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Perspectives

Fast, But Not Furious: Accelerating to Win in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

2017-07-26


Here’s a framework for how traditional businesses can move into a higher gear in a survival-of-the-fastest world.

The pace of business change has intensified dramatically in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In short, it is speed that will determine whether a business disrupts or is disrupted, and enterprises built over decades and even centuries will be for naught if they cannot operate quickly enough.

Where business leaders often struggle is in setting the right pace for their digital transformation journey: fast enough to build the business of the future, but not so furious that they lose control. This is why we developed the AHEAD speed framework: to help leaders adjust the speed of their response to the velocity of the changes taking place. This paper is an extension of our primary research, featured in our report series The Work Ahead, and our latest book, What To Do When Machines Do Everything.

Moving AHEAD with Speed

In our book, we provided a structured approach for moving forward with digital, based on our work with Global 2000 companies at the vanguard of the digital transition. The book details the AHEAD model, summarizing five areas in which businesses can take action to effectively compete in the new machine age. Here’s a closer look at the AHEAD model, in the context of speed: 

Automation.

The next level of automation for human-based processes (or process workarounds) will put organizations on a high growth path. According to our analysis, applying robotic process automation (RPA) to long-standing core business processes can drive 30% to 60% (or even more) of cost out of a business’s operations, with error rates plummeting to near zero.

  • Recommendation: Set a target to double the speed of your core processes to double your cost savings and time-to-market improvements.

Halos of information.

In our earlier book on Code Halos, we described how every person, place or thing is now a code generator and that winning with data is the number-one competitive game in nearly every industry. Companies that use advanced analytics and machine learning are twice as likely to be top-quartile financial performers, and three times more likely to execute effective decisions. 

Businesses should start thinking about instrumenting all of their key products and machines and using the resulting insights to significantly accelerate the speed of decision-making and create new business value. 

Enhancement of the workforce. 

At the heart of enhancement is the idea that “the new machine” (the culmination of analytics, artificial intelligence and automation) can improve — not replace — the productivity and effectiveness of nearly every person and job.

Our book confirms that roughly 75% of existing jobs will be altered or enhanced by AI-driven technologies, resulting in a more productive workforce and higher business performance thresholds. Businesses need to find the balance between the work of humans and robots.

  • Recommendation: Set a target to enhance every person in the organization to speed up business performance, as well as help workers focus on the more human elements of the job (strategic thinking, leadership, decision-making, innovation, among others) to double their output or greatly increase their quality of delivery. 

Abundance. 

The concept of abundance is based on setting low prices to create mass market appeal and get customers bought into your product or service. The key is to spark innovation in the business ecosystem (through partnerships, start-up investments or internal efforts) to increase the speed of new opportunity creation and drive sales up to unprecedented levels.

  • Recommendation: Leverage AI, analytics and automation to drive down the price point of products or services to compete and win in low-cost, high-volume markets.

Discovery.

By leveraging the new machine, businesses can conceive of entirely new products, new services and new industries for the digital economy. 

  • Recommendation: Rip up the rule book, and think like a unicorn. What would Uber do as a manufacturer? It might consider access to on-demand machine time, long-term or microleasing of equipment to drive higher machine utilization rates. 

The AHEAD Speed Framework

While the AHEAD model illuminates a path forward for achieving digital success, the speed framework will help organizations set the right pace. The ultimate objective of this framework is to help organizations match the speed of disruption in the marketplace. Although the ideal scenario is to accelerate speed across all five categories in parallel, that is not possible for most traditional organizations. We suggest moving into the fast lane on one or two of the AHEAD categories to begin with, and then aim for medium speed in the others. Once you’ve picked up speed, it will be clear which AHEAD category should shift into the fifth gear. 

Not every company can move at the same pace because each has its own ambitions and priorities in the new machine age. What might be a good compromise for one may be unfeasible or even unacceptable to another.  

Use the interactive framework below to assess your current speed of change and plan how to accelerate toward the right speed in a world where time-to-everything matters more than any other strategic imperative. 

Figure 1

Companies that accelerate by automating everything they can, instrumenting everything they can, enhancing every worker they can, driving the price points of their products and services as low as they can, and discovering and inventing all their possible futures will be best positioned to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

For more information, read the full report at “Fast, but not Furious: The Speed You Need to Win in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” or visit our Center for the Future of Work website

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Fast, But Not Furious: Accelerating to Win in the Fourth Industrial Revolution