Earlier this week I spoke at an excellent event organized by Canon for the CIOs of major organizations. During an extended lunch, a diverse range of ‘celebrities’ including TV personalities, authors, and musicians gave short presentations. I spoke about how the evolving intersection of technology and society is shaping employees’ expectations, particularly in the technology they can use. I wove a broader story about social change and its implications, though I briefly brought out five points on what employees expect from technology.
When people go into organizations, they have extremely high expectations of the technology they are given to use. This has been honed by extensive use of intuitive, responsive, flexible consumer technologies, and the reasonable view that organizations should be able to provide technologies that are at least as good as those consumers have access to.
We have reached a point at which staff are no longer prepared simply to use what they are given, but expect to exercise their own choices on the technology they use. One of the fastest-developing trends in enterprise technology is the ‘bring your own technology’ movement. While a recent survey by CIO magazine showed that just 24% of US companies allow staff to buy their own equipment for work, that is probably close to 24% more than just a few years ago, and that figure will rapidly rise, particularly for companies that hope to or are able to attract the most talented staff.
Technology is clearly at the point at which people can readily work from anywhere. Staff policies and management attitudes often remain the real constraint, but there are still often changes to business processes and new technologies that need to be implemented that give people the flexibility to work when and where suits the task and the situation. There is often no good reason for people to spend large chunks of their life in rush-hour traffic.
When managers go to the IT department and ask for some technologies to support better business or new opportunities, they find it intensely frustrating when they get the usual response, which is that they will get something back in 3-6 months, if they’re lucky. By then the market will be different and needs will have changed. Employees expect responsiveness, or if they can’t get that, the most likely alternative, which is self-service development. If they can get it faster, they will do it themselves, and in many cases mashups and other technologies will allow them to do it.
Within the massive trend of increased expectations of personal opportunity, there are a number of aspects that relate to technology. One is the gradual economic shift to increased entrepreneurship, made more visible by eager reporting of supposed instant startup millionaires, which particularly by technology staff is seen as a viable alternative to corporate work. More generally, talented people expect to have reasonably broad vistas in which to play with and develop ideas, which often need to be supported by technology in their implementation.
Expect that employees will continue to expect even more from their technology and IT department.