“Turn that bloody racket down!”, parents would yell at their teenage offspring in the dim and distant past, the response to which was, invariably, a cranking up of the volume one more notch.

In those times, those beyond the age of decrepitude (generally around 30) and those who would rather die than reach it would hurl missiles at each other’s musical tastes across the unbridgeable divide of the generation gap.
No longer.

While the appeal of K-pop and drone metal might still cause some head-scratching among older generations, having grown up with youth culture they are generally much harder to shock and actually quite likely to share musical tastes with people far younger than themselves.
Instead of music, the new generation gap is defined by mobile technology. Not that over-30s don’t use smartphones and tablets, but the sheer pace of change in the devices, the applications and the way they are used means that an adaptable younger generation is once again doing things its own way.

This presents an uncomfortable conundrum for IT leaders, most of whom find themselves on the wrong side of the new generational divide.Not my generationThe mobile devices used by employees, whether they are the latest cutting-edge models or not, share the same core functionality: the ability to connect people to each other, to cloud-based platforms and to suites of free or low-cost applications, some of which have the potential to synch with enterprise systems, bypassing the internal controls.
This is a direct challenge to the traditional IT mindset, which is focused on investing in the latest, cutting-edge, on-premise kit with everything safely retained within a firewalled perimeter.
“They can like it or lump it,” is the traditional growled response to the seemingly insatiable demands of the younger generation. But brought up on mobile and internet technologies, and with some schools now even offering iPads or similar devices to pupils, the fact is that young people increasingly view organisations that do not allow mobile and flexible working – or at least accommodate their use of mobile and social platforms – as hopelessly behind the times.
And of course the young are not the only ones driving mobility. In organisations of all sizes and sectors, working away from the office is becoming increasingly widespread at all levels.
A Computing survey of 270 IT managers across every size of organisation and across every sector revealed that senior managers (59 per cent) and middle managers (52 per cent) constitute the majority of the mobile workforce, followed by sales (49 per cent, see figure 1). What’s more, these mobile workers make up some 25 per cent of the workforce on average, making them a tough constituency to ignore.

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Anyway, anyhow, anywhereThe proliferation of mobile devices, the fact that those using them include both junior and senior members of staff, and the increasing proportion of workers who are now mobile all present some uncomfortable truths for IT chiefs, some of whom are finding themselves on the back foot.

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