Mind the Gap – Greatest Generation Users

By Geoff Smith, Senior Solutions Architect

As this is the last entry in the Mind the Gap blog series, I wanted to tie up all of the loose ends from the previous posts. In those, I’ve asked all of us in IT to break out of our comfy IT management “snuggies” and look at how our world is changing. In the past, IT has been the gatekeeper to technology for the business, mainly because we were the only people who lived it every day. That is no longer true.

In nature, each generation of a species evolves in some way, adapting to changes in their environment, habitat, or position in the food chain. The same can be said for IT users. As each new workforce generation rolls into the business world, they bring with them a greater understanding of what technology is and what it can do for them. I’ve been supporting users since the early 80s, when we got the cross-eyed, “I don’t need that thing” look when you dropped their new computer on their desk and took away their Rolodex. Today, if they don’t have a new laptop every 2 years you are “inhibiting my ability to function.”

This shift, in a relatively short timeframe, is what I call the Greatest Generation Users, or GGU. The workforce today is filled with GGUs. They come out of high schools and colleges with more IT awareness than many of us did when we finished our degrees in computer science. It may not be true IT knowledge, but that makes it even more difficult to support them adequately. GGUs function in a completely different way than businesses typically do today, and in order to enable a business to take full advantage of those they hire, IT is often the one saying “no you can’t.”

Many in IT still firmly believe that if technology ideas or capabilities are not borne from IT, they must be inherently suspect. But all you have to do is look at where your innovation “cheese” has been moved to (see Mind the Gap – Consumerization of Innovation) and you will quickly realize that to keep up with the GGUs you have to shrug off the corporate technology chains and find solutions that enable the GGUs to work in the ways they want. Remember—your bosses are often GGUs as well.

Beyond these users and their knowledge and expectations lies the grey world of “usability.” Up time is a thing of the past. GGUs expect little to no latency in their technology solutions and watch out if they have to refresh a page just to get updated data. Usability equals efficiency in the mind of the business, and efficiency equals profit.

And it’s not just about mobile devices, remote access, work from home or other entitlements, it’s also about how you support these use cases, ensuring the same high standards you provide to traditional corporate users. Technology and work freedoms are rapidly becoming “perks” to hiring desirable candidates. People are now more than ever the intellectual property of most organizations, and if IT is the blocking force for enablement, you may soon be waving to the GGU who takes your spot on the roster.