4IR: How can you avoid sleep-walking into the future?

Posted on 16 Nov 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Many organisations are failing to realise the benefit of their investments into potentially transformative digital technologies, noted KPMG’s Dale Williams, during his practical discussion at The Manufacturer Leaders Conference this morning.

Stock image Industry 4.0 4IR
The performance of a particular technology or suite of technologies, is far more important than solely looking at features and functionality.

There are three principles executives and managers should be aware of to ensure they don’t invest significant sums of money in technology which doesn’t meet their business’s needs, according to Dale Williams.

Firstly, forget everything you think you know about technology implementation. None of the old rules apply in the modern industrial landscape.

“Waterfall is gone; agile is the new norm,” Williams said. “By applying historic implementation practices, businesses run the risk of sleep-walking the old paradigm of technology into the new world.”

There is also a gap which is opening up at board level, Williams continued, between chief technology or digital officers (the ones tasked with exploring new solutions), and chief information officers (the ones tasked with keeping the lights on).

“That’s creating a conflict and disruption between new and old technology – performance enabling versus performance delivering.”

Dale Williams was speaking at The Manufacturer Leaders Conference which is co-located with Smart Factory Expo and is taking place this week at Exhibition Centre Liverpool.

KPMG is exhibiting at Smart Factory Expo – you can find them at Stand IoT1

You can follow all of the action through the hashtag #UKmfgWeek on Twitter. 

Second, you can run but you can’t hide. Who in your business owns the 4IR agenda or drives the strategy?

“If the answer is everyone, then in reality, it’s no one,” Williams warned. “There are no 4IR experts, the pace of change is just too fast. Line managers and production engineers should be empowered to gain that knowledge, the people who have a direct understanding of what needs to happen and what’s causing issues.

“However, more commonly that responsibility is given to the technology team – which is totally backwards. The business must identify what needs to be overcome and match that with the performance of a particular technology or suite of technologies, rather than solely looking at features and functionality.”

Thirdly, you can’t experiment forever. There is an endemic lack of clarity and confidence, particularly regarding the relevance of technologies – past, present and future. Confidence comes from proven return on investment, a far more important metric than features and functionality.