Late last week, ComScore announced its annual US Digital Future in Focus report. While there were no major surprises here regarding digital use, there were a couple of figures that caught my attention. ComScore noted that web-based email usage among 12-17 year olds dropped in 2011 by 31%. This figure was even higher for 18-24 year olds with a decrease of 34%.

Think about that for a moment. Email usage among 18-24 year olds has dropped by over one third. I find this figure incredible. I'm sure these people aren't communicating any less; in fact, I expect them to be communicating even more. They're communicating through Twitter, Facebook, Path and the wealth of other social media tools designed purely to share and communicate.

Sure, so what? Well, look at the percentage drop in email use among 12-17 year olds - 31%. Today's digital natives are starting to migrate from traditional online communication tools to more social applications. I believe this shift has enormous implications for businesses and the future of enterprise IT. As digital natives enter the workplace they will expect similar communication tools, similar ways of interacting across a company as they do now with their friends.

One need only look at Salesforce Chatter, Unified, Rypple and other online tools to see how the workplace is changing. The shift from email to collaborative tools that strip away inefficiencies and direct focus are dramatically growing in popularity. Take a look at some of the figures if you're in any doubt. There's an incredible amount of money exchanging hands at the moment as startups are being bought by some of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) giants that want to offer enterprises complete solutions from sales, to marketing to HR and every other aspect of business life.

However, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, this paradigm shift is not going to happen overnight. Although 77% of enterprises have deployed some form of cloud service, mass migration is slow and there are questions as to how quickly companies will move from an owned-infrastructure model to a cloud-based solution. Yet this migration appears inevitable. Digital natives are entering the workplace and expecting the same IT experience as they have personally. They expect appealing interfaces, rapid communication and, what's more, they expect it across multiple devices - mobiles, tablets, laptops.

Apart from the cultural shift here, there's also an infrastructure issue that needs to be resolved - mobile. Digital natives expect to be productive on mobile devices and to do this requires a network that can support the enormous amounts of bandwidth needed for remote working. What's incredible here is that the network is moving faster than many corporate IT departments. Currently, we're in the middle of the biggest rebuild of the network's core in over a decade. This rebuild is founded on three principle technologies: 100G, OTNs and ROADMs. The possibilities here are enormous. What’s more, mobile base stations are being connected with fibre-based carrier Ethernet solutions supporting Gigabit per second speeds.

It's tantalising to imagine how the future of enterprise communication is changing. There can be no question that email will always have a place, but as digital natives enter the professional environment, there's a real opportunity to change how we work, to change how we operate and embrace new possibilities.

What impact do you think digital natives will have on the workplace? Are you seeing this shift to cloud-based tools? Are you starting to migrate from email? Let me know what you’re seeing here.