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The Gen Y Effect: Younger Generations and Their Influence on Enterprise Communication

B2B Marketing

While the technological renaissance in which we find ourselves entrenched has affected all facets of our lives, it originated and continues to be defined by innovations in communication.  The contemporary innovators, adopters and beneficiaries are largely Generation Y.  They were born at the dawn of ubiquitous communication and raised in the era of instant messaging and email, having matured with file sharing and social networks.  Simply put, those born after 1980 know how to efficiently communicate better than any previous generation. Only now are we in the enterprise world beginning to reap what they have sown; and, when adding traditional enterprise security components into the equation, the end-result will be a complete restructuring of workplace collaborations and communications.

For starters, having grown up with a device in hand that connects them at any point in time, from any location, Gen Y has taken the idea of being completely “off-the-grid” nearly to extinction.  This has also essentially dissolved the line between office and home.  According to Forrester Research, 70 percent of organizations embrace teleworkers and 62 percent of employees also work outside the office. In return for these flexible boundaries on their time, today’s employees have demanded that they be able to use their own mobile devices for work. In fact, Forrester has also shown that over 70 percent of iPads and 50 percent of smartphones used in corporate environments are purchased by the employee.

Beyond redefining the mobile workplace, the most immediately obvious example of Gen Y’s enterprise influence is the use of instant messaging for employee interaction.  Whether they are internally developed, or repurposed versions of popular programs such as MSN Messaging and Google Chat, instant messaging has become an essential part of the office atmosphere, while also proving to increase productivity.  Almost all programs share the same essential features, such as a list of coworkers also logged in, notifications when you receive a message, profile pictures and contact groupings.  All of these were also in place when AOL first launched Instant Messenger in 1997.  By 2001 nearly 3 out of 4 teenagers were using instant messaging, and as they enter professional life today, the transition to using the programs for work-related ventures is not only welcome, but expected.  One can now find instant messaging in company intranets, file transfer platforms and conference software. We at SkyDox have incorporated these into a single file sharing, synchronization, storage and-collaboration platform.

One of the recent advances we have observed in our clients’ workplace collaboration is in the area of file-sharing.  As many reading this undoubtedly already know, email is by far the most prevalent form of enterprise file-sharing, and frankly, to call it inefficient would be an understatement.  Almost all employees share the frustrating experience of spending enormous amounts of times scanning inboxes for documents and files, and it has been shown that file searching is among the biggest employee time waster. In fact according to IDC up to 18% of an employee’s time can be taken up  searching but not finding a document and content, ultimately resulting in losses for the company’s bottom line. Quick and efficient file-sharing is, however, arguably Gen Y’s inaugural innovation. After all, YouSendIt, founded back in 2003, transformed enterprise file-sharing.

In 2008, the rise of the cloud would change file-sharing forever, as data storage no longer needed to be localized or centralized.  Companies like DropBox have exploded in the consumer market, claiming 45 million users, with enterprises rushing on board as well. 22 percent of businesses use free services that are not audited for data compliance or privacy. But as DropBox encountered in the recent past, taking this can approach can be hugely problematic.

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For instance, consumer technology is typically not equipped to provide secure audit trails for monitoring and controlling files, which could potentially lead to lost or stolen intellectual property, and legal action resulting in financial penalties.  In the event of an outage, consumer-grade storage providers typically do not provide robust back-up and recovery plans.  Not only that, for many highly regulated industries like financial services and healthcare, consumer-grade products do not meet compliance standards for information sharing and storage. These, among other security exposures, have risen the demand for cloud-enabled platforms designed specifically for enterprises.

Then, of course, there is Facebook.  The social network behemoth may go down as the pinnacle of both Gen Y and Web2.0, and has ushered in a suite of revolutionary tools  designed not only to improve connections between people, but to translate all social experiences into digital ones. Personal profiles, activity feeds and status updates have not only become part of the personal communications lexicon, they have also found their way into the workplace.   From a document collaboration standpoint, their benefits are numerous.  Activity feeds are now seen in many platforms as the primary indicator of the time and extent of changes made to a document.  The online status of other users working on the same document is also important to ensure that nobody performs contradictory edits, and when used in conjunction with IM-style conversations, can lead to quick and effective document collaboration. When combined with file-sharing features, the result is a uniquely document-centric collaboration system, perfectly suited for enterprise use.

One can now frequently hear references to the “Enterprise Social Networking,” or “Enterprise2.0.”  While there are a host of specific businesses processes the terms could be referencing, there is a common thread that runs through all of them.  They have universally been adopted from the way Gen Y has learned to communicate. These innovations have streamlined business communication, while improving efficiencies, and when implemented correctly, should not adversely affect security.  From a business productivity and collaboration standpoint, is that not what an enterprise should strive for?

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