Workplace technology needs to adapt to the ‘App Generation’

Luca Lazzaron, SVP of International Operations at Fuze discusses why it is time IT departments got ready for the App Generation, and how they can go about doing it.

As the first generation to have never experienced a world without the internet, today’s young people hold a completely different attitude towards communications technology. So-called “digital natives” have grown up with an always-on mentality, constantly switching between a variety of connected devices, instant web services and mobile applications. To young people, the phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ isn’t just a snappy advertising slogan. It’s a truism, an answer to just about any question they’ve ever asked and an approach to every task.

This new “App Generation” is not defined by some social, political or even cultural leaning, but rather by its attitudes towards – and expectations of – technology itself. As it stands, 84% of teenagers use mobile messaging apps, 57% regularly conduct video calls, 38% use cloud storage, while more than a quarter are already proficient in creative packages such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

For the business community, the App Generation has so far come as a bit of a blessing. As both savvy shoppers and active, always-on consumers, App Gen-ers make the perfect audience for retail outlets, tech firms and big name consumer brands. Now however, the dynamic is changing.

As the App Generation moves from its teenage years into adulthood, businesses are faced with a new challenge – how to incorporate this fast-moving, reactive audience into the workforce.

IT demands of the app generation

Half of European workers feel the App Generation could present issues as a result of their technological expectations and demands. As such, IT departments will be the first to be hit by the high expectations of the new workforce.

For the App Generation, technology should “just work” across the board, unfortunately the reality for most IT departments is that it rarely ever does. According to Fuze’s latest research two thirds of office workers believe that their workplace tech has some catching up to do before it matches what we use in our daily lives. For the new App Generation, this will not be seen as a mild inconvenience, but rather as a genuine barrier to productivity.

The new generation sees smartphones, mobile messaging, cloud storage services and VOIP calls as essential technologies, while older tech such as desk phones and emails are generally considered irrelevant. According to Fuze’s research, the desk phone is consistently listed as one of the top five “essential office items” for current workers, but barely makes the top ten for teenagers. In fact, App Generation teens actually consider staplers to be more essential to the workplace environment than the traditional office phone.

This doesn’t just mean a potentially costly change in technology for IT departments, but also implies a wider change in working styles, practices and the physical workplace itself.

As it stands, 78% of the App Generation would like to work from home, while 43% do not see the appeal of working in an office at all. Comparing this to adult workers, only 37% actually do work from home, while another 49% would like to but aren’t allowed. This unmet demand for technology-driven, flexible working is likely to cause significant issues for both businesses and IT departments over the next five years.

If businesses are to benefit from the skills of the App Generation and ensure that their staff are maintaining maximum productivity, the time to adapt, change and learn is now.

Meeting the demand

Simply ignoring the incoming App Generation will not make then go away. Over the next five years, hundreds of thousands of young workers will enter the business community, bringing with them high expectations around work-life balance, flexible hours and the very latest in communications tech. Even if IT departments attempt to ignore these changes, employees will simply work around them.

Already 21% of office workers use cloud storage without their IT department’s consent, while 32% install messaging apps and 25% make video calls, all without IT’s knowledge. By failing to embrace these technologies, many businesses now face a lack of centralised control over their systems. This places them at risk from data loss, lack of compliance and significant security concerns – problems which will only grow more serious as the new generation floods into the workplace.

Instead of fighting these changes, IT departments must look to develop their technology roadmaps now. Not only will this help to prepare for the App Generation, but will also offer an opportunity to secure the very best tools for a productive workforce and ultimately a stronger business bottom line.

IT departments have a long way to go if they are to meet the expectations of the new App Generation, but these changes should be greeted as an opportunity rather than a threat, with those businesses that are willing to adapt and learn from the new generation jumping ahead of the competition.

Workplace technology needs to adapt. The only question is, will IT departments be leading the charge, or dragged behind?

Luca Lazzaron is SVP of International Operations at Fuze

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