The Impact of Generation Z on the Managed Services Industry

If you are a managed service provider, you know that your customers rely on your services to keep the network running smoothly. You also stay on top of data and industry trends to make a plan for future business success. In this ever changing digital landscape it can be difficult to tell what trends will truly take form and change the industry. In the beginning of the year, CIOs and CTOs of companies write articles explaining what digital trends will take form and ultimately change the course of the industry. These articles are researched and then projects are planned to meet the demand for the year.
While these expert opinion articles have credible data predictions, they only give you one side of the data you can use. A CTO can predict a trend or technical advancement, but what other sources can you utilize to ensure your business is ready for the future—say 20 years from now? These articles do not analyze trends that are important for your business that far down the line. Who are your future customers, what are they doing now, and what characteristics do they have that will change the way we think about technology?
The industry answers you are looking for so that you can better prepare for your business’s future is not in a “2019 Industry Trends” article written by a CTO of an enterprise. The answers you are looking for are on colleges campuses around the world. These young people are changing the way the world thinks about tech and data gathering, and they are your future customers. Future customers that have more technical experience than ever before. This year’s college freshman class was born in 2000 (after the computers were supposed to fail) and grew up in the age of the smartphone, streaming and the cloud. These are the people that set up their parent’s phone for them, and help their grandparents fix the printer. They have only known a world of technology and they are used to troubleshoot issues on their own. They expect fast service, because there is no other kind of service. They will not tolerate slow Wi-Fi anywhere on campus, because in 2018 there shouldn’t be. They remember the fiscal effects of the Great Recession and they know how to identify value and stretch the dollar. Most college students own a smartphone, laptop tablet and or smartwatch. Some may have dorm rooms filled with devices that need to be connected to the internet such as e-readers, gaming devices and fitness trackers.
IT professionals that work on college campuses have a unique service need. They have thousands of students, faculty, and staff relying on the network and they understand that downtime is not an option. Students understand that enrolling in a college or university is an investment in their future, and they are aware of the price they pay for it. These students are essentially customers, and their success in their institution’s success. Managed service providers understand the importance of customer success and so do these campus IT professionals. This is your future customer, and trendsetter. Directly gathering data based on their technological needs, and behaviors is the way to tap into this untouched pool of information. But who do you ask? There are two groups of people that you need to talk to. The IT professionals that make sure all things campus IT related run smoothly and efficiently, and the students themselves. Campus IT professionals know these students inside and out, the kind of data they need, such as how to predict trends to optimize Wi-Fi performance, how these demographics change overtime and what innovations need to be improved to create an overall better experience.
On college campuses, there are IT experts that know how keep the campus digital infrastructure running to ensure student success. However actually tapping into this information requires research and inquiry. One resource that can be utilized are discussion platforms. Not just Reddit accounts, or a community page, but discussion platforms that cater only to these individuals and their unique service needs. These platforms offer great insights as to the life of the campus IT professional, both pain points and trends. Talk to these individuals. Ask them about the needs that Gen Z students have when it comes to IT:
How does the network handle the demand? With thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors relying on the network, it is essential that college campuses have robust networks capable of the demand of their users. How do they ensure everything is optimized and running smoothly?
Have you seen significant changes in recent years as technology advances? More specifically the jump from the Millennials to Gen Z and the changes associated with the demographic.
How do you budget your projects and services? IT professionals on college campuses have to make things work on a budget. Higher ed institutions are feeling the effects of hiring freezes and budget cuts. This means that budgets take a blow depending on the current state of the institution. How do they make it work and ensure student success?
What trends do you predict in the future? These professionals need to analyze trends and plan for the upcoming years as well as corporations.
Speaking or gathering data from IT professionals that work at higher ed institutions can help you better shape your customer needs for years to come. Insights from your future customers offer you a glance into your business’s future. Getting data directly from college students is not as easy as reading a discussion forum. However, there are a few options to tap into this reservoir of untouched data:
Class Visits: This is an easy way to get 30+ college student’s undivided attention. Class speakers are common way for professors to enhance the learning experience. Talking with students for an hour gives you a chance to gather information just by asking questions and engaging a thoughtful conversation. Your experience can give them ideas for their own future, and start making them think about things from an industry perspective. You might have inquiries into positions available at your own organization.
Internships: Having your subject work for you is an effective way of collecting data. College students are hungry for hands-on work experience before graduation, and it is often difficult to get. Interns can provide unique services for an organization, such as small tasks, and assistance on big projects. You can also gain insights into their tech needs through simple conversation.
Surveys: These are tools for collecting the exact answers you need for a specific topic. They provide an anonymous way of collecting insights which could provide more truthful answers. The downside of deploying a survey is getting individuals to complete it. Incentives are often provided upon the completion of the survey such as gift cards or free services. However, college students get excited about free anything, whether it’s lunch or a tee shirt. This gives you an advantage to ask a lot of questions and receive valuable feedback that won’t cost you too much.
The students on college campuses around the world will be your customers in years to come, and the IT professionals making sure everything runs smoothly know these students better than anyone. Getting insights into these network environments and the consumers that inhabit it will provide your business with valuable information that you can use for years to come. IT professionals can offer network insights as to what they need to be successful in the campus environment. It is better to understand them and their needs now rather than when they arrive.
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