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Commercial real estate firms should brace themselves for the effects of technology populism–a trend defined by the proliferation of consumer devices, social networking tools and online collaboration services making their way into the workplace.

That’s the bottom line of a report from Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research, which predicts technology populism will force information technology professionals in all sectors to reconsider how they provision and support collaborative software and services.

Technology populism springs from changing demographics and driven by “people’s needs to interact,” says Matthew Brown, principal analyst on the Forrester report. “Today’s organizations are increasingly dominated by Generation Xers and Millennials, a workforce that is adept at provisioning its own technology and one that is willing to shun traditional methods of communication. For many employees, the telephone and e-mail are being replaced by text messaging, instant messaging and mobile devices, such as iPhones and BlackBerrys, and social computing tools like Facebook and Wikipedia.”

“One leading technology vendor told Forrester that one of its clients required Sony Playstation support because many of its younger employees used Playstations instead of PCs,” Brown adds.

Demographics are a particular consideration in the commercial real estate sector, where the imminent retirement of more than half of the workforce is creating a talent gap. New York City-based Deloitte & Touche USA LLP’s real estate practice estimates nearly 58% of the industry’s existing workforce will hit retirement age by 2010.

Deloitte says the solution is tapping talent from the youngest generations of workers–the 46.7 million born between 1982 and 1993. To recruit them, real estate companies may have to promote their values, technologically advanced workplaces and global scope–issues that reflect the interests of this talent pool.

Hiring younger workers will solve the worker shortage, but generate change in other ways. Forrester, for instance, explains that members of these generations “have an innate ability to use technology, are comfortable multi-tasking while using a diverse range of digital media and literally demand interactivity as they construct knowledge. They lack the workaholic drive of their burned-out predecessors, but they compensate by using many technologies–often simultaneously–to get the job done quickly and have a personal life as well. They don’t have the skills and experience of the many retirees they are replacing, but they look to technology to help fill this gap. Managers must understand the work style differences among the multigenerational workforce and develop collaborative work environments that give these workers the information they need–just in time and integrated with the job.”

End-user driven technologies, including professional and social networking sites and content generation tools like blogs, mashups and wikis, will continue to dominate and transform technology. M.S. Krishnan, chair of business information technology at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, describes it as “the democratization of technology. ”

In short, inexpensive and easy-to-use products and services are giving technology mass-appeal. IT responsibilities are shifting away from dedicated technology departments to the business units that use the products and services. Industry experts say IT vendors increasingly target business unit managers because they want to pitch their products to the people who use the technology.

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

Forrester Research analysts stress technology populism is a long-term trend resulting from a combination of factors. They include:

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