The headline of an AP article by Martha Irvine on Yahoo! Tech News a few days ago really struck me:  Young Workers Push Employers for Wider Web Access.  The lead did too: “Ryan Tracy thought he’d entered the Dark Ages when he graduated college and arrived in the working world.” 

I’m more than a few years out of college – all I will say is pre-Yahoo! – but perhaps given my location in Silicon Valley, and my career in high-tech, ranging from IBM to Documentum and now Citrix, I’ve always had the latest technology at my disposal, and few-to-no limits about its use. 

I certainly feel for these workers, and am happy to be at Citrix, where we continue to remove limits to the experience that employees have with technology, most recently with a “Bring your own Computer” initiative that encourages employees to use one PC for both work and home. Our CEO, Mark Templeton, is also an outspoken advocate of the need for IT leaders to open up their thinking – as well as their networks and desktop management and procurement policies – to embrace the change that this new generation of workers is demanding.

There are lots of reasons people avoid change…control, security, cost come to mind.  But isn’t there a list of equally good reasons to embrace change – especially if it’s coming no matter what? 

The new generation of workers like Ryan Tracy is a driving the consumerization of IT.  They grew up with the Internet.  They are used to choice – 500 channels of TV is an expectation, not a luxury.  Personality and individuality are expressed in their PCs and smart phones, in what’s on them and how they are used.

Enterprise IT can be the same way.  Let users pick and manage their own PCs, perhaps with some minimum guidelines. This does mean that IT leaders will have to change their desktop management practices, perhaps moving to a model that relies on virtual desktop delivery; change that will mean saving money, and freeing up IT resources so they are working on strategic projects rather than deploying patches and upgrades to thousands of different desktops. 

It also means providing a selection of applications that users can get to on-demand – just as they do everything from home banking to photo sharing to social networking sites, and by making them available using virtualization, the applications and data live centrally and securely in the datacenter, not on the endpoints. 

This approach can make telecommuting and working from home more palatable to IT, since critical information is never out of their control, as well as something that employees value as they strive to balance personal and professional priorities in a world where these once-old lines are rapidly blurring.

Offering a more open approach may feel uncomfortable, but the business benefits are clear:  we’ve had a financial service customer actually quantify that their new and more open environment means an enormous contribution to productivity by allowing all types of work scenarios – mobile working, working from home on weekends and evenings, working extended hours at the office – to help this 48,000 person company stay competitive and succeed. The results are startling:  they’ve added 500 person years of productivity annually, valued at nearly $83 million USD.

Of course, opening up enterprise IT means careful cross-organizational consideration of how and where employees work. Ultimately, it’s the IT leaders who are showing business the best way to deliver a secure user-centric work environment that get the added benefit of seeing their own operating expenses decrease and their staffs go home happy and worry-free.  So at the end of the day, isn’t it a simple choice to make?