The thing about mil­len­ni­als and tech­nol­ogy

Steve Tzikakis ex­plains how mil­len­ni­als are driv­ing ma­jor changes in how busi­nesses ap­proach the use of tech­nol­ogy


Some 25 years ago I went to work for the first time with a hand­held de­vice in my hand: a Ca­sio cal­cu­la­tor. I thought I was the man. Today, the new gen­er­a­tion of work­ers turn­ing up for their first day of­ten have a bet­ter grasp of tech­nol­ogy than se­nior man­age­ment.

That scares some com­pa­nies. Me, not so much. I’m ex­cited – be­cause I be­lieve there is a huge op­por­tu­nity wait­ing for com­pa­nies that start view­ing their en­ter­prise tech­nol­ogy the way mil­len­ni­als do.

Most com­pa­nies I talk to today ei­ther have a strong tech­nol­ogy stack, or they’re on a ‘dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion jour­ney’. Many have en­ter­prise soft­ware that can give them real-time dash­boards of any as­pect of the busi­ness, from what’s hap­pen­ing in a spe­cific lo­ca­tion at any time down to how many tea bags they used last week. Some have cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment suites that can prac­ti­cally pre­dict their cus­tomers’ be­hav­iour. They’ve got pro­duc­tiv­ity soft­ware that can al­low ev­ery­one in the busi­ness to col­lab­o­rate and share like never be­fore. Big data is sim­ply their cur­rency.

But here’s a harsh re­al­ity. While we’re busy high-fiv­ing each other be­cause we have the lat­est ver­sion of SharePoint, mil­len­ni­als are look­ing at us and think­ing: did we just get caught in a time warp?

And this is the prob­lem. When most com­pa­nies tell you they are un­der­tak­ing a ‘dig­i­tal jour­ney’, what they re­ally mean is that they want to use tech­nol­ogy to make their busi­ness faster, more ef­fi­cient and more prof­itable. What they of­ten end up do­ing, how­ever, is ei­ther au­tomat­ing bad pro­cesses or us­ing clunky tech­nol­ogy that makes their peo­ple frus­trated and un­happy.

Mil­len­ni­als, on the other hand, look at tech­nol­ogy in a to­tally dif­fer­ent way. They’re not par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in mak­ing ex­ist­ing pro­cesses bet­ter; in­stead they want to make ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies bet­ter.

They’re not ex­cited by a multi-year roll­out of the lat­est en­ter­prise soft­ware. They want their tech­nol­ogy to work quickly and in­tu­itively. They want im­me­di­ate ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, from numer­ous sources, in a way that makes sense to the way they view the world. They want to con­nect eas­ily to the peo­ple they work with, and their broader net­works, with­out hav­ing to worry about whether the com­pany prefers Teams or Yam­mer.

Let’s face it; en­ter­prise soft­ware hasn’t ex­actly al­ways been the cool kid of the tech­nol­ogy world. But that’s chang­ing fairly rapidly, as busi­nesses – and their users – start to see the pos­si­bil­i­ties that are un­locked by tech­nolo­gies like in-mem­ory com­put­ing, which ba­si­cally al­lows us to make sense of the tsunami of data that washes over us every sin­gle day.

Sud­denly, at the prompt­ing of mil­len­ni­als, we’re see­ing en­ter­prise soft­ware in­creas­ingly de­liv­er­ing and em­brac­ing the type of so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion that peo­ple use every day. This doesn’t just make busi­nesses bet­ter at do­ing busi­ness: it also makes them more dy­namic, vi­brant places to work.

The in­flu­ence of mil­len­ni­als on tech­nol­ogy isn’t only lim­ited to ‘ big busi­ness’, though. In emerg­ing economies across the world, we’re in­creas­ingly see­ing small and mi­cro-busi­nesses us­ing en­ter­prise soft­ware in their day-to-day op­er­a­tions. Their suc­cess is not only in build­ing a new breed of en­tre­pre­neur in emerg­ing economies across Africa, the Mid­dle East and Europe – in many cases, it’s grow­ing en­tire economies. Many of th­ese mi­crobusi­nesses are be­ing run by mil­len­ni­als, who are meeting the chal­lenge of un­em­ploy­ment in tra­di­tional job mar­kets by cre­at­ing their own fu­ture.

In a re­cent Wired ar­ti­cle on how mil­len­ni­als are chang­ing prod­uct devel­op­ment across the globe, Mathieu Tur­pault hits the nail right on the head: “What most of the an­a­lysts I’ve read don’t get is that mil­len­ni­als are the first gen­er­a­tion to truly live by its own set of con­sumer and busi­ness rules. As con­sumers, they ex­pect the brands they fol­low to share their prin­ci­ples (much as Gen X and Boomers did be­fore them). But as en­trepreneurs, they’re also able to de­liver on it.”


Steve Tzikakis is pres­i­dent of South Europe, Mid­dle East, and Africa at SAP

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