The world is changing. New technology changes how we interact and behave. It changes the way we access information and drives globalization that closes the gap between people and countries. It changes everything. New digital innovations are introduced to the audience at an ever-faster pace. Smartphones, tablets, and computers, now not only allow us to search for information and communicate via the internet and social media. They also let us communicate and interact with products, homes, and vehicles.
There is no greater proof of these effects than the new generation. Looking at kids using a smartphone, learning to swipe the screen and start a movie before they can walk or talk, it becomes obvious how the new technology changes our behavior. Digital solutions are an integrated part of their lives and affect the way they learn and address challenges. They are digital natives - the children of the digital revolution.
Most organizations and governments nowadays have digitalization on their agendas and in technical newspapers, you often see headlines like ”More digitalization needed” or ”Digitalize or die”. But what does digitalization really mean? If you invest in digitalization, what are you investing in? The truth is that no one knows for sure. Digitalization is a frequently used buzzword, that can mean any digital transformation. The very breadth of this concept becomes an obstacle for management in organizations that want to start a digital transformation journey. Where should you start?
In the industry, you often talk about digitalization as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0. The first industrial revolution was the original mechanization of the industry, using steam and water power. The second, electrification and mass production. And the third, automation. Industry 4.0 is a natural extension to the previous industrial revolutions, adding virtualization and digitalization to the entire product lifecycle. Methods for virtual engineering and manufacturing, Internet-of-Things, cloud computing, and management of requirements, documents and data, even virtual reality and 3D printing, all play important roles in the vision.
Whilst digitalization is important for the future success of a company, we must appreciate the challenges that come with the vision. There is no generic answer to how we should address these challenges. All mature organizations have a legacy to protect. Legacy is a great asset but can also be a burden in transformation efforts. Great care must be taken when changing processes that affect the very foundation of the company’s success. The Industry 4.0 vision is not a finalized product and requires adaption to fit into existing workflows. Understanding the current process is key, as well as focusing on finding open and agile solutions that ensure success also in the future. No one knows where the digital transformation journey will take us. What we do know is that it needs to prepare us for the challenges of tomorrow and please the expectations of future generations. To quote T-rex hit single from 1972 - ”you won’t fool the children of the revolution”.