How Today's Tech-Savvy Employees Are Challenging the Traditional Role of Corporate IT
The deployment of IT services has historically been a one-way street from the software provider to the IT department and, then, the end user. End users received a 'you must use this application' mandate from IT, which had to integrate services into the enterprise. Younger workers who grew up with technology, generally lumped together as 'millennials',are pushing back. They are having a profound impact on technology choices in the workplace and driving a new equilibrium of power.
The top-down approach to IT services made sense when IT departments did extensive product evaluations, purchased software from IT vendors and installed, configured and maintained that software. This significant enterprise investment resulted in a virtual mandate that all employees use corporate applications.
End users were relatively naive technologically, which made them more receptive to learning the enterprise's applications. In addition, end users had few or no comparison applications against which to evaluate them.
With the cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications now becoming viable and even beneficial means of deploying IT services, IT is going through a new evolutionary phase. Evaluating and deploying IT services no longer require significant time and capital. Upgrades and maintenance occur more rapidly and with more consistency. Without the hard constraints of implementing back-end services on premises, IT can focus on matching available cloud services to end users requirements.
The age of millennials. With the advent of the iPhone, smartphone use exploded among consumers and the business workforce. Indeed, the line between a consumer and a business user is now blurred, as they are typically one and the same. These users carry the millennial label, as they are the first generation of converged users.
What does this means for IT? End users in the workforce are no longer completely naive of technology. In fact, millennials have a strong understanding of what technology can do for them. A study commissioned by Intel Corporation in 2013found that millennials want more from technology, and that in itself has had an impact on innovation in areas ranging from personalization and self-configuration to ease of use.
A manual that teaches employees how to use an application is a relic today. Millennials are a new breed of business users who enter the workforce with strong expectations of how technology should be delivered and function. In the truest sense, the democratization of IT has begun.
When faced with 'older-generation' technology that doesn't meet their expectations, millennials have the technical savvy to find applications on consumer app stores and to attempt to integrate them into their business world. There is even a name for these millennials: rogue users. You can't really fault them. Instead of being forced to adapt to technology that doesn't work for them, they seek out technology that helps them work effectively and efficiently.
Unfortunately, many consumer apps lack features such as business-level security, centralized administration and control, and support and quality-of-service metrics that businesses require. These deficits set up an end user vs. IT conflict that generally results in a winner and a loser.
A new equilibrium. A new dawn has arrived for IT, which if embraced, can create a collaborative equilibrium that will have a positive impact on workforce productivity while lowering IT costs and complexities. By collaborating with millennials and cloud vendors, IT can drive consumer features into business-hardened cloud services, creating benefits for end users, IT and the enterprise. The alternatives -- forcing employees to use antiquated vendor-driven services or making IT manage multiple consumer-based apps -- will lead to one side or the other feeling the pain. Neither side will hold 100 percent of the power going forward. They can achieve a happy medium by working together with cloud vendors committed to delivering business-hardened services that meet the expectations of millennial end users,.
Where the future lies. Clearly, the ability of end users to influence IT to deliver a better user experience without compromising enterprise requirements for security, privacy, manageability, support and reliability is a step in the right direction. Service providers can play a key role in integrating feedback from end users and IT into next-generation services that can better meet the needs of both.
Arthur Chang brings more than 15 years of hi-tech executive experience to PanTerra Networks, a provider of unified cloud services for mid-market enterprises. Prior to PanTerra, Mr. Chang held numerous executive positions at several Silicon Valley companies in the storage, SaaS and telecom market spaces. Mr. Chang started his career at Bell Laboratories.