The Fourth Industrial Revolution is searing the business narrative and setting the agenda. It took centre stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos and it’s a conversation that will run and run as we explore the latest thinking and best technology practices for businesses to harness on their journey to digital transformation.
And there’s plenty to talk about; as the history books bear out, industrial revolutions do not come round too often and as technology drives the convergence of the physical, digital and human to create an entirely interconnected world, the upshot is some far-reaching political, societal and economic consequences for all of us which also brings an unprecedented level of opportunity.
As with any topic of immense scope and scale, sifting out some of the discrepancies and hyperbole is crucial in getting to the crux of the major themes, which will ultimately shape how we do business and more broadly, live our lives.
Timing is a case in point; the popular rhetoric may keep reminding us we’re on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution but in fact, the first flames of this transformation were flickering at the start of this century. It’s just that now, things are becoming far more visible and accelerated.
As such, attention turns to what exactly is behind the renewed momentum which is bringing this new wave of transformation to greater prominence, with all indications pointing to a traction fuelled by speed and the pace of change.
It’s a progression exemplified by the explosion of real-time data and TIBCO’s Fast Data technology platform which is able to react to thousands, sometimes millions of business events produced by people, processes and systems across the enterprise in real-time. With all systems and applications communicating and working together, all of a company’s data can be integrated and accessed in real time, acted on by any system to bring instant visibility and awareness – in short a cohesion that optimises efficiency across all channels.
And with faster decision-making comes an empowerment, a drive that is fundamental to revolution 4.0. To better understand how it can work in practice, look no further than the use of more accessible, self-service visualisation technology, enabling those without specialist knowledge to better understand information at their fingertips and drive their own analysis to make business decisions and answer key questions without IT support.
Thanks to a more recent makeover, statistics are now more accessible and morphed into clear graphics that provide an instant snapshot of the story usually buried in the data, so that anomalies in performance can be spotted and insight gained real time. The result is greater independence for the individual, which will undoubtedly challenge traditional hierarchies and mark a shift in the kind of dependency culture that relies on a select few to extrapolate intelligence.
It’s a development which in turn promotes the greater sharing of analysis and enhanced collaboration, the other core facet of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, buoyed by the technologies and platforms that can accelerate sharing on-demand and drive experimentation from analytics to the cloud.
Speed, empowerment and collaboration – it makes for a powerful Holy Trinity, which will define this era. On paper, the repercussions seem unanimously positive, yet this isn't always reflected in the narrative where the promise and potential of opportunity remain tempered by a caution over the consequences of this supercharged explosion of technology being handled wrongly.
From fears over excessive automation and the potential threat to people - which pits man against machine - and security risks to the undermining of human relationships, this is a subject that comes with a sting in its tail.
They are all valid concerns and an important reminder to us that for all the obvious opportunities, it is ultimately about how people grasp the mettle that matters. We must not be passive bystanders as the technology evolves around us, we have to drive the evolution, take control and ensure the innovation works for us and informs and enhances our own skills and potential. The revolution is already here and the clock is ticking, so act now to thrive.