The Millennials aren’t just coming, they’re in charge

Matt Fisher looks at the accelerating pace that Millennials are introducing new technologies into the workplace, and how the risks they represent need – and can – be managed.

It’s a sobering, if not downright depressing, thought to realise that at ‘just’ 44 years old, I’m already some eight years older than the oldest ‘Millennial’. In a sense, I’ve become part of the old guard well before my time. The new guard isn’t just coming up, it’s already taking residency in senior leadership positions across all types of industry and organization.

We’ve all read in recent years how the Millennial is changing the workplace and how the older generations, the Baby Boomers and Generation X need to be sympathetic to how those entering the workplace need to work differently, to enjoy more conducive atmospheres, a less hierarchical system etc. We all know that the Millennial is also much more likely to be a gadget freak. 

What’s this got to do with how we manage our corporate digital technology (I struggle to use the label ‘IT assets’ anymore) and why is it relevant to the worldwide Snow community?

New research published by US insurance company, Nationwide, showed that businesses owned by Millennials (the 2018 study looked at 1,000 US businesses with 1-499 employees) were more than twice as likely to use ‘connected technology’ (wearables, drones, sensors) to keep employees safe. In fact, 71% of businesses owned or part-owned by Millennials used connected technology, compared to 32% of other businesses surveyed.

Admittedly, the survey was somewhat niche, focusing as it did on small businesses in the USA with less than 500 employees and looking specifically at health and safety.  

But, I believe that there is a logical extrapolation to the findings.

The leaders of small businesses today could very soon be the senior executives of larger organizations.  And their peers in larger organizations are climbing the career ladder at faster rate than ever (another common trait of the Millennial). 

I think it’s safe to assume that the willingness to embrace new technology isn’t restricted to Millennial business owners. The same is true of Millennials (and, yes, even some Baby Boomers and Gen Xs, age is just a number, after all) across all kinds of organizations. Which means we are beginning to see an acceleration in the adoption of new technologies that are not only corporate-owned, but also critical to the organization’s commercial success, productivity, competitive advantage etc.  

We’ve talked a lot in recent years about cloud shift and in my last blog I discussed how ‘cloud shock’ is the defining moment that leads many organizations to either extend their existing IT Asset Management (ITAM) and/ or Software Asset Management (SAM) programs to cover their cloud investments, or even to invest in SAM or ITAM for the first time. 

But we must not limit our perception of ‘new technology’ to cloud. As my colleague, Victoria Barber, and I have been discussing on our SnowStorm world tour in recent months, while the number of new mobile devices being shipped by vendors is in decline, the actual investment in these same devices by enterprises is on the rise. They are increasingly seen as a ‘primary interface’ between employees and the organization’s IT estate.

It makes sense, however, that this rise in spending and adoption is not limited to Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxys. As the research from Nationwide suggests, we are seeing more use of other types of connected technologies like drones, wearables, mobile cameras, GPS locators and more. It’s the Internet of Things; only now we have a vague idea of what it actually means to us as Guardians of our organization’s technology. 

As more organizations adopt technologies like autonomous vehicles (Snow customer, Rio Tinto, is one of the world’s largest users of autonomous trucks), headset cameras or bodycams, temperature or gas sensors, so these need to be managed by the organization. 

In one sense, they are not traditional IT Assets and perhaps should not be treated as such. But in another, they are discoverable, identifiable devices (with software/ firmware) that are expensive, complex and increasingly critical to the organization’s day-to-day operations. And if you have a platform like Snow, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of your existing platform to manage these new devices?

If this all sounds a bit too much Tomorrow’s World, then think again. As the recent research shows, this technology is already here and already being ‘officially’ bought and used by organizations. But, for the most part, this technology isn’t currently visible to IT and other key stakeholders or managed in accordance with effective Governance policies.

The SAM Old Guard

The SAM old guard will argue – just as they did when SaaS and IaaS adoption first started to rise sharply – that these new devices and technologies are nothing to do with them. And to an extent they might be right – until we realize that most connected/ IoT devices use a veritable supply chain of software behind the scenes to deliver the real value (and who’s managing the costs and risks associated with that?).

But that same SAM old guard also needs to realize that their world is changing. And unless they are willing to adapt to new ways of technology selection, procurement and consumption, their value to the organization will diminish. The forward-thinking SAM professionals I regularly speak to already know this. They are already actively seeking out new ways to drive value, to engage with stakeholders and be a source of vital technology consumption insight and counsel.   

As we’ve discussed in recent blogs, the number of stakeholders across the organization that need to know what’s happening in terms of technology procurement, adoption, consumption and spend is growing. As more of the organization’s budget gets spent on technology in all its various forms, so the responsibility for the management of that technology extends well beyond the ITAM and SAM teams into lines of business, finance, HR and more.

The New Guard(ians)

Meeting with Snow customers, I can see that some of them are already ahead of the game. They’ve realized that the world around them is changing and that their role in safeguarding and optimizing the organization’s use of technologies lies not in demanding control but instead in offering insight and exerting influence. And perhaps above all, managing risk.

They realise that invisible and unmanaged technology across the organization is not a good thing. And not because they feel threatened or cheated by its ‘unauthorized’ adoption (we just can’t call it Shadow IT anymore, this is now business as usual), but because they realize that technology adopted by the wider organization is typically not subject to the same level of governance and scrutiny that it was way back when things were done centrally. That means an exponentially higher chance of unacceptable costs and risks.

Not that they want to return to the old ways – they’re invested in their organization’s success and growth. So instead their focus is on achieving 100% visibility of all technology and then sharing that visibility, together with their advice and counsel, to all the newly-empowered technology decision-makers that need to be aware of what they are spending on technology and how it is being utilized. 

One of the starkest changes I’ve seen when meeting customers in the past two years is a shift in language. Back in the day, Snow users would talk primarily about compliance. In recent years, for those that had been through a few audits and had their house in order, the emphasis would move to optimization. Today, the word I hear most is risk

The management of risk. The balance of risk versus reward. The definition of acceptable risk. All are critical to organizations that want to perform at their highest level – embracing new technologies that deliver speed, efficiency, competitive advantage. Taking calculated risks where they deem them the right thing to do. But always with an eye on risk. 

And risk is always much better managed when it is visible to everyone that needs to know about it.


Unsure of the risks you have with new technologies being introduced in your organization? To learn how Snow can help you gain visibility over all technology consumption across your organization, why not take a 20-minute executive briefing with me or one of our experts?