The Kids Are All Right -- and On Their Way to the Office


We don't write much about teenagers here, for obvious reasons. However, in five years, today's 17-year-old will be waking up five hours earlier than they do today and heading to an office.


For this reason, IT managers and planners must pay attention to how they communicate.


A good place to start is a Pew Internet Project study entitled "Teens and Social Media." The bottom line is not surprising: Teens are extraordinarily at home with a wide variety of interactive communications tools.


For instance, the study -- reported upon at Internet News -- says that 64 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds create online content, a 7 percent increase from 2004. The study says that 28 percent of teenagers are "super-communicators" who use all technologies available to them, including landlines, cell phones, social networking sites, text messaging, instant messaging and e-mail, the study says.


Companies must do a better job of providing them with technology than they did with early WiFi users. IT departments were slower to adapt to the new technology than work groups and departments that collectively decided that a small WLAN could push efficiency. Since the IT department was AWOL on the issue, enterprising employees simply stopped at Best Buy or CompUSA on the way back from lunch one day and bought a small access point. The result was that a whole lot of activity -- much of it insecure -- was going on without IT's knowledge, let alone approval.


Reasonable people can argue that the subject of the Pew study is slightly different than unified communications (UC), since one has to do with a lot of interactive media and the other with finding somebody, whether they are at their desk or climbing Everest. The bottom line, however, is that they are deeply related topics that deal with a universe of sophisticated users.


This piece at the Internet Infrastructure Zone describes UC and how hot it is. The writer cites a CompTIA study that says two-thirds of businesses with separate voice and data networks today recognize UCs value and 17 percent are implementing the platform. The story provides a lot of background on UC; the key in this context is that the future generation of workers won't think it's a good innovation. Rather, they will assume that it is available and look down their noses at companies that don't offer sophisticated UC and Web 2.0 tools.


This long post at Unified-View goes into UC more deeply. The reality is that implementing the platform signals significant changes in the organization. New tools and communications avenues, the writer says, will include contextual presence and availability; proactive notifications from automated business process applications; multimodal messaging communications; instant conferencing and transmodal communications. The story lays out what all these impressive sounding changes will mean to organizations. They are, in a way, the infrastructural bookends to the birth of a more sophisticated generation of users.


IBM gets it, though it's known as a conservative company. eWeek says that Big Blue is rolling out blogs, wikis, mashups and virtual reality for its workers. The piece says its Metaverse virtual reality software is "still a bit rough around the edges," but adds that 2,200 IBM employees are testing ways to use it to collaborate. In 2008, Metaverse will be combined with mashups and VoIP, potentially through an integration with Lotus Sametime. The company hosts internal department and workgroup mashups on its Situation Applications Environment (SAE).


There are countless sites on the Internet that can serve as tutorials on emerging platforms and Web 2.0 environments. WebWare does a good job of this. This particular story describes a variety of Web 2.0 sites and servcies, such as Twitter and Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Some of them are appropriate for work and some aren't. The key, however, is that they offer the type of functionality folks entering the workforce will expect.


The kids are coming, and they will bring with them a slew of sleek devices and link to an unimaginable number of applications. This is not in question. What is up in the air is whether the enterprise IT department will be ready.