We all are well aware of the dramas of World War II, and of the many people that lost their lives in that global conflict. In the years following this conflict, many children were born and the population saw extreme growth. We call those the baby boomers. I’m actually one of them.
Sixty five years after the end of the war, we have reached the period where the first of those baby boomers are ready to retire. Don’t worry, I have no plans yet. We call this the Papy-boom (*). Indeed, two elements happen at once. An unusually high numbers of working people are retiring, this opens up many jobs, while a fair amount of reasonably affluent people are reaching the retirement age where they have an increased amount of time to consume goods and services.
It’s a treat and an opportunity.
Leaving the workforce
Many skilled workers are retiring, taking with them the experience gained during a long and hard working career, leaving behind a lack of knowledge and experience if it’s not properly harvested. But there is something special with the IT profession. IT became mainstream around the time the baby boomers started working. Many of them took jobs in IT and have evolved over the last 35-40 years with the technologies. When they retire, the knowledge and experience of older technologies will disappear, as well as the deep understanding of the intrinsic nature of IT, as many learned to program in machine code, assembler and other lower level languages. IT departments will have to backfill this knowledge or start working differently. And can they find enough new hires to fill the positions left open with the retirement of the baby boomers?
Here is where cloud can help. Consuming public cloud services for “context” services leaves a smaller IT team available to focus on the delivery of the “core” services required by the business. Virtualizing and automating the delivery environment allows them to increase productivity. And these are the first steps to the establishment of a private cloud.
Arrival of a new workforce
There is another, indirect, implication for IT. As baby boomers leave the business, they are replaced by members of the Y-generation, who have a very different attitude towards IT. Audrey Trotereau describes the arrival of the Y-generation very well, highlighting what makes them different.
Many baby boomers working in the business have always looked at IT as somewhat of a mysterious department populated by geeks and gurus. They used IT, but avoided coming anywhere near IT. The arrival of the PC and the office tools somewhat changed that, but “big” IT was still seen as out of boundary.
With the Y-generation things are completely different. They know IT, understand IT and use it in their daily lives. And actually they no longer use some of the classic office tools such as e-mail. You know, “e-mail, that’s for the old people” as my youngest son told me. It’s actually interesting to see that the Atos-Origin CEO is looking at banning internal e-mail by 2013. They expect to use the same tools in their business life, and don’t understand why they need a different platform to interact with the business systems.
So, if IT does not deliver what they need, they are the first ones to look for alternative sources of the functionality. I call that “shadow-IT.” It’s the nightmare of the CIO. How do you want him to ensure security and compliance of the enterprise information if he does not even know what tools are being used. So, the y-generation will force the CIO and his team to respond faster to the needs of the business or he will be bypassed at full speed.
But to quote Audrey Trotereau once more “but also points out “If managers could learn how to harness their energy and coach them effectively, these young employees have the potential to become “the highest producing generation ever”, according to Carolyn A. Martin, consultant at RainmakerThinking, Inc. and author of Managing Generation Y. (**)” They are seen as a challenge by many managers today, requiring them to rethink their basic mode of operation.
And where is the opportunity?
The baby boomers have worked hard and expect to take full advantage of their retirement. They are also one of the first generations that experienced exponential progress in technology in general and electronics in particular. Many are actually eager adopters of those technologies and will continue be that as they grow older. They now have time on their hand, many of them with a reasonable buying power. So, enterprises that can focus on the creation of products and services for the baby boomers have great opportunities ahead of them.
Combining actual products, with localization services, and cloud can serve as a platform to provide entertainment, healthcare, and other innovative user experiences. I leave it p to your imagination to identify such products. I’m sure it will have to do with the user experience and involve augmented reality, 3D and other techniques that are appearing on the horizon.
So, to conclude, the Papy-boom creates both an opportunity and a treat. Will we have enough resources available to continue running the business or can we use cloud to reduce the amount of resources required? Are we capable of creating new business addressing the specific needs of the baby boomers through innovative use of technologies such as cloud? These are the questions we should ask ourselves.
(*) Papy is a familiar nick-name given by children to their grandfather in our countries. As most baby-boomers leave the workforce, many of them also become grandparents, hence the reference to the papy-boom.
(**)Interviewed in the book Millennial Leaders, Bea Fields, Scott Wilder, JimBunch, Rob Newbold, Morgan James Publishing, November 2007.