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The fourth what?

• By : Dr Sean Allam | Cloudstrength

Great, a new buzz word or expression for us all to stare confusingly at. I cannot blame business leaders for finding it more difficult each year to warrant spend for yet another ‘revolutionary’ arrival from ‘silly-con somewhere’? As you start hearing increasingly more hype about the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), you might also start to ask how this will impact you and your business, or if this is yet another passing fad.
But things have changed, and one important factor is driving that change, especially here in South Africa. Previously we were putting along on the dirt-roads of the information superhighway, but with internet connectivity becoming faster and cheaper every year, your organisation now has access to an endless list of incredible capabilities. Of course, you must still take the steps to implement them over a traditional set of practices that you didn’t even know had become outdated.
Organisations that have established their practices on the foundation of outdated methodologies are quickly falling behind the technical disruptors who have rewired their business operations and mindsets. Traditional organisations compartmentalise their operations and administrative functions. Employees in turn compartmentalise their own roles within their broader departmental structures. Under such conditions computer systems have been established to serve in functional silos. Bigger organisations have tried to solve this problem with very large and expensive monolithic enterprise resource and planning solutions.
The tools that are traditionally used to connect and communicate between organisational silos are in fact where most of our organisational friction has emerged. We see countless organisations operating complex workflows from flat files such as spreadsheets, accounting systems or paper forms. This is because these formats are quick and easy to email or communicate across organisational silos and the formats are understood by everyone. Unfortunately, often as information is adapted for distribution it may lose context, business rules, thresholds, statistics and other critical meta-data that is significant at its point of origin but not at the destination.
For example, in an organisation where a purchase order of materials is not delivered on time, a works order may become delayed.

After some time, the accounts department might receive a call from a frustrated customer who has not received feedback. The accounts department reviewing their accounting system or CRM could not have known that the manufacturing department was unable to perform the works order due to the unavailability of stock that the stores department was tracking on its inventory management spreadsheet. Do you see the issue here, sound familiar?
To the corporate world, the fourth industrial revolution introduces new digital techniques to breaking down the friction we encounter across the organisation. Automation and intelligence connected to an expansive global cloud provide capabilities and solutions previously only available to the largest enterprises. The role of your IT service provider needs to change from technology centric to information centric. You don’t need to radically alter your business processes or spend a fortune and bigger and faster IT equipment and systems.
Moving ‘to the cloud’ is often misunderstood to simply mean hosting your server somewhere else. It’s not that at all. Moving to the cloud is cost effective integration of digital intelligence into your operations through mechanisms such as IOT, Web or Mobile. These then aggregate your information up to the cloud, which is not a server, but rather a massive array of connected services. These services aggregate, analyse, store and distribute your data across your organisational silos. The difference now is that your information is contextualised so that a problem picked up by an IOT device on a shelf in the stores department is directly alerting the accounts department to a potential delay to works orders, so proactive steps can be taken to contact the customer before they become upset.
At CloudStrength we don’t just look at ways to add technology to your organisation. We look at your operations and determine how cloud solutions can add relevant context to the data across your organisation. Our team have custom developed unique cloud and mobile solutions for a number of businesses right here in East London, and more broadly across the country and continent. Don’t believe that your organisation is too small or simple for cloud. The 4IR is here and it gives your smallest competitors the ability to become your greatest threat.