Millennials have already had an immutable impact on business IT, and their influence has just begun.
The Pew Research Center announced in 2018 that Millennials had become the largest segment of the labour force, accounting for more than one-third of all workers. And with the oldest among this influential generation now in their late 30s, many are now executives and key decision makers in organizations large and small.
As the first generation to have the internet during their childhood, Millennials have catalyzed major technological change within companies, driving the adoption of modern communication and productivity tools, like G Suite by Google Cloud and Microsoft 365, which in turn builds mobile intelligence—that is, a business’s ability to understand and stay on top of what’s new and what’s possible in the world of mobile technology, ultimately ensuring ongoing productivity, efficiency and performance.
But their influence goes further than simply embracing new technologies; the Millennial mindset has also had a noticeable impact on how companies think about how they do business. According to Deloitte's annual Millennial survey, more than a third of this influential generation believe that one of the top priorities of any business should be to innovate and generate new ideas. That means being prepared to embrace change in real time.
"The biggest shift I've seen since I began my career is the adoption of ‘Agile,’” says 37-year-old Shane Whilsmith, an IT project manager for a Toronto-based consulting group. Agile is a highly flexible method of design and creation that promotes adaptive change as projects grow and mature. Rather than holding to formal and rigid processes, it shifts software development towards a more iterative methodology so that teams are free to respond to new challenges as they arise. And this way of thinking has spread beyond just software development to other aspects of business.
It should come as no surprise that such a bold methodology is being widely adopted by Millennials. Research from Microsoft suggests Millennials aren’t as risk averse as previous generations, especially if that risk eventually leads to a better process or product. More than four in 10 Millennials say they are “very” willing to endure the risks of a new technology if it manages to make their workplace more efficient.
Jay Schacher, a design director for Toronto's Klick Health, believes the Millennial mentality is exactly what's needed to change companies entrenched in traditional processes. He points to the cloud-based Google Drive File Stream – a desktop application that provides quick access to Google Drive files directly from your computer while reducing time spent waiting for files to sync – as an example. "Google Drive File Stream is such a powerful tool," he explains. "I've spent some time educating peers and management on the advantages, and once you see what it can do, there's no turning back. Working with team members and contractors all over the world is easy when we're all working off the same drive."
Broad and accessible tool sets like G Suite and Microsoft 365 have proven a good meeting point for older and younger mindsets, a place where the old and new guard can find common ground in applications, interfaces and functionality. Everyone understands how to take advantage of these applications to enjoy tangible benefits.
Email, for example, has long been a thorn in the side of those who want to see it evolve to meet basic modern needs. "I can send a link with a file that you can download for 2 GB, but somehow email clients haven't caught up to allowing users to attach more than 20 MB," says Schacher. But by integrating Gmail with Google Drive in G Suite, users can send files of up to 10 GB. This kind of common sense, easy-to-adopt workflow improvement is another example of how Millennials are nudging companies towards growing their mobile intelligence.
Various generations are also unified in their appreciation for cloud computing and the opportunity it represents for mobile intelligence, particularly when it comes to taking advantage of cloud apps and networks. "I think many Millennials would question the need for a company to own large and expensive server setups when they can rent the space and scale up as needed from data centre and cloud providers, freeing themselves to focus on their core interests," says Whilsmith.
And as Millennials age, we can expect to see them employing technology in bolder and more ground-breaking ways. According to the Deloitte Millennial survey, 70% of Millennials believe that Industry 4.0—the use of analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) in various industries to automate specific tasks—will have a major impact on industry in the years to come. And more than half of Millennials see this evolution as a liberating opportunity to pursue more creative and fulfilling work.
Indeed, creativity is a primary driver for Millennials. According to the Microsoft report, 88% of them believe their company's current IT policies and procedures don’t allow them to reach their creative potential. The upshot? Expect Millennial workers to support the use of IoT, automated programs, and robots to handle mundane duties so that they can do more of what they want to do.
None of this is news to Whilsmith. "I believe Millennials are often less tied to tradition and the way things were done before. This puts them in a better position to make dramatic changes to stay ahead of the curve."