Ever since the turn of the millennium (the last one), there has been a whole lot of talk about millennials. This sometimes loosely defined social cohort is usually agreed to be those people born from the early 1980s to early 2000s.
Known for their preference and focus on ‘life experiences’ rather than material goods, organizations have been gradually aligning their operational systems and processes (the majority of which are now software-based and data-driven) to deliver millennial-friendly consumer-like feel to enterprise applications, a feel good factor to workflow models and an all round millennial-friendly approach to the workplace.
These trends have meant that firms in many industries have had to reengineer their office spaces and work systems to accommodate for hot desking, working from home, or creating flexible teams that work across cross-pollinating work matrices.
None of this happens without a whole of strategic management software underpinning what can often be quite complex day-to-day work architectures. But that was just the millennial-effect… what happens next generation Z starts to go to work?
Who are generation Z?
Generation Z (or Gen Z) come after the millennials (who in fact are sometimes called generation Y) and demographers typically use the mid-1990s to mid-2000s as starting birth years. Generation Z are said to see or feel no discernible distinction between their physical or digital lives… and that change has implications on two levels.
One the one hand, it means that IT systems should be human-like, they should ‘ape’, emulate and reflect real world human experiences to a much finer and more sophisticated degree.
We know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has experienced a renaissance with massive advances in Machine Leaning (ML) that drive Deep Learning (DL) frameworks inside new neural brain networks… and that needs to have happened, because computers need to get a lot more capable of reasoning, semantic contextual interpretation and human-like understanding. This is the IT that Gen Z wants.
One the other hand, it means that workplace experiences have to be more digital. You may have ordered a hamburger and coffee in McDonalds using a touchscreen with a contactless bank payment card, but to generation Z, that’s just peanuts. These guys were born ready for smart home heating systems (okay yes, we have these) and electronic fridges that email us to tell us when the milk has gone off (we can do this technically, but it hasn’t been commoditized as yet)… they want a fully-fledged electronic life.
The question we now face is, how should firms shape their software development strategies to accommodate for (and properly serve) generation Z?
What types of software application delivery will programmers need to be readying themselves for? What types of cloud network provisioning and planning need to be undertaken? What device use behavior types do we need to consider… and who’s going to go and get the vegan burritos from the organic food truck next lunchtime?
Six realities of gen Z life
In an attempt to answer some of the above questions, we can look at a study emanating from The Center for Generation Kinetics (a generational research organization) and WP Engine (the WordPress platform company) — the organizations have released the second instalment to a gen Z analysis looking at the digital habits of this group. The study offers six realties for gen Z life in the 21st Century:
Emotion factor: Gen Z only finds information useful if it engages emotions: 29% of gen Z prefer to be entertained by a company’s online content, compared with 6% for baby boomers.
Openly honest: Gen Z says that honesty and openness are increasingly the ‘currency of brands’, meaning that 79% of gen Z will trust a company more if the images that brand uses are not Photoshopped; 84% of gen Z trust a company more if they use actual customers in their ads.
Social clout: Gen Z thinks that human relationship success will be determined by how good a catch everyone else thinks you are: 47% of gen Z believe their online reputation will determine their dating options.
Internet economics: Politicians will no longer be the only political leaders: 46% of gen Z believe that people who build/manage the Internet are more important than political leaders around the world.
Degrees of connectivity: Economic access will not depend on you having a formal education: 62% of gen Z would rather have unlimited access to the Internet and no college degree, rather than a college degree and no access to the Internet
Gig generation: Your career choices will be increasingly defined by economic independence: 63% of gen Z said they would or possibly would start their own business.
“Gen Z has grown up with a fluency in technology well before any biology class. Consequently, they have very high expectations when it comes to digital experiences. This new digital standard can be summarized in three findings from our Gen Z study: (1) 67% of Gen Z believes in the next five years that websites will know what you’re looking for before you tell them. (2) 40% of Gen Z say they will stop visiting a site if it doesn’t anticipate what they need, liked or wanted. And lastly, (3) this generation, having been raised in a social media world, is almost twice as likely as a Boomer to provide data to receive a personalized experience. But, they’re going to hold all of us responsible for making sure it’s secure,” said Fabio Torlini, managing director for EMEA at WP Engine.
Torlini says that building the next generation of software is going to require a bridge between marketing and tech as never before. He contends that we will need to build experiences that are not only entertaining but deliver on the promise of a more human web with predictive personalization.
Lessons for tomorrow
Looking at the types of change we see in our day-to-day use of technology in the generation Z era, there is clearly a need to fine tune the front-end delivery experience of apps to adapt to some wide-ranging trends. Aspects such as social clout and influence might sound slightly flaky, but these are real concern for gen Z… and they will need to be reflected in some form in the way enterprise applications are developed going forward.
What matters now is that organizations in pretty much every vertical need to appreciate these shifts and so align an appropriate proportion of their future IT roadmap development effort to create the platforms of tomorrow. Alienating gen Z is not an option.
The road ahead for enterprise technology will be dictated by the nuances and preferences that generation Z wants to apply to it, or they simply won’t adopt it.