The first industrial revolution used fossil fuels to mechanise industry and make mass transport available; the second saw the rise of mass production; and the third the rise of automation in production. The fourth will see the lines between the physical, digital and even biological worlds begin to blur. What is different is the speed at which all of this is taking place. Businesses that fail to embrace it risk the equivalent of being left riding the stagecoach while other companies take the steam train.
Increasingly the production, distribution and retailing sectors are starting to overlap. This is thanks to the availability of information. Online shopping sites and growing numbers of internet of things (IoT) devices mean that businesses can capture vast amounts of data in real time about the people who are buying and using their products.
This information can be used not only to make the sales operation more efficient, but by integrating it with factory floor systems it can improve production efficiency. It can also help to introduce greater flexibility by allowing manufacturers to respond quickly to changes in consumer demand and taste. The problem, however, is that much of the ‘big data’ collected is unstructured and needs work to make it usable.
Changing Business Models
Compared to the world of only a decade ago, today’s consumer landscape looks radically different. Billions of people now have powerful, versatile mobile devices allowing them to stay in touch and access an entire range of services wherever they are.
Add in IoT devices such as fitness trackers, smart TVs and personal assistants including Amazon Echo, and there’s unrivalled opportunity not merely to service customer needs, but also to collect information about how they’re living their lives. With people constantly connected to the digital world, businesses have the opportunity to deliver products and services in a new way that can significantly improve people’s lives.
The Big Picture
Whether you’re dealing with customers, suppliers or partners, being able to service them effectively means that you need as full a picture as possible as to how they interact with your business. For many companies, the first step in achieving this is a CRM system. However, legacy systems may struggle with the number of inputs with which they must now cope, whether from other databases or from IoT devices.
To succeed in the fourth industrial revolution, systems are needed that can cope with large volumes of data – much of it in unstructured form – and provide a clear, coherent view of what’s happening. To achieve this, enterprises are increasingly turning to cloud services and as-a-service delivery models, and adopting an Integration Platform in order to provide affordable, scalable systems that allow them to thrive in the world of big data and to make sense of the information, and also adopt a robust digital process monitoring tool, thereby staying ahead of their competitors.