"That’s what I think tech is about – data giving us the information to enable us to help their business. It’s no longer about tech for tech’s sake anymore and clients have started to see that now."
DXC Technology uses its 60 years of experience to help clients use technology to make the most of their businesses, notably helping Network Rail to massively reduce its paperwork and paper-based reporting, reduce costs and improving public safety. For this week’s 5 minutes with… DXC Technology’s global chief technology officer, Michael Deittrick, shares with Dave Songer his vision for an interactive space where passengers and cargo distributors are involved throughout the entire journey. He explains with passion the clear opportunities open to companies that see the power of data, and what transport may look like in the future.
Dave Songer (DS): Michael, thanks so much for making space in your busy schedule. Can I start by asking what led you to work in the public transport industry?
Michael Deittrick (MD): The importance it holds in all our lives. The connectivity of public transport is critical because the first touch point of passenger journeys – no matter what that journey is or where it is in the world – usually starts with some form of public transport. And as we look at the things that impact journeys, such as congestion issues, we try to find how intelligent transportation systems be built that allow lane management that employ intelligence to help make journeys easier.
What DXC Technology (@DXCTechnology) like to do is to use a public transport system that is proactive rather than reactive, a system that will reroute transport and drive real sea change in the way the public is being served and how they get where they’re going. It’s about keeping people informed about the journey itself. We understand that they’re on the journey and are going to need these things. From that we’re actually able to manage the entire ecosystem of transport so that all of this flows seamlessly across it.
That’s why the public is so key to our strategy; if we can improve its ability to become digital then we can make the overall journey valuable for the passengers. In general, people have been reluctant up until now to share information, but the way to solve this problem is to share it and create a platform to exchange that data so it becomes more valuable to the public.
(DS): What do you enjoy most about your role?
(MD): Right now I’m extremely excited that we’ve been given the mandate to really take to market transformative disruptive solutions. We’re not being held back by some arbitrary: “I have this” and “we have that” attitude; we’re really focused on the right-to-left view that explores what is possible, where are we at and how do we fill in all the bits in between to drive it forward.
That’s what I love about what’s happening: the challenge to have those conversations with clients, the general population and passengers, and get information from those working in the public and private sectors on what their challenges are. Our ability to actually meet some of those challenges and then providing a view of solving the really hard problems they’re dealing with, rather than the ones that are on the surface. By digging a little deeper we start to see that the real issues are in some ways business-process orientated and that’s where the focus should be to bring about a better outcome.
That’s what I love. I look at the enabling architecture underneath. Technical diagrams shouldn’t be different from business process diagrams because the reality is there is no difference any more. Technology is nothing more than an enabler. Bringing all those pieces together to actually have an outcome where the business skills the business itself, where the public and private transport is able to say: “thanks for allowing us to do the things we always wanted to do”. That’s what I think tech is about – data giving us the information to enable us to help their business. It’s no longer about tech for tech’s sake anymore and clients have started to see that now.
(DS): What is DXC Technology currently focused on?
(MD): Smart ticketing, energy management for the railways and supply-chain visibility. We’re focused on creating a situation where the passenger is gaining value at the point of interaction. It’s not currently possible to say absolutely what’s valuable to those passengers because the data that occurs during a journey is stored away, so we’re not gaining any value or insight into each passenger’s references or needs.
(DS): What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve faced?
(MD): As you can tell from my answers so far, there’s a lot of conversation that take place, with a lot of small workings that have to be solved, so it’s important that when we go in and have those conversations we enable people to understand the new business model.
You could almost be bold enough now to say: “you’re not a transportation company, you’re a digital company that happens to do transportation”. I admit that’s quite a big statement, because it’s quite stunning for some people to accept, but as they start to understand it and how they could be at the top of the food chain they start to realise they have to become a digital company. And while that process may be a real challenge to get across, you see the client go: “Wow – I can now create new revenue streams for my business that’s external to my core business.” Achieving that is most challenging thing, but also the most rewarding. That’s true of most things that require a lot of effort, right?
(DS): What will be some of the biggest differences between the passenger journey today and in 10 years’ time?
(MD): I actually believe we may not be talking about the things we’re talking about today because I think the move for transport might get inverted. Hyperloop, for example, the frictionless vacuum that pushes people through at 2,000mph could arrive, in which case will there be any need for planes? Does that make rail the real future? And when you start talking about AI-enabled vehicles, then the next situation could be that no one owns a car anymore. Will the rental car industry get transformed as a result? The funny thing is, I said we wouldn’t have AI-enabled cars for 20 years five years ago and it looks like they’ll be here in two!
(DS): What’s your favourite rail journey?
(MD): Well, it may not be here yet, but a trip on the Hyperloop would be the ultimate rail journey – even if it was just for a few-thousand feet, it would be my greatest dream. For a more modern-day example, I like the journeys with beautiful stations that encapsulate the local culture but which are also modernized – they give me the juxtaposition that makes me feel really charged. I’m reluctant to single out any one train company out, but the ride from Stockholm airport was hard to beat. It was easy to get where I wanted to go, the scenery was great and the trains were clean and amazing. It was such a short journey but I remember it fondly, and I think that’s what it’s all about.
Thanks for your time this week, Michael (I hope your Hyperloop prediction becomes reality!).
Our last 5 Minutes With... 5 minutes with… Lauren Isaac, Director of Business Initiatives, EasyMile.
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World bring a 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to know more about Hyperloop...?