W3C - Age gap hampers technology adoption, CTO says

Tension is building between young and older employees over how to implement new technology in the enterprise, a CapGemini executive said Tuesday.

The generation gap is hitting enterprises, and a mere separation of 10 years is making a difference.

The use of so-called Web 2.0 emerging Internet technologies in the enterprise is creating tension between younger and older employees, said Andy Mulholland, chief technology officer (CTO) for consulting company Capgemini, on Tuesday.

Those under 35 years old are comprising a "shadow IT" department that embraces new technology. But employees who are over 45 years old, however, are more resistant and could be holding back their business, Mulholland said at the World Wide Web Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The older group is showing apprehension around Web 2.0 fueled by how quickly the technology is changing, he said. The old guard prefers a rigid "corporate" approach to IT, while the younger sector shows an "edge" mentality that is more agile and responsive to business needs.

The problem may lie in how buzz phrases such as SOA (service-oriented architecture) are presented to CTOs and chief information officers, Mulholland said.

These days, chief executive officers (CEOs) are responsive to technology if a compelling business case can be made to justify the investment. It may be better to marshal support from CEOs first in order to propel change in other departments, especially with people reluctant to radically alter expensive legacy equipment that has been in place for years, Mulholland said.

Examples abound of companies that have built strong businesses on new technology, he said. EBay has been widely successful on the backs of its highly-scalable architecture, he said.

Low-cost airlines were among the first to successfully implement SOAs, putting functions that were reserved for booking agents in the control of consumers, such as hunting for flight schedules and comparing prices. The result was a drop in costs for airlines and prices for consumers.

The older crowd can be persuaded, however, Mulholland said.

"Everyone invents their own process," he said. "That's the model we try to get businesses to understand."

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