The fourth industrial revolution: Why your enterprise needs a plan

In his recently released book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum states “I hope this book serves as a primer and guide, equipping leaders to grapple with the political, social and economic implications as well as to understand the advances in technology that create them.” What is the thing they are grappling with? It is “…the new technology revolution, which entails nothing less than a transformation of all humankind.”

Schwab says we are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and relate to one another. The world is currently seeing “profound shifts across all industries, marked by the emergence of new business models, the disruption of incumbents, and the reshaping of production, consumption, transportation, and delivery systems.”

Professor Schawb goes on to give many examples of the disruption caused by manifestations of this revolution such as the emergence in Germany of “Industry 4.0” – a term coined to describe the fundamental impacts of emerging technologies on automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies within global value chains.

I highly recommend that every enterprise leader read Professor Schwab’s book. Understanding gained from its many examples, thoughtful analysis and recommendations are essential for those who want to maintain and improve market position during this digital quake of technology-driven innovative disruption.

In his keynote address at the recent International Conference on Software Engineering, the world’s largest international conference on software engineering attended by the top scientists and held this year in Austin, Texas, global award winning Professor Stephen Ibaraki connected the dots between this fundamental digital quake of technological change and the opportunities available for those leading in the design and development of the disruptive agents of the fourth industrial revolution. In an interview following his keynote address, Ibaraki commented “The accelerating development of disruptive technological innovation including, artificial intelligence and machine learning, is set to impact every single aspect of our physical, digital, and biological world from how we manufacture and drive automobiles to how we design our offspring through precision gene editing.”

The looming disruptive juggernaut is not going unnoticed by business leaders. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the financial services sector. The Financial Services Roundtable represents the largest integrated financial services companies providing banking, insurance, payment and investment products and services to the American consumer. Member companies participate through the Chief Executive Officer and other senior executives nominated by the CEO. FSR member companies provide fuel for America’s economic engine, accounting for $92.7 trillion in managed assets, $1.2 trillion in revenue, and 2.3 million jobs. Far from maintaining the finance world’s stereotype of being the most traditional and resistant to change of all sectors, the FSR is out front in preparing for the times ahead.

In a June 6, 2016 media release the FSR announced the launch of a new Tech Collaborators Program to bring together leaders from the financial and technology industries to envision the long-term future of the financial industry and to collaborate on innovative FinTech projects.

According to the FSR, these Tech Collaborator projects will help financial institutions and technology companies cooperatively develop best practices and guidelines to improve security, efficiency and to better meet consumer demand in the financial services world. The first two Tech Collaborator projects will study the integration of wearables and create best practices for securing, moving, and accessing sensitive “data-in-motion” in a mobile financial services world and develop standards or best practices for data security, integrity and accessibility in the cloud. “Technology is changing the world and what customers demand at lightning speed,” said FSR CEO, Tim Pawlenty. “Financial and technology companies competing and forming partnerships benefits consumers and we look forward to creating forums to enhance these opportunities.”

In the same release, FSR announced its FinTech Ideas Festival, a futuristic event that will bring together world leaders at the CEO-level in the financial services and technology communities. The event, to be held in January 2017 in partnership with TechNet is for CEOs, by invitation only.

This event will focus on: Financial Inclusion; The Future of the Workforce; Artificial Intelligence; Cybersecurity; BioMetrics; Internet of Things and Big Data; Data Access and Security in the Cloud; Payments: and Managing Regulation in the Future. “Sometimes the best ideas come about when people with different perspectives and experience engage in new ways. We see the FinTech Ideas Festival as a way to accelerate our respective and new efforts to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” said Ajay Banga, FinTech Festival steering committee member and President and CEO of MasterCard.

To assist the FSR and invited CEO’s in planning the way ahead, FSR has created a Technology Advisory Council made up of sixteen of the world’s top technology innovators and thought leaders among them Professor Pedro Domingos author of the bestselling The Master Algorithm How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine will Remake Our World.  At the 2016 Code Conference Microsoft Co-founder and Philanthropist Bill Gates recommended Professor Domingo’s book as one of the two best reads to gain an understanding of artificial intelligence.   The Council is founded and chaired by futurist and social entrepreneur Professor Stephen Ibaraki ensuring a strong focus on the future and a solid link to the realities of business.

Given its reach, the work of the FSR promises to manifest itself across global industries. This is but one example of a major sector organization deliberately responding to and planning for the disruption ahead. There are many others, as I am sure, we will see.

Governments and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) also need to plan for this coming disruption. As an example, one only has to look to the United Nations ITU – World Summit on the Information Society and its eleven action lines to see a demonstrated understanding and response to what is ahead. The United Nations  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) likewise demonstrate that at the global level, technology is now pervasive and must be considered in achieving a world where life for every person, of every age, everywhere is affordable, reliable, safe, inclusive, fair, equal, resilient, and sustainable.

Governments of some African countries are taking a proactive approach through their Digital Africa initiative which recently held an event focused on positive social and economic development based on technology driven innovation, investment and business development.

For Canadian Enterprises, Governments and NGOs there is no more time left to debate whether or not you will be impacted by the technology driven disruption of the fourth industrial revolution. It is time to follow the lead of the FSR and get a plan in place now.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Dave O'Leary
Dave O'Leary
Dave is a founding managing partner of REDDS Venture Investment Partners ( His career in post-secondary education included roles as CIO, Vice-President and acting President. Dave is a member of the Practitioner Board of the Association for Computing Machinery. He chairs the ACM Practitioner Board Marketing Committee and is also a second term member of the Board's Professional Development Committee. (ACM - Association for Computing Machinery--official IFIP international member representative, largest and most respected international computing science, research, education, innovation professional association well known for their AM Turing Award (Nobel of computing) with 1 million USD prize, 1.5 millions user digital library, 2 million reach, learning center, Applicative conference, Queue magazine, 200 conferences/events, 78 publications/news, 37 Special Interest Groups). He is a board director of the Global Industry Council and the immediate Past President of the Canadian Information Processing Society of British Columbia. Dave is co-founder and director of an ISV computer technology business and is currently leading and advising start ups in the USA, China, Europe, and Canada. He serves as a task force member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is the past chair of the Canadian National Council of Deans of Information and Communications Technology. He served two terms as a director of the Canadian National Information and Communications Technology Sector Council advising on National technology and economic strategy. Dave has appeared as a panel member in a number of Microsoft webcasts and has presented globally on the business and technical impacts of technology in training. He is the recipient (2002) of the highest national award for leadership in post-secondary education.

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