There's an app for that: Five ways IT must evolve over the next five years

To young people, the phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ isn’t just a snappy advertising slogan. It’s a truism, an answer to just about any question they’ve ever asked and an approach to every task. Can the same be said of today’s way of working? Well, not really. It’s more ‘there might be an app for that, but you’ve got to ask IT, and it might be blocked, or not work on your phone and…’ well just don’t bet on it being that simple.

The truth is that there remains a clear disconnect between the so-called 'app generation' and the current state of workplace IT. As this new generation enters the workforce, this disconnect will become increasingly obvious, with IT departments struggling to maintain their existing levels of control.

To address these issues, and identify how IT departments will need to evolve, we asked 2,500 members of the App Generation (teenagers between the ages of 15-18 years) about their expectations for workplace tech. This was compared to the real-life office environments of 5,000 workers across Europe. Here’s what we found out:

Workplace tech still needs to catch up with personal devices

Two thirds of office workers believe that the technology they use at work has some catching up to do in order to match what they use in their daily lives. Our research highlights significant dissatisfaction among today’s workers, with just over half saying their company’s technology is inadequate for working effectively.

Thanks to the uptake of cloud technology however, IT departments can start to address this issue now. When upgrades can take place almost with the flick of a switch, rather than with an entire rip and replace of on-premises hardware, enterprise technology stands a much better chance of keeping up with consumer devices.

Text and video will overtake voice

One of the defining characteristics of the app generation is that, although they are smartphone power users, they rarely use their phones for their original function - calls. The majority of adult workers (60 per cent) believe that text-based communication will replace voice, while 59 per cent of workers agree that video-based communication will play a much larger role in years to come.

Over time, email, video, and more recently enterprise social applications such as Slack, have eaten into voice-based communication. This trend is set to continue with the new generation relying far more on text-based interaction. IT departments should not shy away from this change, but rather embrace these new channels in a centralised way, allowing employees to communicate as they need to, while still maintaining a necessary degree of internal control.

IT must take ownership of its apps

Increasingly, the software we use in a personal capacity is bleeding into our workplace roles. This is especially true of communication platforms, with mobile messaging, video chat and social media all merging into our workplace comms.

As reliance on these platforms increases however, an ever greater amount of internal communication is taking place outside of IT’s control. As it stands, 25 per cent of workers will search the internet for a new piece of software to help with work rather than asking IT for help. This poses a number of difficulties from both a compliance and accountability viewpoint.

To address this, IT departments must strike a careful balance between necessary controls and full blown restrictions. Through the development of enterprise app stores, businesses can make app acquisition easier, without leaving the confines of a carefully controlled IT strategy.

'Work' must become what you do, not where you are

Only a small minority of workers believe they need to be in the office to be productive, while the vast majority can see the benefits of being able to work elsewhere. Of those surveyed, 42 per cent said that they would get more done if they were allowed to work from home.

While many employers are still reluctant to allow their employees to work from home, businesses do need to adjust to this mentality and ensure that the technology they provide maximises efficiency both in, and out of, the traditional office environment. This will not only increase employee satisfaction, but provide added benefits for the business through reduced overheads, and a more productive and engaged workforce.

But… the office isn’t going anywhere

Despite the expected growth of video and text-based communication, meeting face-to-face does not look like it has an expiry date. In fact, 84 per cent of workers believe that face-to-face interaction will always be important in the workplace, and for teenagers it’s their preferred way to interact with friends. Video and text-based communication will grow, but being together in the same place will always have its benefits.

The office will need to become a place that you want to be and one that enhances productivity and job satisfaction, not just somewhere you have to or need to be.

IT departments have a long way to go if they are to meet the expectations of the new App Generation, but these changes should be greeted as an opportunity rather than a threat, with those businesses that are willing to adapt and learn from the new generation jumping ahead of the competition.

Workplace technology needs to adapt. The only question is, will IT departments be leading the charge, or dragged behind?

Luca Lazzaron, Senior VP International Operations at Fuze

Image Credit: Wichy / Shutterstock