IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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The fight for power in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Wed, 24th Apr 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is defined by the emergence of new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and more. And while this is by no means the first time society has undergone an industrial revolution, these new technologies are set to have the most significant and deeply-felt impact on humanity in our history.

As has happened in the past, we're seeing occupations change with the introduction of these modern technologies into the workplace; jobs of today may no longer exist tomorrow and jobs of tomorrow may not exist today. This is thanks to the fact that technology like AI and ML have the power to replace mundane, repetitive jobs, and allow humans to focus on bringing value in new ways.

Like the industrial revolutions before it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution highlights the role of new technologies in society and the need for new skills to thrive. With this in mind, how should organisations adapt for today's digital economy?

The key will be lowering the barriers to using data and technologies to augment the way we work. There are three areas business leaders need to consider in order to give themselves, and their organisations, the best chance for success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

1. Upskill individuals – Invest in the skills of the existing and future workforces so they are comfortable working with data as it will be critical to their individual and employer's success, as well as that of the nation's wider economy.

Current upskilling efforts are largely focused on already highly-valued and highly-skilled employees, which means that a greater commitment and collaborative effort is required from governments, education institutions and organisations to support the wider population that don't fall into this category.

Data literacy will be one of the skills essential for the future. Interestingly, just 20% of Australian employees feel confident in their data literacy skills, suggesting that organisations are failing to ensure their employees have the skills they need. Concerningly, 69% of Australian middle managers feel they have to deal with a higher value of data in their role than three years ago – so while their interaction with data has increased, their skills have not.

2. Understand the business case to make better use of data – Whether you're part of a public or private organisation, it's important that leaders understand the opportunities for using data in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – and make the necessary changes to empower their employees to use it.

According to the Data Literacy Index, commissioned by Qlik on behalf of the Data Literacy Project, large enterprises that have higher corporate data literacy, experience $320-$534 million in higher enterprise value. While nearly all business leaders acknowledge that data is important to how their company currently makes decisions, worryingly just eight per cent of firms have made major changes in the way the data is used over the past five years. That's a potential $500 million opportunity they are missing out on!

3. Make it integrated – Data processes should be integrated into workflows so that it is not seen as an additional task for employees, but a useful component that intuitively becomes a part of their day-to-day duties. In turn, this integration will drive a cultural shift as data has been front and centre across the business underpinning activities and decisions.

Data literacy is just one way organisations and individuals can excel in today's Fourth Industrial Revolution. For an individual, being data literate and having the skills to read, work with, analyse and argue with data, makes that person a more valuable asset to a business and increases their employability. And, for a data literate organisation, the impact can be substantial, with large enterprises known to experience between US $320-$534 million in higher enterprise value. With clear rewards for both parties, data literacy holds the key to ensuring that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a period that of success for individuals, businesses and the wider Australian economy.