Millennials push for public cloud, innovation

Millennials are moving into IT decision-maker roles in their organizations. A study by Microsoft and Wakefield Research suggests they are more likely than their non-millennial peers to push their organizations to embrace the public cloud and adjust IT policies to better enable innovation.

Millennials in the workplace are increasingly taking on IT decision maker (ITDM) roles, and in pursuit of improved agility, they are pushing their organizations to embrace public cloud and adjust IT policies to better enable innovation, according to a study by Microsoft and Wakefield Research.

As 2017 begins, millennials already represent a third of the workforce, and the Brookings Institute forecasts they will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.

"We're now at the point where millennials are in early-stage decision-making roles," says Microsoft Corporate Vice President Julia White. "We are seeing CIO millennials. We're moving past the point where they are just influencers."

Microsoft and Wakefield Research surveyed 2,546 respondents (1,281 ITDMs and 1,265 IT professionals) across the U.S., U.K., Brazil, India and Japan between August 31 and Sept. 13 of this year. They found that millennials in IT fit the following criteria:

  • Want their organizations to adopt public cloud faster and use it even for the most essential business applications, even if it require them to develop new skills (69 percent of millennial ITDMs believe their organization has apps or services that are not currently in the public cloud but should be, compared with 53 percent of boomer ITDMs).
  • Are focused on delivering innovation and also believe that current IT policies need to adjust to better enable that innovation (88 percent of millennials say their organization's policy and procedures don't allow them to be as creative as they could be at work).
  • Recognize that connecting public cloud services to their data center to create hybrid solutions will remain important for years to come (97 percent of millennial ITDMs say connecting their public cloud solutions to their data center will still be important in five years).

"I think from the millennials, what you see is the ability to work in a more flexible style, use the DevOps approach, take advantage of open source technology, be more current," White says.

Cloud comforts

The data bears this out. In the U.S., for instance, 42 percent of millennials said they are "very" comfortable hosting their company's most essential applications or services on the public cloud, versus 32 percent of gen x and baby boomers.

They aren't afraid of having to learn new things either: 76 percent of millennials said they don't see a lack of cloud skills as a barrier to cloud adoption — White says they feel empowered to acquire the skills they need.

Millennial ITDMs are pushing for the adoption of container technology as well: 97 percent agreed that all organizations with data stored in the cloud should use container technology five years from now.

And overall, millennials are interested in learning on the job: 46 percent of millennials expressed interest in learning about conversation bots on the job (compared with 39 percent of non-millennials) and 41 percent of millennials are interested in robotics (compared with 30 percent of non-millennials).

Millennials more open to open source

Millennials are also strong proponents of the use of open source technologies: 87 percent believe it is important for them to work for an organization that allows them to use open source technologies.

But they aren't so far apart from their non-millennial peers on that front: 81 percent of Gen X and boomer respondents felt the same way.

And that more or less holds true across the field, White says: millennials have staked out aggressive positions on public cloud, opening up IT policies and so on, but they appear to be influencing their gen x and baby boomer peers.

"I expected to see a stronger divide between millennials and nonmillennials," White says. "I expected them to be dismissive of security and the need to integrate with back-end systems.

"But they're living in reality too. There's a mindset shift that millennials have brought into society, but it's less and less just in the millennial group."

Part of that mindset is about the desire for flexibility and creative liberties in the way they do their work. IT organizations tend to be strongly process-oriented, but 88 percent of millennials across all markets say their organization's current IT policies and procedures don't allow them to be as creative as they could be at work.

And 90 percent of millennials say frequently using their own approach is faster than their organization's preferred approach. At the extreme end, 33 percent of millennials say their approach is faster "all the time" compared with 29 percent of non-millennials.

One of the bigger differences between the millennial and non-millennial groups is in their response when their organization does not take their suggestion to change an IT policy or process: 19 percent of millennials start looking for a new job in such a situation, compared with 13 percent of non-millennials.

"They want to have a voice in what's happening," White says. "Feeling that they are making their mark and having control over that is definitely a big generational meme. Millennials are more comfortable with taking risks. Innovation, by definition, you have to make some bets."

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