The fourth industrialrevolution refers to the increasing integration of new technologies, such as digitalsystems, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented reality, 3Dprinting and the internet of things, into businesses and processes. Its scaleand speed are unmatched; from breakthroughs in biotechnology that allow organsto be 3D printed to robots that can assist in hospitals and even rebuildthemselves. Some believe that this will make businesses more sustainable,efficient and environmentally friendly.
However, others think that these newdigital technologies will cause millions to lose their jobs and increaseeconomic inequality. The exact impact of the revolution still looks vague and doubtful.But what is certain is the effect of this latest industrial revolution on everyactivity: production, communication, working, learning, and the way we dobusiness.
Business operations are already undergoinga shift from analog to digital. Companies are seeking to transform digitally,and many have already adjusted to using cloud apps for their business processes.There is an App for almost every task nowadays, from scheduling to dictationand much more. Even if the consumer is one who is barely tech-savvy, there is abig chance that they have used some sort of a software to manage an errand. Theneed for manual data entry is slowly vanishing as digital Apps have facilitatedautomatic data entry and exchange. Our new norm is turning to be a world thatis smart and connected. Examples include the shift in transportation; where carsharing and services like Uber and Cabify are altering the idea of carownership. Advances in the Internet of things and clean energy can boost safetyfor both drivers and pedestrians, reduce pollution, enhance health and expeditedaily traveling.
Additionally, in the retail industry; virtual customer serviceis taking over marketing and sales, and personalization of goods is changingeverything. Other industries which are majorly affected include healthcare,insurance, finance and agriculture. One of the main changes in businesses willbe a result of customer’s increasing power and expectations. Customers now have the accessibilityto more data, they have many options to choose from and hence they hold moreinfluence.
They are already becoming more powerful, and to match that powercompanies must design and shape operations around customer journeys. Moreover, theexpectations of customers have significantly risen. Millennials, who are now abig part of the workforce, expect businesses to anticipate their desires andprovide customized solutions and support.
As customers are the center of thedigital economy and technologies, businesses who wish to be successful shouldredirect their approach from a model that is focused only on selling productsto one that revolves around creating and building a deep connection andrelationship with customers. For example, 3D printing brings manufacturing directlyto the customers and makes maintenance easier and cheaper. The existing technologiesand services around us have evolved, raising customer experience’s expectations.Therefore, businesses should no longer expect customers to wait on thetelephone for an answer that can be easily obtained from social media or a Googlesearch.
Since the fourth industrial revolution isbased on knowledge; businesses will need a breakthrough in training and education.Workers must be taught the skills needed to participate in the digital worldand the qualifications required to understand new technologies. For instance, employeeswill not be able to explore opportunities created by artificial intelligent ifthey do not have an advanced knowledge of the field. Oneway to achieve this is by encouraging businesses to establish partnerships andcollaborations, both internally and externally, to widen their network andoptimize their strength.Eventhough technology is indeed shaping the futureof work, it is not entirely erasing the need for humans. But it is changing theskills needed to be a part of the workforce and modernizing the workplace. Ifthe workforce keeps up with education, it will be able to fill the new emergingjobs. This is how job elimination by machines can be reduced to a minimum, anda sense of security can be achieved.
It is argued that,just like previous industrial revolutions, the fourth industrial revolutionwill not only eliminate millions of jobs but will also create millions of newjobs by transforming professions and skillsets. Another aspect that will cause a change inbusiness is the enormous amount of data. Many innovative products and servicesare currently being driven by Artificial Intelligence, and the more data ArtificialIntelligence has, the easier predictions can be made. When billions of people useconnected devices and share online, a lot of data is generated as a result. Thesebillions of data variables are analysed by machine learning algorithms to helpbusinesses notice trends in customer demands, customize products and reformpricing. Hence making businesses smarter. As data becomes the new currency, itsfree flow leads to privacy concerns.
This will require businesses to protecttheir intellectual property by a global regulations system. It is critical topreserve and protect sensitive personal information for individual customers andassure that optimizing systems do not run out of control.Inaddition, the fourth industrial revolution will force businesses to operatefaster and at a lower cost. This is extremely challenging as companies willhave to re-examine their cost structure to study how they can still product highquality outputs with the same, or even fewer, resources. Businesses looking to embrace and adopt therevolution should fundamentally change what they are doing. They must focus moreon incorporating new technologies into their processes than highlighting therisks involved.
As real value can only be achieved when these new technologiesare used together, organizations need to have a new vision and operating modelthat leverages all of these technologies. Furthermore, managers, consultantsand practitioners need to reassess the way they approach and solve problems.There is no doubt thatthe broadness of technological innovations in the fourth industry revolution isradically reshaping the way we do business.
And this entails a high risk thatif companies are not willing to actively seek to be a smart connected business,they will be in danger of being left behind as a result of the rise of the industrialrevolution. When companies succeed in adapting to the new realm, digitalizationwill be very beneficial to the people in the future. Therefore, both theopportunities and the threats of the fourth industrial revolution need to bepointed out for businesses to be prepared to step up their approach and lookforward to a bright future.