IT departments have been a staple for most modern offices, ever since the arrival of computers as a primary means of work. Since the days of bulky computer monitors and bundles of cables connecting them to their respective towers, we’ve seen some major technological changes.
Millennials, specifically, are driving the advancement and use of new technologies in modern workplaces. They’re the most connected generation in the modern era, and because they grew up witnessing this explosion of technology, they’ve become better equipped to learn new tech on their own.
With their arrival as the biggest generational group in the workforce, millennials are changing how IT is practiced. So what are these changes, and how should businesses respond?
Major Changes in IT
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest ways that millennials are influencing IT’s evolution:
1. Bigger, better networks. Millennials are driving the adoption of bigger, more connected, and faster networks. Network performance management has become central to keeping a team of workers productive, and has become necessary to keep more people in more diverse roles connected to one another to ensure maximum productivity. This introduces some degree of complexity to the role of IT, as bigger, faster systems are more challenging to keep optimally operational, but other developments have balanced this special focus.
2. The reliance on virtual systems. Virtual systems, which don’t require specifically dedicated hardware or software, are being increasingly used for various applications. For example, virtual servers can be used to mimic the functionality of a dedicated server without the need to purchase or maintain new hardware or software. In some ways, this is reducing the complexity and demand for IT roles; intuitively packaged virtual machines are less expensive and more practical to manage, sometimes capable of being handled by non-experts who have a basic understanding of tech functionality (like most millennials).
3. The emergence of personal devices. Millennials have helped drive the trend of using personal devices for work purposes. Tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices have become increasingly common for personal use, and that increased mobility has started to blur the lines between our personal and professional lives. Millennials have started to blur that line even further by pushing for more bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies in workplaces. This causes some headaches for existing IT departments – especially if there’s ever a potential security breach – but it also puts a greater burden of device management on the individual workers using those devices, rather than a centralized IT-specific department.
4. Demand for remote IT service. The increased mobility of the modern worker, and the increased prevalence of working from home have collectively increased demand for remote IT service. Offices are no longer as centralized or stationary as they used to be, which means hardware and software management often needs to cross great distances. Some companies are addressing this by including more modes of digital communication, such as instant messaging, but others are forgoing the need of an internal IT department altogether, instead seeking partnerships with external firms.
5. Fewer IT-specific service calls. Millennials’ collective familiarity and comfortability with new technology has affected IT departments in one especially significant way; the demand for service calls and external help has significantly dropped. Even professionally inexperienced millennials are comfortable using new devices, connecting to the internet, and troubleshooting any problems they experience on their own. They’re more familiar with best practices for security, and don’t need handholding when learning new software. This greatly decreases demand for assistance from IT departments specifically, and instead allows individual workers to take on more IT-related responsibilities in their own roles.
Is IT Disappearing?
In a world where an entire workforce is responsible for the management of their own devices, and where networks are controlled remotely or through offsite partners, are internal IT departments really necessary?
That depends on the organization, as well as your definition of “IT.” Every business needs information and communications technology to succeed, but it’s no longer necessary for each business to house a dedicated, internal IT department. Instead, a combination of relying on external IT firms and allowing individual employees to manage their own technology has transformed the traditional “IT” view. IT departments are turning into IT firms, and employees are expected to bring at least some IT knowledge to the table.
As our tech becomes even more sophisticated, and the next generation emerges even more adaptable to new tech, this trend may start growing even faster.