How Digital Transformation is Changing the Way We Work

Posted by Mike Scopa on October 22, 2018

Digital Transformation

By Mike Scopa, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Deltek

In 1992, after I graduated college, software companies were booming and computer science was the place to be. Jobs were plentiful and technology was advancing quickly. But we didn’t have PCs, email, voicemail, internet, or cell phones. When we got back from lunch, we stopped at the reception desk to see if anyone had called and left a message – hand-written, of course.

Let that sink in. Try to imagine your life, your job, or both, without those technologies. Heck, there wasn’t even a user-friendly internet interface until the first version of Internet Explorer in 1995, and it didn’t really go mainstream until the early 2000s.

Fast forward to 2007. The software industry had changed significantly with PCs, email, voicemail, and the internet. During those 15 years, technology transformed significantly and software companies, for the most part, kept pace. In fact, the software industry was starving for these technologies and it was obvious how they should be integrated into software products.

Of course, we had cell phones, too. A lot of them even had cameras. Why would anyone want a camera on a phone? It seemed superfluous and unnecessary. But one more thing happened in 2007: Apple introduced the first iPhone to the world.

Fast forward again to the year 2018. Now we’re talking! Technology has advanced so rapidly between 2007 and 2018 that even the software industry can’t keep up. Today, toddlers are using iPads and talking to their smart home virtual assistants to turn on the lights, play music, and to help them learn their ABCs.

So while ERP software companies were busy trying to consume advances in internet browsers, operating systems, and Blackberries, the digital transformation in the consumer world was happening. While the consumer world was racing ahead, ERP software companies were stuck in the past. Technologies once considered superfluous and unnecessary became integrated into everyday life.

Then something happened. New generations entered the workforce and moved into decision-making positions, and they had higher expectations. This change is often attributed to Millennials. But while Millennials are certainly part of this change, Generation Z  is taking it to the next level.

There is no strict definition of a Millennial, but the term is commonly used to refer to someone born between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, while Generation Z, the post-Millennial generation, was born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. This is a meaningful difference because Generation Z grew up in the middle of the digital transformation and it changed how they grew up.

When Generation Z entered the workforce, the technologies that they use in their personal lives became requirements on product roadmaps – once seemingly superfluous and unnecessary technologies such as AI, machine learning, geo-fencing, OCR, virtual reality, augmented reality, natural language interfaces, the internet of things, social media, smart homes, and more.

So how do we deliver value to our customers and leverage these technologies that are now part of all of our lives? Any innovation built to make use of them needs to be more than just flash and fluff – it needs to be something that our customers will actually use and will save them time, so that they can focus on making their businesses more successful.

To make this real, let’s imagine a use case – a day in the life of a project manager in 2012, using the tools available at the time.

7 a.m. – Check email on your smart phone. Check your schedule for the day and join a conference call.

8 a.m. – Drive to a project site; join another conference call on the way.

9 a.m. – Arrive at the project site; open the mobile application on your phone, search for the project and check the status.

Noon – Drive to another customer’s office; spend the afternoon discussing a project with the customer.

4 p.m. – Head to the office; do your expense report and timesheet; take some calls and catch up on some email.

5:30 p.m. – Quitting time!

Now, let’s imagine this same use case in 2018.

7 a.m. – Check your email and schedule via smart phone; join a conference call and view the presented content through a smart home device while preparing breakfast.

8 a.m. – Jump in a self-driving car and head to a project site; join another conference call on the way, but this time participate by viewing content on the car dashboard (safely). While approaching the project site, receive a notification: “You’ve arrived at your project site, would you like to see a project status report?” Review the status report during the last few minutes of the drive.

9 a.m. – Pop the phone into a virtual reality device and, with the help of augmented reality, tour the project site. Receive detailed status and financial information on your heads-up display.

Noon – Drive to another customer’s office; finalize a presentation during the ride. Discuss a project with the customer; use the projection device integrated into your smart phone to show real-time analytics.

4 p.m. – Head home; along the way, take calls and catch up on email (safely). At home, your smart home device has a notification waiting for you: “Please confirm and submit the timesheet records I have entered for you today.”

Two identical days, using different technology, with two different outcomes. With today’s advances, you get home early and have an extra hour or two to plan long-term strategy and brainstorm with colleagues. Your timesheet (based on your location and activities) and your expense report (based on your applicable electronic payments) are already done; you simply need to confirm them.

I know what you all are thinking – seems superfluous and unnecessary. But so did so many prior advances that have now become requirements. 

There is no doubt that the digital transformation is here and will continue at a faster and faster pace every day, week, month, year, and decade. It won’t wait for us, so we need to keep on innovating for our next generation of customers.


About the Author

As Deltek's Senior Vice President of Engineering, Mike Scopa leads the team that creates Deltek's software solutions. He is responsible for the company's worldwide product engineering team delivering both on premise and SaaS solutions for project-focused companies.