Jaspersoft CEO Brian Gentile made an interesting observation on his blog last week about what enterprise information systems need to do in order to appeal to younger workers. He says that because the up-and-coming workforce is so completely comfortable with technology, their expectations will be higher than past generations and companies that ignore this basic tenant do so at their own peril.
"[S]oftware vendors that design products that work according to the new web principles will fare well with this younger generation of workers," he says. "Those software vendors that do not will become less relevant."
Gentile calls this concept the "consumerization of information" and reminds readers that this is a bullet train coming down the path, not a slow-moving boxcar. "The [idea] is based on a very real workforce demographic shift that becomes even more pronounced starting in 2009. As the aging workforce in the largest economies continues to retire (in the U.S., it’s the baby boomer generation) and more young workers enter and climb higher, we’ll see a widening gap (I call it the 'expectation gap') between the expected behavior of enterprise applications and their actual behavior."
There's no question people entering the workforce today have higher expectations from technology. If they're using services and applications at home that make life easier, they won't settle for less at work (although, I'm not sure that's a stance that's exclusive to just the younger set).
If it's any consolation, at least employees don't seem to be letting their love of technology interfere with their work. Boston.com's Aaron Green says, "Since work was invented, there have been opportunities to goof off. New technologies are not to blame for employees who shirk their responsibilities. Before there was instant messaging employees could talk on the phone about personal matters, play solitaire or even write each other letters. Let's face it, even the best employees spend at least a bit of time on personal, non-business matters while at work."
Gentile is right to remind software vendors to design products with the younger workforce in mind. Of course, CTOs need to pick up the ball next and actually purchase these tools. As Don Tapscott, author of the popular book Grown Up Digital points out, young people these days are innovators. "...and seek innovative companies as employers and are constantly looking for innovative ways to collaborate, entertain themselves, learn, and work."