Survey: Millennials OK with fixing their own gear

IT support staff could get a helping hand from their youngest clients, a Bomgar survey finds

When it comes to enterprise tech support, young employees entering the workforce for the first time seem to be more willing than their older peers to help fix a problem themselves, according to a recent survey commissioned by remote support appliance vendor Bomgar.

Such self-sufficiency may be good news for overworked IT help staff, though it also may bring its own set of headaches as well, the accompanying analysis, conducted by GigaOM Pro, concluded.

"If you pay attention to the natural tendencies of this new generation, you could probably channel them towards something useful," said David Card, research director at GigaOM Pro.

Isurus Market Research and Consulting surveyed 400 U.S. office workers between the ages of 20 and 29 about what they typically do when some piece of work-related technology, such as a smartphone or laptop, stops operating correctly. The survey also interviewed 200 U.S. IT managers on their perceptions of dealing with workers in this age group.

This generation, often referred to as millennials, grew up with mobile phones, an ever-present Internet and a general familiarity with electronic gadgets, Card explained. When entering the workforce, they expect their organizational technologies to work in a similar manner, a phenomenon often called the consumerization of IT.

And when a technology stops working correctly, they expect it to be fixed quickly. About 60 percent of the participants agreed that it should take a help desk 10 minutes or less to solve a problem.

Such expectations could put more stress on IT staff to fix problems. But it could also help the IT support staff, Card explained.

Younger workers may be more willing to try to fix a problem themselves, or a lend a hand in the repair, in contrast to older workers who may feel more at ease at letting a help desk personnel or system administrator solve the problem.

"Many millennials don't turn to the support channels for their first line of defense," Card said. "They Google their problems, or ask for help on a forum." About 71 percent of those surveyed admitted they search for an answer to their problem on the Internet before they contact their support staff.

This eagerness to investigate a malfunction could cut the amount of work required of IT staff, though many support staff are not used to supporting this kind of user, Card noted. Help services could implement such aids as self-help tools and easily searchable FAQs (frequently asked questions).

On the downside, employees troubleshooting their own gear could lead to exposed sensitive data, or lead to further breakage.

"If you Google a problem, you might come up with a bad solution and make the problem even worse," Card warned. "If you go to a forum and ask for help, you may exposing information about a company's IT practices, or do some damage to the company brand."

The survey did not directly compare millennials against older workers in terms of technology preferences, though it did find that more than 80 percent of IT managers felt that millennials had "different" or "very different" expectations about technology, when compared to their more senior peers.

To augment the survey, Bomgar has posted a number of white papers that further explain how IT staff could better support the millennials.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Tags Isurus Market Research and ConsultingtrainingDavid CardGigaOM ProBomgarIT management

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