There is a war of attrition taking place in the workplace between the 'baby boomers' -- the landmark generation that entered the workplace in the sixties -- and the 'millennials' -- their modern equivalents, born after 1980 and who have never known a world without information technology.
Traditional CIOs and IT managers are facing a backlash from this new generation of switched-on workers who are also tech-minded consumers. This social group is driving a change in the modern workplace and is forcing consumer IT into the corporate environment.
But this is by no means a peaceful transition, and it looks as if the consumer and corporate IT worlds are on course for a head-on collision.
A new, connected economy is already thriving in the personal technology arena. The millennials have grown-up with and embraced Web 2.0 technology, hosted applications, SaaS, social networks and instant messaging. It is little wonder then that they complain that they are frustrated and disillusioned by having to revert to old deskbound technologies whenever they log on in the office.
Make no mistake, a consumer revolution is taking place which will provoke a radical rethink of how we build and manage the business IT infrastructure.
In the 1980s we placed a PC on everyone's desk and began to build the corporate IT infrastructure that we know today. We started by providing a basic processor linked into a 'steam-driven' network. Users accepted whatever hardware and software was on offer. They were grateful just to be connected. That era was nonetheless one of profound challenge for CIOs. Communications became digital, offices had to be wired up and networks expanded. It has taken nearly 20 years for businesses to contain the costs of these technologies.
But now a further shift in the corporate IT infrastructure is upsetting this historical perception. The convergence of traditional office systems and personal multimedia devices is finally happening, and the most visible point of convergence is the web itself. We are all becoming dependent on web-based services in our domestic lives and expect similar facilities in the workplace.
A recent Fujitsu-sponsored survey of European CIOs showed that the millennials expect more consumer-grade equipment to find its way into their organizations. Choices of hardware, software and services will be increasingly influenced by the personal technology marketplace rather than by the internal IT department.
Gartner has also verified this change in corporate working practices. In its Predictions for 2008, the analyst claimed that tech-savvy workers will make IT decisions in the future and that businesses must bow to the demands of the internet generation.
Gartner predicts that by 2010 end-user preferences will decide as much as half of all IT buying decisions, including hardware, software and services. This reflects the feeling held by many that we are regressing at least three generations of technology as we arrive in the office each day.
Consumer IT evolves today at break-neck speed in terms of product and service innovation -- just look at Apple and Google. In direct contrast, most corporate IT infrastructures are based on 'one size fits all' platforms that are five to 10 years behind the current market. Corporate users feel trapped in a time warp.
Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.