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Supporting Millennials in the Workplace: BYOD, Shadow IT, and the World of Apps

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millennialsMillennials, millennials, millennials. It seems to be all we read and hear about these days. People saying, ‘Read my millennial blog post here!’ or ‘Check out some quick tips about millennials!’ over there. We’re all being bombarded with articles about the millennial generation. If you’re a CIO or a Service Desk Manager or someone remotely involved with information technology, keep reading, as this post seeks to cut through the noise and provide deeper insight into how millennials work—because, well, I am one.

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Many of us millennials grew up with technology at our fingertips. We have an ‘intuitition’ when it comes to technology, a sense of how the thing should operate. Present a new smartphone and operating system to a modern user and they’ll be perfectly functional in a day or two. No instructions needed. That said, the millennials entering your workforce also have preferences. Strong preferences. Because we’re digitally literate, we know what we like. We were using the Apple® Watch, the Samsung Galaxy® Edge, and the FiftyThree Pencil® before they were cool. We know which tools help us get our work done. Naturally, we expect IT to let us use what we like. After all, IT wants the business to succeed, right? Why would you prevent us from using the best tools that enable us to help the business succeed?

Tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, connected, confident, open to change, educated, ambitious, headstrong, demanding… these are the people entering the workplace. Your workplace.

So, how are you going to support and enable us?

Embrace Mobile Wholeheartedly

IT needs to have a deep understanding of the mobile environment in order to broadly support the modern user. When I’m working from the Wild Goose, Poor Richards, or Ivywild, I expect quick and easy access to all my files. Waiting in line at the grocery store? That’s a couple of emails. But do I go grocery shopping with my work phone? Nope. I don’t want two phones in the first place, but I want to be able to work while waiting in line. A co-worker in the UK needs a file? I’m not waiting to get to the office to send it to her. Speed is a must. Flexibility is a must. The modern work world moves quickly; it’s on its feet 24/7, so I need availability across all my devices 24/7. I want relevant business information accessible from my pocket at all times. Self-service portals and remote database access, optimized for mobile devices, are essential. Allowing the use of popular apps is also a must (more on this later). Implementing policies around this may help, but you’ll need a more robust mobile enablement strategy to meet the needs of modern users like me.

Openly Acknowledge Shadow IT

Guess what? We all know “Shadow IT” is BIG, but you’ll need to know a few things in order to address it. First, it needs to be brought into the light and acknowledged in an open, non-judgmental way. Second, you should note that millennials aren’t trying to make your life difficult. We simply want to do things quickly, and need tools that enable us to do that. When IT goes through its product selection process of gathering requirements, evaluating vendors, testing, deploying, and so on and so forth, it takes too long, thus modern users resort to “Shadow IT.” But it’s not actively being hidden. We would love to have a conversation with IT discussing our needs and which tools we prefer to meet those needs. But it’s important to note that we have high expectations of our IT departments. The digital revolution is all we know. Allowing us to use the devices we prefer is an expectation.

There are many business risks that aren’t taken into account with personal devices and unsanctioned apps, and frankly, won’t be taken into account if you don’t educate millennials on the real risks. We’re not afraid to use technology from outside the business, in the business. Some of the risks of doing so, however, are unknown to us. Therefore it’s important for IT to not only acknowledge the presence of shadow IT, but also to educate us on the real security risks associated with the choices we make. Participate in new employee onboarding, conduct quarterly seminars on what’s new in tech security, and provide a place for users to collaborate with IT. We enjoy learning about the latest advances in technology, so take advantage of that love to get us engaged with your shadow IT message. Use surprising stories and statistics. Explain how creating security liabilities can actually affect database access and availability. Explain how a security breach could lead to a loss of workplace flexibility or real revenue loss. It’s of utmost importance to show each individual why shadow IT should matter to them as an individual, not just to the organization.

Understand the World of Apps

“It’s no exaggeration to say the rise of smartphones and mobile technology is affecting our lives and changing how we interact with each other and with the world in profound ways,” says Elad Natanson in a recent article. “The Web as we know it is being replaced, slowly but surely, by mobile apps,” says Jim Edwards in a separate column. If the way people access the internet is fundamentally changing, you’d better keep tabs on how your users approach the world of apps. When I glance down at my smartphone, I’ve got a Finance folder with 12 apps. Four are for mobile payments, three are for investing, two are for personal finance, and three are for banking. Why do I use multiple apps for the same task? Because each app performs a specific function extremely well. I don’t want a monolithic application that does 100 things, I want 100 apps that do individual things excellently —apps that I know are device-agnostic. If someday I decide to switch from Apple to Android®, I want access to the same apps.

The app economy is also important for IT to understand because I get my work done through apps (aka Evernote®, Dropbox®, Basecamp®, etc). I expect to be allowed to use almost any app that I want, even on company-owned devices, assuming it doesn’t pose a legitimate risk. IT must be on the leading edge of such consumer-like apps so that I can rely on IT to not only support these apps, but also recommend the next app that will help me with an important aspect of my job. This is how you earn my trust and loyalty—and, quite frankly, my business.

Supporting the millennial generation is becoming increasingly important, yet it remains one of IT’s greatest challenges in recent years. By 2020, over 50% of the world’s working population will be millennials, according to Catalyst. Understanding the significance of mobile and developing a BYOD policy to support your business users will go a long way towards creating a positive relationship. Openly acknowledging you have a shadow IT problem in your organization is a great opportunity to not only educate modern users but also learn where IT can better support and enable them, assuming you create an open and inviting environment for them to share how they get things done. Keeping tabs on current lasting trends in the world of apps, will also help you better support and gain the trust of millennials in your workplace.

Learn about supporting and enabling millennials, and see how Cherwell Service Management helps your IT team meet the demands of today’s business consumer in our upcoming webinar: