity within the next five years if firms are to be successful.

Finally, the need for businesses to exploit social networks and increased dynamic communications with customers will be a considerable strategic driver of technology.

The attributes of any one generation does not dictate business system technology to a great extent. But businesses must expect a time of dramatic technical discord and be prepared for the challenges ahead. Perhaps some of this technology change is adopted by these younger generations, but it is in no way dependent on millennials.

Keeping your stakeholders aware of the impact of the next generation of technologies and understanding how adoption may affect your operations will be crucial if, as a CIO, you want to ensure your business is best prepared.

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