The Future of Textbooks Will Define Our Future Workforce

Last week with their usual fanfare and fantastic marketing, Apple made a small but absolutely world changing announcement. They announced their new Education focused iBooks release and digitial textbooks strategy for the iPad. In short students can now download interactive and multimedia driven textbooks onto an iPad for $14.99. They will get any updates that the publisher makes automatically. The marketing buzz from Apple focuses on giving students up to date information (unlike that 10 year old history book that I used in high school) in a format that is much more engaging than the printed page. I definitely agree with the high level benefits of this and it got me thinking about how this will impact our future workforce and how IT will interact with them.

I’m a big note taker and I like taking notes on paper- it helps me keep focused and ultimately I remember things better when I write them down. I do type faster than I can write, but I am easily distracted by all things on my laptop or tablet … sorry just had to check my email, I’m back. See?

I am however from a generation who was educated on taking notes on paper and we didn’t have hand held digital devices in our backpacks to use. I strongly believe that Apple’s announcement is the first step in massive changes in how children will learn. Of course Amazon and Google will respond with offerings as well, but I don’t think it’s hard to imagine that big heavy printed textbooks will be gone in first world countries in the next five years (oh no, has Apple just killed the school locker industry?). As the price of tablets and ereaders continue to drop to prices that are cheaper than a single high school text book, it just doesn’t make sense financially anymore.

But how will this transform our future workforce? If our end users spend more than a decade learning and studying on digital devices, how will this impact not only how they work within an organization but what tools business and IT need to provide to make them successful and innovative. I’m not predicting that we will have flying cars and live on the moon- but I think it’s safe to say our work environments will drastically change in the next 10 years. We are beginning to see this today with millenials but these are workers that have only been exposed to Facebook, Twitter and iPads for a few years.

The only way to prepare for massive unknown change is to structure your IT organization for agility. Focus on alignment to the business and making sure you can react quickly to changing business needs which may not just be competitive forces or industry changes but also changes to your biggest input, the workforce. From a Service Management perspective I think it all starts with a strong change management process. This is of course easier said than done but a change management process focused on the often opposing forces of reducing risk and a minimal process overhead will make your IT organization ready for anything today, tomorrow or in the years ahead.

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Rich Graves

Rich Graves is a Senior Principal Product Manager at CA Technologies. Rich works on a team focused on strategy and innovation for the Service & Portfolio Management Customer Solutions Unit. During his eleven-plus years at CA, he has focused entirely on the Service Management and support market segments while serving in a variety of roles in the strategy, research and development and strategic business alliances organizations. Rich has an M.B.A. from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and a B.S. in Computer Science from Wake Forest University. Rich has a passion for gadgets and all things self-service and often tweets about it - @RichEGraves.

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