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Generation Y Expected To Disrupt The IT Department

The under-30 crowd--Generation Y--is pioneering the CoIT movement, and young workers are turning down jobs where they can't use their own devices. How far should IT go to accommodate the BYOD employee?

IT departments are bracing for a new generation of workers who expect to use their own devices and services at work. According to a Cisco survey of those under 30--of the so called Generation Y--"more than two of five would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility."That is a number hiring managers must consider if their company ignores IT consumerization, where self-provisioned gadgets and services are integrating with the corporate environment. Restrictive companies are not going to find as much interest in their employment opportunities as they did previously."

Generation Y sees BOYD as a right, not a privilege.

College students and recent graduates have only known a life with a cell phone, and most recently, a smartphone. Their smartphone has become an extension of who they are, and they feel intruded upon when an employer requires them to give it up for a corporate-issued device.

"They see it as management of their personal life," said Dan Croft, president and CEO of Mission Critical Wireless. "The distinction of work and play has blurred so dramatically compared to 20 years ago." Employees are increasingly expected to work remotely and during off hours; and they expect to be able to use their own tools to do it. If they're working at home, they expect to be able to play a bit.

Acquity Group has witnessed firsthand the demands that new employees make on an IT department. The consulting firm who built websites for both Kohl's and Saks Fifth Avenue has hired 400 employees this year, 25 percent straight out of school.

"Certainly they're looking to have access to whatever ever they want," said Jim Newman at Acquity Group. New hires want "access to their own social media or our internal social media, or email and those sorts of things through their own devices, whatever they are. So they value having the ability to choose their own platform or their own mobile device."

Yet IT departments are generally run and staffed by a generation that did not grow up with smartphones and might not understand the importance these devices have for younger workers.

"Personally, I can't relate to dropping my salary so that I can use an iPhone instead of a Blackberry." said Larry Seltzer, editorial director of BYTE. Seltzer's not alone. Many other established workers cannot relate, says Croft. He equates today's new employees to baby boomers who were willing to sacrifice pay in order to ensure some time off. The companies that adapt to this new worker will have their pick from the entire talent pool; but that requires a different set of skills and a different mindset. If IT replaces the consumer app store with a corporate one, they'd better throw in a few games, like Angry Birds.

"If you lock policy down [too] tight, you create an environment in which you are inviting rogue users to find their way around a system," said Croft.

Providing games to employees to keep them happy while working is not part of what IT has been trained to do. They're trained to hide Solitaire and Minesweeper though group policy, to block game sites at the firewall, and to lock down the DVD drive to prevent unauthorized program installations. Croft and others think that's about to change. Successful IT departments will work with their staff, creating a feedback loop, as better ideas might come from outside of IT and other traditional, corporate channels.  

As IT allows for self-provisioned devices and services, it must work to lock them down. Answering the question of how far and how tightly is determined by policy. A company's stakeholders must establish a set of policies starting with basic security, or a password policy, for example. The password policy requires decisions on password length, complexity, and shelf-life. So even this small bit of policy, and each of its components, pits convenience against security. Once policy is in place, the technology for a device management solution can be implemented. Yes, users can bring their Droid to work; but they should expect to have someone else controlling what can and cannot be put on it; and they won’t have all of the freedoms they would outside of the enterprise.

The role of IT is changing due to consumerization. It isn't as cut and dried as it used to be. IT's role is moving from implementing its own tools to integrating tools and technology it did not purchase, standardize on, or test. Companies that understand and adapt to this new role will have an advantage over those that view self-provisioning as a luxury accorded a generation spoiled on gadgets.

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