It is an interesting time for IT departments; in addition to juggling the very different work styles and workstreams of baby boomers and millennials, IT departments are increasingly faced with another demographic: Generation Z.
This new generation is made up of young adults who were likely born somewhere between the early 1990s and mid-2000s. For those at the earlier end of the spectrum, they are likely college graduates who recently entered the workforce, adding a new generation of technology preferences, working styles and communication differences to which IT departments must adjust.
Generation Z, most often cited as “digital natives,” have the good fortune (or bad, depending on how you look at it) of growing up with smartphones and personal computers as part of their daily lives. They are a growing demographic, with Nielsen data showing Generation Z comprises 26% of the media market and is expected to reach 2.5 billion individuals globally by 2020.
Thanks to having grown up in an age of social media and a never-ending stream on-demand content, Generation Z’ers are typically viewed as more self-reliant and they often prefer instant gratification. As Gen Z becomes a larger part of the workforce, IT departments must subsequently shift their focus to prepare for this rapidly-changing workforce and their preferences.
In the 1990s we saw IT departments move to centralise help desks in an effort to reduce hardware expenses, improve productivity for IT staff and generally help improve the flow of information. This seemed to work well for baby boomers, but in recent years IT departments have rethought this approach.
With the self-sufficient nature of Generation Z, we very well might see a move back to decentralisation, better suited for an increasingly self-reliant workforce and different business units requiring different hardware and software.
Decentralisation of IT functions isn’t necessarily a negative, nor is the self-reliance that characterises Generation Z’ers. In many cases, it’s a good thing that Generation Z workers, millennials and baby boomers alike can solve simpler IT or computer problems with a quick Google search or Slack discussion.
The caveat, however, is that IT departments need to understand this change and make an effort to be proactively involved in both supplying and participating in the sharing of knowledge, rather than letting Generation Z run wild. In years past, the IT department had to be sought out; if you had a problem, you either had to go hunt down someone from the IT department or submit a support ticket and then wait for your problem to be addressed. And while that’s still the case in many organisations, large and small, a fair number of organisations are moving to a more decentralised IT department structure, one that must seek out the end user and meet them where they are, much like a customer service organisation would.
Forward-thinking IT departments will also need to lean on technologies, in addition to processes, to facilitate this new relationship dynamic between Generation Z and the IT department. We’re already starting to see more forward-thinking IT departments implement self-service portals and AI-powered chatbots, but they’ll also need to look at other methods of augmentative technology that go beyond simple speech-to-text often found with assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri.
Sure, virtual assistants can be fun but are they a serviceable replacement for a human? Absolutely not. IT departments will need to look to implement more advanced technologies like natural language processing (NLP) to facilitate true conversation between an end user and ensure they feel their problems are being heard and understood, not merely listened to.
It really boils down to making your services easy enough to consume. When IT is as simple as a Slack message to fix that printer that’s out of toner on the 3rd floor by the breakroom, Generation Z’ers will be more inclined to engage with IT on appropriate channels rather than trying to go to Google or YouTube to solve their problems. Additionally, IT departments will be able to better-control the organisation’s IT ecosystem, keeping them happy and by default, keeping their end users happy too.
Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 16 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.