The generation gap impact in systems development

Over the past few years, there’s been much market research and talk
about the generation gap, i.e about the “behavioral differences”
between different age groups. The perhaps seminal work in this area is
Lancaster & Stillman’s 2005 book, “When generations collide“, and the
area is also under intense market research from companies such as

Much of the focus of the current research seems to be on consumerism,
social networking and technology use, i.e. on purchasing and social
interaction patterns, less seems to be said about the impact of the
generation Y will have on how businesses are run and organized.

IMO, these generational differences in behavioral patterns will have
(or perhaps more correctly: already has!) a significant impact on the
future of systems and software development, in particular how
organizations doing development will be structured and managed, and
how these organizations will interact with their customers.

For instance, I wouldn’t hesitate to argue that “agility” and use of
cross functional development teams are both connected to the fact that
the number of generation Y’s in professional roles is increasing: the
type of close and fast interaction and tight collaboration that
agility and XFT’s are based on, will come naturally to the gen Y’s,
since they are used to that type of interaction from birth. That is,
the Y’s will demand ways-of-working and organizational structures that
are in line with their “DNA”, which is all about instant access to
information, tight social networking, online collaboration,peer-
oriented communication,  flat networked organisation etc.

The Y’s coming to power will also lead to dramatic changes in tool and
technology preferences and purchasing decisions: the Y’s have grown up
on the net, technology is in their DNA, they are used to googling for
information, they want instant access to whatever they need, they are
totally fine using global virtual communication channels for
everything they do, and many of them have learned to program in early
age, using freeware or cheapware, and they know how to shop online.
They rely upon their friends or peers for advice on products, not on
traditional marketing or sweet talking sales guys. They use their
technological knowledge and their social networks to figure out how
things work, and they use that knowledge to build customizations to
the products they use.

These behavioral patterns of gen Y will put great challenges to
traditional “command & control” type of organizations. It will be very
interesting to see how fast traditional companies will be able to
change to cope with these changes… but IMO, changes are necessary if
the traditional org’s want to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs…


About swdevperestroika

High tech industry veteran, avid hacker reluctantly transformed to mgmt consultant.
This entry was posted in development, Management, Organization, software and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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