What is the future of work actually going to look like?

If you were to ask many business leaders today, they would point you to changes or advancements in technology and culture. Alan Lepofsky, however, believes it depends entirely on something else–purpose.

Lepofsky is a vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, and he has been involved in the software industry for the better part of two decades. As part of an interview with CXOTalk, Lepofsky explained that the newest technology or the most collaborative culture won’t matter unless you have a defined reason for doing something. He recommends that companies start by asking “why?”

“The ‘why’ is what I want the future of customers to focus more on,” Lepofsky said. “Then, the supporting elements for the ‘why’ are the ‘who’ and the ‘what.’ ‘Who’ being culture, the ‘what’ being the technology. So, ‘why’ supported by ‘who’ and ‘what.'”

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When clients approach Constellation Research about going through a digital transformation or improving their brand awareness, for example, Lepofsky said he will work with them to define the “why” of that goal and how it changes over a one, three, and five year time period. If they can figure that out, they can better leverage the technology and the culture, he said.

As we move into the future, though, the prominence of technology tools will undoubtedly change. Despite the plethora of conversations that happen around the importance of specific software tools and how they affect people’s daily work lives, Lepofsky believes that software should be fading more into the background.

“You know the electricity or the plumbing that runs your houses, that’s the way software should be, and I’ve often said the best software is like a special effect in a movie; you don’t even notice it,” Lepofsky said.

Lepofsky isn’t arguing that new technologies or cultural paradigms aren’t important. On the contrary, he points to mobile and cloud and their impact on today’s work. But, without a purpose behind using those tools, he said, you’ll see low adoption.

Another big part of the future of work and the digital workplace is how we measure someone’s digital awareness. There’s been a lot of talk about comparing millennials to older generations and so forth, but Lepofsky said he and his team measure client employees by a concept called digital proficiency.

Digital proficiency is made up of two distinct vectors: An individual’s skill level with technology, and their comfort level with technology. Lepofsky argued that it is a better judge than age, and that by improving collaboration and sharing with real purpose, digital proficiency can be improved too.

You can view the full interview with Alan Lepofsky over on CXOTalk.