Nick Barley, Chairman of B2B ecommerce specialists Netalogue in a series of articles, muses on the impact millennials will have as they join the workplace…part one
In this article Nick Barley considers the impact of millennials on software design…
I am a baby boomer – a child born between 1946 and 1964 – part of a tribe of people who are post war babies and grew up to be the radicals of the 1970’s and yuppies in the 80’s.
Psychiatrists and marketing strategists tell me that I am anti-war, anti-government, believe that anything is possible, am optimistic, driven by personal gratification, personal growth and generally want to “make a difference”.
Nice to know that my generation and I are yesterday’s news
When I proudly announced in the Netalogue office my status as a ‘Boomer’ I got a rather tired response, “yeah, we know: we used to design software for people like you but now we’ve moved on. Generation X and Millennials are who we think about now”. Moved on? Nice to know that my generation and I are yesterday’s news, todays chip paper.
For the record, following the Baby Boomers are Generation X (1965-1980) and Millennials (1977-1994).
Generation X are known as the first generation that will NOT do as well financially as their parents did – and whose perceptions are shaped by the Energy Crisis, the end of the Cold War, watching politicians lie and parents get made redundant. Their core values (I summarise) are based around work life balance, diversity, lack of organisational loyalty and global thinking.
Millennials are digital natives, born in an age of economic expansion and global terrorism. Their core values (I summarise) are optimism, realism, tolerance and high morality in a techno savvy global community.
Hugely important for software designers
Of course these labels might seem uncomfortable or simplistic for some but the weighty analysis that sits around this type of work is hugely important for software designers as they envisage how users will interact with the applications they build.
Many years ago I was asked by Chartered Institute of Marketing to write a piece about the future of technology. I think it was something about making ten predictions for new Millennium. I forget the detail (thankfully) but remember predicting that the manner in which we would all interact with technology would change radically. At the time I was CMO at Microsoft and it was pre-iPod, iPad and smartphones.
Mobile devices were in their infancy and you needed to be Mr Universe to carry a laptop or mobile phone. I had also just watched my baby daughters struggle to understand the use of a mouse and noticed their constant desire to poke my computer screen with their fingers. They simply could not connect that by moving something on my desk (a mouse), it moved a cursor on the computer screen, which, when clicked created an action. In retrospect, in the iPads, Facebook age where ‘pokes’, ‘likes’ and swipes are standard fare – this all seems rather obvious.
By 2020 Millennials will form 50% of the workforce
Recent research shows that Millennials make up 34% of the US labour market (Pew Research Center) and by 2020 will form 50% of the global workforce (PWC). It therefore explains why the clever software designers at Netalogue spend their days designing for Generation X and the Millennials – not me. Indeed the majority of designers ARE Millennials and adopt the principles of how they live their lives in the design of the software they engineer. Even in Enterprise class B2B software, which, let’s face it, is not the sexy end of the market – the importance of workplace software adopting the same types of fun and innovative modes of social communication that people use in their personal lives is becoming a key driver in design thought.
So how does this all manifest in intelligent software design? Well, typically, we expect our end users to be more tech-savvy and socially connected meaning that our software should ensure a similar experience that they are used to. Leading to a stronger emphasis on a simple, clean, uncluttered user interface, optimised omni-media, and mobile connectivity. Due to the pervasiveness of social and mobile technologies, everybody now expects speed, simplicity and efficiency in the business applications they use at work.
Because of technology they can work flexibly anytime, anyplace …
Millennials believe that because of technology they can work flexibly; anytime, anyplace. Most expect to be able to complete key transactions with their business software from a mobile device. Software must be designed to accommodate users logging into their business application from a mobile device the majority of time.
Another aspect of the millennial world is speed. Millennials don’t know a world without instant access to the entirety of humankind’s information at the push of a button. They demand instant gratification for obtaining information. Imagine a slow, clunky B2B business application in the world of the Millennial, where data input is slow on poorly designed unintuitive online forms, or where the ability for customers to see the latest information about a product is limited or poorly displayed where no ‘self-service’ feature exist. The result is lost revenue, online carts abandoned, data admin errors are high.
Speed can be linked to attention span and multi-tasking. Millennials are used to the smartphone with the ability to work in multiple applications, flipping between business and pleasure. The benefit is good work life balance; the down side is lack of attention span, potential keying errors in critical business apps. For example, because Millennials are a products of the ‘drop down and click menu’ they may need to be given a list of options – not given clear choices. Good design understands these traits and accommodates.
To Find Out More
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