IT analyst Gartner has released a new report that explains the three most important ways businesses can exploit the new breed of 'digitally fluent' employees entering the workplace.
'Today's employees possess a greater degree of digital dexterity,' said Matt Cain, research vice president at Gartner. 'They operate their own wireless networks at home, attach and manage various devices, and use apps and web services in almost every facet of their personal lives. They participate in sharing economies for transport, lodging and more.'
An unprecedented numbers of workers enjoy using technology and recognise the relevance of digitalisation to a wide range of business models, says Cain. They know how to routinely apply their own tech know-how to streamline worklife. So how can IT fully embrace this, instead of running scared?
Implement a digital workplace strategy
While most organisations approach the consumerisation of IT in a disjointed way, looking at specific things like mobile or social, Gartner advises that they take into account the whole environment, thoroughly analysing the benefits of consumerisation across all business units.
A digital workplace strategy 'promotes employee agility and engagement through a more consumer-like computing environment'- this means making resources accessible in a way that match employees' preferences, and not being afraid to give them empowerment and ownership.
All of this can work alongside HR, addressing and improving factors such as workplace culture, autonomous decision making, work-life balance, and recognition of contributions workers make.
'IT leaders are in a unique position to strategically sense and respond to a set of seemingly disconnected business initiatives for employees, partners and customers,' says Cain. 'The central thread that ties them all together is the consumerisation of technology, and a failure to engage with this will further marginalise the IT group.'
Embrace 'shadow IT'
Over the next several years, Gartner predicts that IT spending will increasingly occur outside the consolidated IT budget.
More money will be spent on IT resources by individual business units, sometimes with no interaction with IT. While a lot of IT departments see this as risky or cost inefficient, Gartner warns that going against the grain of 'shadow IT' is 'futile' and 'a waste of valuable talent in the workforce.'
'Shadow IT investments often exceed 30% of total IT spend,' says Cain. 'This will only increase because demand for new apps and services to pursue digital opportunities outstrips the capacity of IT to provide them. At the same time, cloud services will mature and employee demographics will shift to increasingly technically savvy employees frustrated by the pace of traditional IT, and with the skills to find their own IT solutions.'
Rather than try to fight the tide, the IT organisation should develop a framework that outlines when it is appropriate for business units and individuals to use their own technology solutions and when IT should take the lead.
IT should position itself as a business partner and consultant that does not control all technology decisions in the business, Gartner advises.
Use a bimodal approach
'Organisations that formally embrace and extend the digital competencies of their employees will experience improved business outcomes and gain competitive advantage,' says Cain. 'The trick, however, will be to ensure that employees willingly embrace new technology, rather than feel threatened by it.'
In order to do this, Gartner suggesta that organisations adopt what's known as a 'bimodal' approach to IT operations. This separates the kind of risk-averse and 'slow' methods of traditional IT that still have to do things like 'keeping the lights on' from the innovation side and the fast-paced demands of digital business.
This 'dual' way of operating can satisfy the ever-increasingly demands of digital savyy business units and employees, while ensuring that critical IT infrastructure and services still run as they should.