Making Sense of Millennials, UC Wise
The older generation may have grown up in a command-and-control environment, but that is not going to be the model going forward.
As Jon, who is principal at J Arnold & Associates, explained, the panelists focused on the impact of millennials in our field -- and were themselves members of that generation. While Jon's description of those of us on the old side of the generational divide left me somewhat depressed, his insights into the wants and needs of the younger generation were right on the mark.
A lot of what panelists brought up in this session, called "What Millennials, Mobility and 5G Mean for UC," echoed the standard fare on the millennial generation, but Jon had a decided focus on what that will mean for UC. As Jon summarized it, what the millennials are looking for is "mobility, Wi-Fi, constant access to social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, easy-to-use messaging applications, security for online purchases, and long battery life."
Of course, the most notable item missing from that list is voice. However, the obvious interest in social sites does seem to point in the direction of the new social collaboration platforms like Cisco Spark, Unify Circuit, Avaya's recently announced Breeze, and others, but we might see a BYOA -- bring your own application -- challenge to that.
Consumerization of IT is a given in this population, and with millennials seemingly native fluidity with apps and smart devices, the tacit assumption is that they will be embracing technology. However, that only applies to the technologies with which they are most comfortable.
This will present a challenge to the UC-created social collaboration tools, as members of this group will more likely be looking at Slack or Atlassian's HipChat as their vehicles of choice. IT will need to make a strong case for why only an enterprise-grade platform will meet the security and management requirements of the organization, or that next major development in UC won't be coming from one of our established UC players.
In his description of the show floor, Jon emphasized what I would characterize as "drab sameness." Going from booth to booth among the UC vendors, he found distinguishing one vendor's offering from the next was hard. But drawing on their mobile roots, millennials are putting a far greater emphasis on user experience (UX) than those in other generations.
Not surprisingly, the one element of the UX that seemed to be most contentious to the millennials was the invasive nature of the advertising. However, they must be savvy enough in the ways of the new economy to recognize that if you're at the free end of the freemium model, ads are the price you pay -- unless they're all Bernie Sanders supporters!
Not unexpectedly, the millennials have clearly altered the line between work and personal life. This has been one of the bones of contention between the generations, but the message is clear: If you're interested in attracting and retaining the best and the brightest, you have to be willing to give them the latitude to approach the job in the way that makes sense to them. We may have grown up in the "command and control" environment, but that is not going to be the model going forward.
Workplace observers often cast the different ideas and ways of working as a millennials-driven inter-generational battle. But consider this poignant note that came from one of the panelists: "We need to know that you care and you know that we care." While our generation has recreated the world we encountered when we entered the workforce, things haven't turned out too badly. As we get ready to turn it over to the next generation, I think we will be pleasantly surprised by where they take it next.