That's the bottom line of a report from Cambridge, MA-basedForrester Research, which predicts technology populism will forceinformation technology professionals in all sectors to reconsiderhow they provision and support collaborative software andservices.

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Technology populism springs from changing demographics anddriven by "people's needs to interact," says Matthew Brown,principal analyst on the Forrester report. "Today's organizationsare increasingly dominated by Generation Xers and Millennials, aworkforce that is adept at provisioning its own technology and onethat is willing to shun traditional methods of communication. Formany employees, the telephone and e-mail are being replaced by textmessaging, instant messaging and mobile devices, such as iPhonesand BlackBerrys, and social computing tools like Facebook andWikipedia."

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"One leading technology vendor told Forrester that one of itsclients required Sony Playstation support because many of itsyounger employees used Playstations instead of PCs," Brownadds.

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Demographics are a particular consideration in the commercialreal estate sector, where the imminent retirement of more than halfof the workforce is creating a talent gap. New York City-basedDeloitte & Touche USA LLP's real estate practice estimatesnearly 58% of the industry's existing workforce will hit retirementage by 2010.

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Deloitte says the solution is tapping talent from the youngestgenerations of workers--the 46.7 million born between 1982 and1993. To recruit them, real estate companies may have to promotetheir values, technologically advanced workplaces and globalscope--issues that reflect the interests of this talent pool.

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Hiring younger workers will solve the worker shortage, butgenerate change in other ways. Forrester, for instance, explainsthat members of these generations "have an innate ability to usetechnology, are comfortable multi-tasking while using a diverserange of digital media and literally demand interactivity as theyconstruct knowledge. They lack the workaholic drive of theirburned-out predecessors, but they compensate by using manytechnologies--often simultaneously--to get the job done quickly andhave a personal life as well. They don't have the skills andexperience of the many retirees they are replacing, but they lookto technology to help fill this gap. Managers must understand thework style differences among the multigenerational workforce anddevelop collaborative work environments that give these workers theinformation they need--just in time and integrated with thejob."

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End-user driven technologies, including professional and socialnetworking sites and content generation tools like blogs, mashupsand wikis, will continue to dominate and transform technology. M.S.Krishnan, chair of business information technology at theUniversity of Michigan's Ross School of Business, describes it as"the democratization of technology. "

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In short, inexpensive and easy-to-use products and services aregiving technology mass-appeal. IT responsibilities are shiftingaway from dedicated technology departments to the business unitsthat use the products and services. Industry experts say IT vendorsincreasingly target business unit managers because they want topitch their products to the people who use the technology.

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That was confirmed by research last October, whenInformationWeek Research surveyed 724 business executives,including CIOs, CXOs and line-of-business managers. About 43% saybusiness managers are taking more responsibility for IT projects.Only 11% say managers are taking less responsibility.

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Forrester Research analysts stress technology populism is along-term trend resulting from a combination of factors. Theyinclude:

  • Cheap broadband at home and work. Nearly half of North Americanhouseholds have broadband connections. In addition, 15% of NorthAmerican adults use social networking sites at least monthly and34% communicate via instant message at least once a month.
  • Applications based on network interactions. Companies areincreasingly exploiting services such as LinkedIn, Facebook andsalesforce.com to generate sales leads, recruit talent and test andimprove products.
  • Web 2.0 interactivity. Another Forrester study shows 72% of ITdepartments are using some form of Web 2.0 technology.

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