The digital natives generation is credited with great Internet skills and IT maturity. What about their information Management? If they are “more digital” than us, are they also more efficient? A self-analysis.

When I was 22 years old, I had all my photos developed twice, as individual prints were simply too expensive. I put some of the pictures in albums and some in boxes. At that time I also wrote letters. I sent them by mail. Shipments abroad took weeks at that time. A “conversation” by correspondence lasted for several months. Today, the letters are still filed in several folders (my friends and I wrote a lot). There are also several folders with purchase receipts, lease agreements, banking and insurance documents, certificates, employment contracts, etc. On average, every German supposedly has about 7 folders of paper documents at home. This seems an understatement to me: I have a few more than that.

Sloppy, messy, carefree – or helpless?

Nowadays, postcards or letters from friends are a very rare thing in my mailbox. And if one does arrive, I honestly do not know where to put it. They often end up unsorted in a box where I also (fondly) stash a few childhood and wedding photos. I haven’t made any new albums for years. My pictures – like those of my friends and acquaintances – are on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Skydrive, Google Drive, iTunes, Dropbox, and distributed on various hard drives and memory cards. It’s similar with documents, quotes, invoices, etc. Depending on how I got them, or what I needed them for, they’re on the hard drive or a cloud service. I am not consistent enough and do not scan all the documents.

But I’m not the only one, as a Bitkom survey on the private use of digital storage media reveals. Even people who use a document management solution or even an ECM system in their professional environment are a relatively long way from efficient electronic data management at home. Please don’t ask me how long it takes me to find a specific document in my wasteland of records. In the office, I can find a quote that I received by email in 2009 within 2 minutes. At home, it takes longer – much, much longer.

Digital natives generation

When I recently mentioned that I didn’t have a laptop at university, my son asked: “How did you go online then, without a computer?” He belongs to the next generation of digital natives: At the age of 10, almost all children are online , and by 12 they have their own smartphones in their pockets. 76% of teenagers between 16 and 18 chat with friends or relatives. Students at school or university share documents online (83% use the Internet to find information for school or education) – how do they manage their data and documents? Are they more structured? Will the children of the new generation be more efficient adults? And is that something they should even be aiming for?