Consumerisation of technology raises generational challenges: Gartner

Trends such as mobility and internet-enablement mean today's ICT environment is very different to that in which baby boomers cut their teeth

Youth has always played a role in IT. It is part of the culture, epitomised by people like Apple’s Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who were both young when their companies were formed.

The message coming from Gartner analysts at a recent conference is that youth matters more than ever in ICT, especially as the web becomes more interactive and collaborative and heads in directions that baby boomer-aged ICT managers may be ill-equipped to lead.

At Gartner’s recent ITxpo, held in Orlando, Florida, analysts told the 6,000-plus attendees that companies poised for future growth will be clued-in to the so-called consumerisation of ICT, a catch-all term covering the mobile, customisable and heavily interactive technologies those in their twenties now seem to expect.

Gartner analyst Mark Raskino asked the audience to contrast that with senior ICT managers, who are likely “middle aged, sedan-driving, middle income, middle-class, middle-of-the-road, midlife-crisis, mid-sized managers who carry a little bit too much weight around their middles.”

If being called overweight so soon after breakfast wasn’t bad enough, Raskino urged the boomers on hand to plan for their exit. “Plan for succession — what you need to find, what you need to nurture is fresh talent — and that talent will be multi-skilled, multi-disciplined ... and it will take on new roles.”

Gartner is dubbing this next generation of ICT professionals “versatilists”.

Terry Epp, senior development manager at the Bank of Montreal, agreed with Gartner analysts about the consumerisation of ICT and says it’s prevalent in financial services with online banking and trading.

However, Epp wasn’t as sure about Gartner’s take on age. He agreed that there is a need to tap into the “up and coming demographic” to discover where a company should be heading. But he thinks companies also need to understand the people who aren’t using these services, “and I’m not sure that young people will be able to tell us that.”

At a session on ICT infrastructure, Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman drove home the point a little more.

“This is not just about technology. First and foremost, it’s about culture — it’s about cultural change,” he says.

“Although this is probably discriminatory, there is a different attitude, at different ages, based on what technology can provide.”

The best way to understand what’s going to happen is to look at what your children and grandchildren are doing, Bittman says.

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