Digital Natives Lead Enterprise IT

Consumer technologies will penetrate the enterprise workplace by the year 2012, says Gartner.

Generation Y is invading corporate America and bringing with it personal technology that will create a revolution in corporate technology departments, Gartner analysts told attendees at the annual Symposium/ITxpo here Oct. 8-13.

Consumer technologies, including podcasting, blogging, VOIP (voice over IP) and video on demand will penetrate the enterprise workplace by the year 2012, spearheaded by 20-somethings raised on the technologies—who Gartner analysts are calling "digital natives."

"The impact of consumerization is the most important trend impacting IT in the next 10 years," said Gartner analyst Peter Sondergaard.

The resulting changes will be a shift in technology ownership from businesses to consumers, as business processes run on powerful consumer platforms.

"We are soon at that trigger point," said Sondergaard, predicting that financial services companies will lead the charge because 36 percent of consumers already use online banking. "Banks are at the forefront of the change where power shifts to the consumer," he said.

Gartner analyst Steve Prentice noted another underlying factor behind the shift: In 2004, the consumer market for semiconductors exceeded the size of the business market for the first time.

"Consumer technology will be integrated into all settings: home, home office, in-transit or recreational areas. Users will initiate interactions from all of these settings," Sondergaard explained.

Only by enabling such consumer empowerment will businesses be able to justify premium fees, he said. Organizations will need to deliver scaled-down versions of their applications to individuals, he added.

"By 2011, companies will deliver Web services to customers for personal application configuration," said Sondergaard.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in comments before the Gartner audience, echoed the theme. "The most important thing is the Live platform. The next level of consumerization is coming from Internet services and Internet delivery," said Ballmer.

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The consumer coup détat could take another form, literally taking over responsibility for PC devices from corporate IT in exchange for a stipend to cover the costs of hardware, software and connectivity.

Gartner analyst Tom Austin said some companies already are going down that path. He pointed to one large corporation, which he did not name, that, instead of spending $2,500 per year per employee to equip workers with PCs, is giving employees a $1,000 stipend to purchase their own equipment.

By 2012, person-centric computing will take hold, said Austin. "There will be a federated intersect of meshes—the users mesh and the enterprises mesh," he said, adding, "technology is becoming part of the fabric of everyday life and will become effectively invisible by 2020."

In the meantime, corporate IT has no choice but to embrace Generation Y as new employees join businesses. "Theyre the future of your work force and the future of your customer base," said Prentice.

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