Ignore at Your Own Peril: Why Enterprise IT Must Adapt to Gen Y To Remain Relevant

Campus graduates are changing the way enterprise IT works.

Educational institutions by nature are supposed to be innovators. They are supposed to be the risk takers, the scientists, and the advancers of technology. You would expect that they are the ones that would take technology to the next level. In the last two or three years, you’ve started to see a whole wave of innovation happening in the education space, and it’s a very ripe time right now for innovation in education.

The biggest singular factor that can be attributed to is the advent of the iPad. Los Angeles school district, for example, which is one of the largest school districts in the country, ordered 50,000 iPads as a trial—50K just as a trial. So just imagine what is going on right now. University campuses, K through 12 education…everybody is looking at content, collaboration, and administration. Those are the three key areas where education is driving massive innovation.

We’re going to walk through some of the things that we have observed as a technology company and share what we see are the lessons you can learn from institutions and companies leading today’s innovations in education mobility.

The theme throughout will remain the same: “How are educational institutions innovating in content, collaboration, and administration, using mobility as a technology base?” But before we start looking at how, the first question is why is this relevant for the enterprise?

Who are the next generation of employees in the any corporation? They have been students in the modern K through 12 system and the university system. When they look at enterprise software and enterprise IT, they look at it with a completely different world filter than the filter of many of you reading this.

They have grown up with digital, they have grown up with mobile, and they have been born and raised looking at Facebook and using social media. They are a connected group. They would never create the kind of isolated, analog, tethered systems that you typically find in enterprises, even today, and they’ll struggle to adopt these systems effectively.

This is the most important clue to unlocking the full potential of this new workforce: Students that are used to these kinds innovations on their campuses expect the same kind of innovation in their companies.

If you look at some company landscapes today, the Google landscape or the Facebook landscape, or even Microsoft, they are trying to emulate the campus environment of the universities, and working this culture into their entire IT infrastructure, as a part of that offering.

When you look at content, for example, there’s been a massive shift. People today are doing much more than just consuming content, they’re actively creating it.

We’re are not talking about crowdsourcing of enterprise IT systems. What we’re talking about is employees contributing to those systems in more meaningful ways–they want them to be open enough to be able to take their suggestions and be able to deploy changes rapidly. But traditional enterprise systems, are not typically very flexible. So enterprises are starting to look at which parts of their systems can be adapted to work on the go, and the whole app economy, with billions of downloads, is now starting to affect the enterprise.

Creating content is important from the employee’s point of view, and the employee wants to be socially interactive with that content. They want open systems as opposed to closed systems, and they don’t want to be boxed into device A or device B. They want something that can work on any device.

Two big trends that are happening in the enterprise world are starting to support that openness. Bring Your Own Device, or “BYOD”, and the “consumerization” of IT. These two trends overlay enterprises’ current approach to IT. Our thesis is that the innovations education institutions are driving in the mobile space are big for enterprise, because today’s new employees were students yesterday.

For enterprise today, “not changing stuff” is not an option. To succeed you’ve got to change, and you have to adapt to Generation Y’s needs and their requirements to be social, mobile, create content themselves, and to be able to work with open systems rather than closed systems.

If you ignore these waves of change, you’re doing it at your own peril.

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series on how education is driving changes far beyond the gates of colleges campuses.
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Sudhir Kulkarni, is a Managing Partner at Sourcebits, and spoke at the recent Technology Symposium on the topic of “How Education is Driving Trends in Content, Collaboration, and Administration…and Why It Matters To Enterprise.”