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Remaining Relevant in the Face of the Fourth Industrial Revolution



“Successful digital enterprises are those that differentiate and disrupt their industries”. This insightful quote by Nick Taylor of Accenture Digital highlights the need to remain relevant in today’s age of constant change – also known as the fourth industrial revolution.

The fourth industrial revolution is marked by a surge of new technologies fueled by a cycle of tech emergence, adoption, and innovation. This has caused massive disruption not only to the way people use computers, but also to the way CIOs build a competitive edge for their companies.

According to the Harvey Nash/KPMG 2016 CIO Survey, 44% of large businesses (with annual IT budgets exceeding US$250 million) have an enterprise-wide digital vision and strategy – with just 35% of them within individual business units. This is worrying news for large enterprises. Startups can now innovate with little capital and grow at a monstrous rate, pushing bigger fish out of the game.

However, all is not lost. KPMG has identified six comprehensive steps that CIOs must take to safeguard against disruption and remain relevant. They have outlined the steps as follows:


1. Move Your Business to the Cloud

Cloud is arguably one of the biggest disrupters in the digital world. According to IDC, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) will remain the superior cloud tool used by businesses in coming years, accounting for two thirds of total spending on public cloud.

As Cloud does away with the need for building and running huge datacenters, your IT department will be able to cut down on manpower and capital. A Cloud-first strategy is the way to go.

The A7 AppsConnect™ platform allows you to combine your business apps and data on a single platform. AppsConnect™ provides integration for apps, allowing data to be synchronised and stored quickly and securely. This gives you the perfect headstart for your business’ transition to Cloud.


2. Digital Labour Will Help You

According to researchers at the World Economic Forum (WEF), “current trends could lead to a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive labor market changes over the period 2015–2020.” Jobs at risk are those in “administrative or white collar functions”. However, digital labour will eventually evolve to encompass other higher-level functions like data-processing.

For now, jobs are more likely to be restructured rather than scrapped altogether. McKinsey & Company states an example of the benefits: “sales organisations could use automation to generate leads and identify more likely opportunities for cross-selling and upselling”. This could reduce the delay between the time salespeople receive customer feedback and improvements made on the quality of goods.


3. Create an Omnichannel Consumer Experience

Today, customers are more connected than ever. Word-of-mouth marketing spreads quickly via social media apps, and one can easily order something online and have it delivered to your doorstep.

According to a 2015 study by IDC, customers who purchase both online and in store have a 30% greater lifetime value than those who only purchased in one or the other. This means you’ll have to consider the social channels and devices your customers use in order to better engage them.

And employees, being consumers themselves, are bringing these expectations to the workplace. This entails access to company data anytime, anywhere, from any device. Companies will have to revamp their existing legacy systems in order to accommodate the growing digital needs of employees and consumers.


4. Why You Should Offer Services

Their fourth prediction is on creating value using the Internet of Things (IoT). One of the more notable ways of doing this is by providing services to your customers.

Services provide flexibility. It allows your client to upgrade or downgrade based on their needs. They also offer scalability. In the face of dramatic change, say, should clients need to launch their website earlier, they can increase their service subscription to accelerate the pace.

Services also create stronger customer retention. Clients provide feedback to service providers, who constantly create value and provide solutions for their queries. Trust is built between the service provider and the client over time.


5. Continuous Delivery for Improvement

Continuous delivery focuses on improving collaboration across test, development and operations departments to push faster and more reliable deployments out to market.

Scrap your old systems in favour of developing new skills and new ways to define success. Implementing continuous delivery isn’t fundamentally easy, but it reaps a world of benefit.

Like any continuous improvement, continuous delivery can be brought into the workplace incrementally. Benefits include providing faster delivery of updates, creating extra capacity to improve systems, and decreasing costs of management.


6. Next Gen IT Operating Model

Their sixth prediction is about a next generation IT Operating Model. The onus is on IT to crank out services and capabilities faster and better than ever, using emerging technology to improve existing systems. The new operating model includes three new IT roles to deal with this challenge – broker, integrate, and orchestrate (see figure below).


Retrieved September 27, 2016, from The Creative CIO's Agenda: Six Big Bets for Digital Transformation, pg. 11 out of 14.


Firstly, IT acts as a service broker between buyers and providers. It then recommends the best solution to clients based on its understanding of the market, technologies, and stakeholder needs.

Secondly, IT integrates services and capabilities with existing data to keep them running smoothly together. It is also crucial to integrate these services with existing back-office systems.

Thirdly, IT orchestrates the performance of services. On top of simply delivering services, IT makes sure that the company is delivering value to clients consistently.

In light of these six predictions, it is worth considering the following options:


Slim down your legacy systems

Go lean. Review your applications and retire redundant apps and low-level systems.  Follow this up by developing a set of APIs (Application Programme Interfaces) to speed up future integrations in a safer way. Lastly, migrate every system possible to the Cloud.


Keep it agile

Again, cut down. Review your existing program and projects to sieve out cumbersome processes and technologies that do not contribute to your digital transformation. Simultaneously, work with partners to develop agile skills and create a team to deliver continuous delivery on high-value projects.


Build digital skills and behaviors

Learn relevant new things. Outside of your usual IT skills, digital transformation requires one to understand business processes and stakeholder needs, and apply these to craft tech-enabled solutions. A great way to go about this is to develop partnerships with digital consultants, or job-rotate – move people from IT into the business side and vice versa.


Go fast

Markets can be disrupted in the blink of an eye by increasingly shorter product lifecycles. CIOs should create an environment where experimentation is encouraged and urgency is a priority.


Have a centralised digital vision

The regulatory environment is constantly changing. This poses a challenge for companies to comply without slowing innovation, notably regarding privacy and data concerns. CIOs should work with C-suite executives and the Board in order to walk through these issues and develop a crystal-clear vision.


Don’t know where to begin? The AppsConnect™ platform contains over 40 business applications which are fully integrated with each other, resulting in seamless data transactions. What’s more, A7 BizConnect, a core service offered by Alpha7, can help you to create a clear business strategy and provide useful recommendations on what to improve.

If you’re thinking of turning your business into a connected enterprise, drop Alpha7 an email today!

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Heneghan, M. E. (n.d.). The Creative CIO's Agenda: Six Big Bets for Digital Transformation. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from

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