We often talk about best-practices, technology advances, and a continuing need to teach the bedrock IT skills needed in enterprises to up-and-coming talent. This is important, but it’s also time to talk about some of the new thinking that young IT’ers are bringing into enterprises -- and the possibilities that this thinking opens up.
Individual collaboration in the form of instant messaging, social networks, video conferencing, etc., is not new -- but the ability of a new IT generation to grab hold of these technologies and apply them in new marketing and business operations models is starting to make a difference. Who ever thought that the very essence of the company’s brand could be reinvented, vaunted, or trashed in a matter of seconds on the cyber-airways, and that there would be a need for constant messaging and the right kind of bloggers to maintain brand integrity?
This is one of the reasons social media blogging is becoming one of the most popular IT concentrations in university technology curricula. Of course, it doesn’t stop here. Social media business is also beginning to reinvent the ways that companies operate. As more business traffic takes to the cloud, more business communications are getting done through the posting of key documents and communications (à la Facebook), instead of through older style file transfers.
Cloud computing dates back to the 1960s' “service bureaus” that processed administrative workloads (such as payroll) for companies. But what makes cloud different today from earlier attempts is its tight relationship with Internet technology. This presents a layer of abstraction from hardware and software that lessens the need to “own” these resources.
Younger IT workers are not bringing with them the legacy of having to own their hardware, software, or even corporate security. This could lead to a point where many companies in the future have little or no hardware or software that they actually own. It could also lead to pushback, where companies elect to own some assets but not others. One thing is certain: Young IT’ers will have less hardware and software allegiance than their IT predecessors, because they grew up with abstraction as the first wholly Internet generation -- and they are comfortable with it.
Great user interfaces
As part of the iPhone generation, young IT’ers expect great user interfaces for technology and applications that are highly intuitive, totally usable, and as central to the success of an application as the underlying code and algorithms that drive the core software. This is going to eliminate user manuals (where it hasn’t already). The next logical extension will be to extend this interface beyond man-machine and into a total synergy with the environment surrounding the application.
Speed over quality and constant “morphing”
New-gen IT has also grown up with PCs and PC software, and is accustomed to software that “breaks” and the need to find ways around these failures in the interest of moving forward. This is in sharp contrast to an older generation that was schooled in the importance of thorough application and system testing, and in the systematic deployment of new applications in time-phased releases. This is not to say that quality is, or will be, going away -- only that there is likely to be greater tolerance for errors and “on the fly” corrections in the interests of getting applications out faster (as long as the risk is manageable).
As recently as five years ago, it was virtually unheard of to break apart databases into smaller “shards” of data that were relevant to particular geographical areas of the world. But the speed of customer fulfillment that a new generation of consumers now expects is transforming data sharding into a major corporate consideration for transaction-oriented businesses, like the hospitality and airline industries. As young IT’ers enter corporate ranks, their reduced need to own their data could make data sharding in various third-party datacenters around the world a more common strategy.
Computers and Internet are second nature to most young IT’ers, and their ability to be quick studies on almost any technology topic is great for business. “Part of this is generational,” notes one IT director. “Today’s generation has already spent time at home working with technology, and they are very technologically savvy. They really hit the ground running.”
All of these skills promise to make major changes in the IT department and the way it is run. Good departments are going to be ready for it and embrace it. Bad ones may have trouble recovering from the upheaval. Are you ready?