Key takeaways

  • The technology of the 4IR brings with it a lot of data and great transformative promise.
  • Companies must move from isolated experimentation to holistic solutions that have an impact.
  • Data will fuel better customer and employee experiences, challenging stagnating productivity and driving trust, skills, innovation and profits.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Just like the 1700s and 1800s, new technology is transforming how we do business and how people experience life. Now, in place of big, hulking innovations like the steam engine, the locomotive or the spinning jenny, today’s tech innovations are things we often can’t see reams of data powering tools, solutions and targeting in ways it’s still hard to fathom.

Sure, there are robots in factories and smart tech in our cars. But, there’s also artificial intelligence, blockchain, bots, VR and AR where what we see is a result and not a process. PwC analysis shows that nearly $US650 billion has been invested in 4IR technology over the 2012-2018 period in the US alone. The investment and the expectations are huge. But what is there to show for it on a large scale right now? For most companies, it’s hard to pin down because the focus has been on experimenting, proof of concept and piloting.

It’s fine to start simply, say, using the Internet of Things to automate a few tasks then to scale up across the organisation. Start with a simple sensor to track equipment or your most valuable customers.

The Results

But it’s time to move past the proof of concept and experiments and begin to move ahead, full steam.1 If companies want to see the results of their effort and investments, it’s time for another R: the Fourth Industrial Results Revolution. It’s one of the key ways to boost productivity, which has essentially been stagnant the world over.2

How do we move forward? Think of it like a child. Eventually a child needs to grow up and go to college, or out into the world, right? He or she can’t stay in a parent’s house forever. At the moment most new technology is just staying in the house. To launch it out across the company, in a way that finally pulls together effort and impact, it’s time to have a grown up conversation to talk about it not as a series of one-off experiments by the scared executive, but instead as a holistic solution with impact that would make any CFO or front line employee proud.

Success will be driven
by experiences

I firmly believe amazing experiences trump all, whether it’s for an employee or consumers. It is a data fuelled experience creating new, better, and more profitable ones. These experiences are going to be powered by volumes of data that we have never had before be it from IoT sensors, new mobile devices, geolocation or something we’ve not even imagined yet. Companies are receiving and gathering data on consumers and employees in different ways every day, feeding it into technology that can drive new ways of working and delivering to customers.

Great experiences are going to power consumers and employees to do better work — it’s a given. In order to make that happen you need to be able to provide an outlet and meaningful uses for the data that’s being collected through the 4IR technologies now and in the future. Consider how hotel chains and streaming services collect information about customers via employees, artificial intelligence, web-browsing and app use, among other things.

The more data they have, the better the experience services can bring to customers. And the more efficient and useful the technology, the more productive and experience-focused employees can be. If employees and customers are going to willingly give up more of that data, of course, it’s crucial to have the right privacy measures and trust-builders in place.

The true
tech promise

But it is all interdependent.

The true promise of technology in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is as fuel to experiences that will help drive trust, skill-building, innovation and profits for the foreseeable future. Amazing experiences are driven by having oodles of data on a human being, their behaviour, their relationships with products, and services.

To make an impact with 4IR technologies, an experience loop comes into play and it begins and ends with the customer and employee experience. We can make people more productive if we give them recommendations on what to do next, powered by insight, fueled by information and data coming from any existing technologies or new emerging technology going forward.

But data that will only be provided if you trust the data collector and that, in turn, means people need to have trust in the brands they use and work for. How do you build trust in employees and customers so you can achieve real impact? By giving them assurances, yes. But that’s meaningless without closing the loop and giving people a much better experience to start.


Digital Pulse Tom Puthiyamadam


Tom Puthiyamadam

Tom Puthiyamadam is the global leader of Digital Services with PwC’s Advisory practice.

More About Tom Puthiyamadam