As businesses launch into transformation initiatives, one thing that has become almost unrecognisable is the IT purchasing landscape. Once the exclusive remit of the IT department, IT purchasing decisions are being democratised throughout the business. This is largely due to the ready availability of cloud-based tools and free apps that can help business departments be more productive.
This has given rise to the term ‘shadow IT’, which refers to the technology that’s being used in an organisation that hasn’t been chosen, implemented, or sanctioned by the IT department and, in many cases, is invisible altogether as far as the IT team is concerned. To combat the security and efficiency risks created by shadow IT, organisations’ IT teams have sought to block this indiscriminate adoption of IT solutions.
This puts the IT team in the unenviable position of gatekeeper instead of innovator. However, with the workforce continuing to define business IT requirements, IT teams will have no choice but to find a way to work with business users.
Legacy systems will rarely win against innovative, new, consumer-like apps in business. Especially as workforces continue to skew younger, employees are looking for fast, easy solutions that deliver the insights they need so they can get on with the job. However, this creates a new set of challenges for all businesses, ranging from security and data privacy issues to visibility and standardisation.
Emerging technology is set to continue to dramatically change the IT landscape for businesses. Big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, bots, and virtual and augmented reality will become mainstream in the next few years, forever altering people’s working lives.
Millennials will be at the forefront of this progression if for no other reason that they’re digital natives. They use smartphones and other connected devices as an extension of their own bodies, so it’s natural that they’ll expect the same kind of instant connections at work as they get in their personal lives.
For business owners and leaders, this represents a remarkable opportunity to tap into a well of experience and knowledge that hasn’t been available on such a large scale before. Putting the millennial workforce in charge of IT decisions practically guarantees those decisions will lead to innovation and competitive advantage.
However, if IT teams act as gatekeepers and inhibit the adoption of emerging technologies, then two things are likely to happen. First, the organisation’s millennial workers will become frustrated at the lack of flexibility and access to the tools they prefer, so they’ll leave. Second, the organisation will fail to compete strongly against those businesses that have figured out how to use these new technologies to their advantage.
Recent surveys have found that 27 per cent of millennials are disappointed by the technology their employer provides, 37 per cent of millennials consider state-of-the-art technology as a key factor when choosing an employer, and 46 per cent want to choose their own technology in the workplace.* With many small business owners now millennials, it is even more important for vendors and channel partners to understand that millennials are making IT decisions now.
Sources: Millennialbranding.com - Cost Retention Study | Accenture - Millennials Technology Overview
Emma Tomlin is member of the CompTIA Executive Council.