For more than a decade now, marketers and employers have been trying to figure out the millennials. Now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, the millennials—those born between 1980 and mid-2000s—represent a third of the U.S. population. It’s no wonder companies want to understand this elusive generation.
Most of the early attention on millennials focused on uncovering their lifestyle and personal motivations. But that’s changing. Millennials have now entered the workforce and are helping drive the economy. They’re transforming all areas of the business, especially information technology (IT). A quarter of millennials believe that their relationship to technology is what makes their generation unique. They are constantly connected to the Internet and their social networks, taking an omnichannel experience for granted.
The relationship of millennials with technology has far-reaching implications on how enterprises approach IT, which is a significant factor when catering to the evolving workforce. But more importantly, as millennials become IT professionals themselves, their attitudes and motivations will shape how this business area is run.
In a recent Vision Critical study of 134 IT decision-makers, we found that millennial IT professionals differ significantly from their older industry colleagues (those 35 years old and older). For any company that relies heavily on IT to drive business results, our findings provide some clues on how to more effectively engage with IT leaders in the years ahead.
Here’s a look at how millennial IT decision-makers differ from older cohorts, and what it means for companies.
Attitudes toward technology and career
Millennials approach tech and career advancement differently than their older counterparts. Sixty-six percent of millennial IT professionals in our study indicated that they are likely to adopt new and different technology, while only 59 percent of older IT professionals agreed with the same statement.
Millennial IT pros are also more likely to see themselves as leaders rather than followers (69 percent versus 55 percent). And in terms of advancing their careers, 54 percent of millennial IT pros admitted that they are focused on finding a new job at a new company, while only 30 percent of those older than 35 indicated the same.
Strategic IT priorities and concerns
Looking out three to five years, millennial IT pros are much more concerned about mobile technology for customer engagement and socially-enabled business processes than their older colleagues. Within IoT, these younger IT pros are focused on robotics, sensors and wearable computing—none of which are on the minds of traditional older IT pros.
Both younger and older cohorts agree that security and privacy, risk management and IT operations are top concerns. Strategic planning, IT availability and integration of systems are also on the priority list of millennial IT leaders. In contrast, disaster recovery and cost control are keeping older IT leaders up at night.
Our findings are somewhat consistent with a recent Gartner study, which found that millennials and older IT pros have significantly different strategic priorities for 2016.
IoT, smart machines, context-rich systems and 3D printing top the priority list of millennial IT professionals. Older IT pros are looking at software-defined apps and infrastructure, cloud/client computing and security as top strategic priorities this year.
Our study also confirms that millennial IT professionals tend to work at younger, startup companies while older IT pros tend to choose more established companies. This isn’t surprising given that startups are more likely to have more appetite for newer technologies, enabling these younger IT to pursue new avenues.
The takeaway here: the millennials’ affection with new technology, integration and mobile connectedness, along with their willingness to try new things, influence their IT priorities.
Technology brand perceptions
When it comes to brands in enterprise IT, millennials hold a different view from older IT professionals. As the table below shows, millennials, unlike their older colleagues, have no strong associations with Amazon, Lenovo or Salesforce. Millennials and older IT pros also disagree on Apple and Google. But, interestingly, both groups see Microsoft as essential. Millennials perceive brands like Amazon and Google as necessities.
For tech vendors, these varying perceptions should inform how you market to different generations of IT decision-makers. Vendors are used to dealing with older IT professionals. But as more millennials assume leadership positions—and as more startups mature into established companies—tech vendors must adjust their approach. To remain relevant, tech companies should engage with both younger and older IT leaders and gain a deeper understanding of the evolving IT leadership landscape.
Our study demonstrates that there are very real differences between millennial IT leaders and their older colleagues. Companies dealing with IT leaders need to gain a deeper understanding of these generational differences—and they must re-evaluate how they sell to IT decision-makers. Customer intelligence on the millennial IT professional can help inform more effective B2B marketing—from brand strategy to go-to-market planning and tactics. There is very little doubt that millennials will transform IT—now, companies must act accordingly or risk losing the business of this influential generation of IT leaders.