September 26, 2017
It's quite impressive to consider the pace, impact, and sheer volume of innovation that has taken place in technology over the last two decades. From the advent of the internet to smartphones and microprocessors, things that we take for granted today were simply not around when I started working in the software industry. To now experience digital transformation and artificial intelligence is pretty amazing too. Here's some additional context, when I started in technology sales over 20 years ago, I was selling the only Microsoft Windows based Time and Attendance system on the market. Our biggest challenges at that time were convincing companies to choose Windows applications over MS-DOS and getting executives and senior managers to adopt personal computers in the workplace.
Wait-and-See became Do-Nothing-Ever
Change and evolution is inevitable of course and everyone responds to it in different ways. Some are bleeding-edge while others are more wait-and-see. Often the wait-and-see crowd will delay so long that the next big thing arrives before they do anything at all. Take for example end-users of certain business applications. There are those that had memorized key stroke shortcuts in MS-DOS, and couldn’t fathom using a mouse for anything more than a paper weight. How about those tight-fisted controllers that didn't want to give up their XT desktops until they were fully depreciated? I also recall a conversation with one company, years ago, where their executives didn’t know how to type, and they literally feared having to use PC-based technologies to communicate. My, oh my, how times have changed.
Over the years these objections have slowly dissipated, and other Time and Attendance Software competitors entered the GUI world. In addition, Time and Attendance is now part of a larger and reclassified segmentation called Workforce Management. Windows '95 was launched and for a moment it was the default desktop standard. That was, of course, until demand increased for Client Server applications and Windows NT. Implementations for Workforce Management became larger and more complex and they too required more hardware and resources to deploy, let alone maintain. Project stakes continued to grow as automation became increasingly sophisticated and more expensive.
Enter Stage Right the Advent of the Web
Client Server formats gave way to the first Web-based business applications around the time Bill Clinton was leaving office. Once again, the scope of Workforce Management broadened but this time the cost of entry per employee started to decrease. More employees could be reach for a smaller investment due to the economies and elasticity of the Web. Upgrades, however, became increasingly expensive. What many firms did not account for was the divergent nature of complementary technologies and integrations that the Web depended-on for application services. Further, keeping current with new releases and compatibility matrices was an ongoing game of whack-a-mole. What a fun time that was.
Right around the time Barack Obama took office, the new buzz in technology was the Cloud. But, it took a little longer to gain the widespread adoption that we had expected. Companies, and the individual biases present within them, weren't ready to abandon existing technology investments, application level flexibility, or the perceived security that they had by keeping data contained in their own four walls. That said, it became apparent that Cloud software offered advantages, and many of those were simply unachievable to Workforce Management processes than with any other deployment. Lower cost of ownership, quicker and more affordable implementations, and increased employee engagement were natural benefits. For the first time, modern, affordable and secure were all aligned with each other.
First you Reap, and then you Sow
Donald Trump is now President and once again we stand at the edge of a new seismic shift in the Workforce landscape. Client-Server was to the Web, what Cloud is now to Digital Transformation. This new paradigm combines Cloud with mobile, social, prescriptive business intelligence, and open standards, for a powerful and transcendent experience. Digital has the inherent ability to provide critical, real-time, and actionable data from across the enterprise and places it neatly into the hands of managers and employees wherever they are. It's mind-numbing to think that the portability of these tools was once delayed by executives who couldn't type and preferred keystroke memorization.
Nobody operates their business on MS-DOS or Windows 3.1 anymore. It's too risky, slow and clunky, let alone the available knowledge to support or maintain. Can you even imagine a millennial powering through a green screen these days? But technology adoption is more than just staying current or being able to get support. Evolution in my world is about competitive advantage and staying ahead of what the market will demand next. Deploying a Digital Workforce strategy allows your organization to do things that simply weren't possible even twelve-months ago. Becoming an agile company and nurturing the ability to rapidly change direction is the distinction between success – and failure – in today's world.
I’ve been fortunate to be at the bleeding edge of the Workforce Management market for many years, and been witness to the evolution and transition of my industry. Infor’s strategy to bring native digital technologies to the Workforce Management sector is breaking new ground and helping companies maintain an advantage in their respective markets. It's easily one of the most dramatic changes that I've experienced during my career. Technology change comes at you faster than a speeding bullet, and adopting digital strategies today, will greatly impact the ability of companies to compete tomorrow.
David Chetlain, Director, Workforce Management, Retail, Americas, @davidchetlain