Why Generational Stereotyping Does Not Sell the Next Wave of Communication and Collaboration Services

Tim Banting
Tim Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • There are three generations in the workforce today; vendors need to show how solutions unite all workers to foster a collaborative environment, producing business value.
  • Communication and collaboration solutions provide the opportunity for partners to monetize new services based upon driving user adoption.

There is much talk focused on ‘the millennials’ in communication and collaboration: the next-gen workforce demanding new ways to communicate and collaborate. Many vendors are citing that this new generation is changing the way work gets done, bringing a different mindset to work, and demanding different tools to use in a modern work environment. Millennials are the socially collaborative generation, using tablets and smartphones to share opinions with friends and make more informed decisions through apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. However, there are three generations in the workforce today: the millennials, or Generation Y (those born since the early 1980s); Generation X (since 1965); and baby boomers (since 1943). Baby boomers (the youngest of whom will turn 50 this year) are working beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. Concerns about money (given the recent economic crisis) play a significant role in explaining why so many baby boomers see themselves working longer. Baby boomers are still a substantial part of the workforce, and whether by choice or necessity, they will remain a sizable proportion of the workforce in the years ahead.

Communication and collaboration solutions are not about pandering to demanding millennials. All generations of users need tools that are easy to use and can demonstrate their value. If these tools are not easy to use, they are unlikely to progress past the pilot stage. If organizations cannot see how to benefit from new solutions, they will not get adopted in the workplace and the ROI on which the business case is built will not get realized. As many companies look at alternate ways to deliver the next wave of innovation, channel partners’ business models will need to shift from shrinking, margin-based product installations to new service-based revenue streams. New services that capitalize on the way personnel use features through techniques such as ‘gamification’ (applying game-design thinking to business applications to make them more engaging) help drive adoption within a business. Furthermore, analytical tools can help make sense of what productive users are doing with services, therefore demonstrating business value. Such techniques will allow resellers to benchmark user adoption and provide valuable insights into how communication and collaboration solutions improve business outcomes prior to and after service delivery.

Prospects should therefore ask channel partners and vendors how similar organizations (size and vertical) have united their workforce to deliver results, rather than making a purchasing decision based on the hype associated with a new way of working. Consequently, vendors need to ensure they expose APIs that are extensive enough to collect information on how their services are utilized, allowing resellers to demonstrate results. Moving services beyond technical expertise and maintenance towards those that prove their value to organizations will be the new way to market in this millennium.

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