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Give Me Data!

while in first phase Industry 4.0 will help solve the limitations of access of right data for decision making across organizations, its interpretation and ability to use will still be a source of differentiation across organizations

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We are told we are moving towards a data centric society and for sure we are. Interestingly the clamoring for data has grown so rapidly today that one wonders how we managed our lives earlier or even our businesses. Were people in past more ingenious as they were able to perform their tasks with limited available data without asking for much? Few studies seem to suggest that improved data availability has compromised our interpretation skills. Reports from medical fraternity lament the lost art of clinical skills because of increased access to mechanized data access and modelling ((BIRDEM Med J 2019; 9(2): 102-105). Another report refers to Medscape Survey of 2013 that found nearly 90% common but unnecessary tests and measures in medical diagnosis. In fact reports suggest cost of unnecessary tests in USA in 2017 to be as high at $200 bn. It seems that though we have more tests and machines which aid in good data access for identifying diseases, our clinical diagnosis skill has regressed. During an informal discussion at a recent event for medical professionals there was an interesting debate. Professional from cities shared that they do multiple tests to identify for the minutest of details at the very first instance of patient examination and so for them breadth of information was high. For medical professionals in tier III cities with limited external aid, the approach to medical care entailed use of limited external aids and more clinical evaluation for isolating potential symptoms. Perhaps, there is a world for both the approaches, where good data and interpretation remains the Holy Grail for good decision making.

Now move to the industrial world where the challenge in making right decision is no different. The factory as a living organism is managed by the managers, much like doctors. Good data and right interpretation can aid in setting up a good system where either of missing ingredients lead to poor results. A cursory glance on the 2X2 matrix below will highlight the challenge of good data and right interpretation that we are referring to.

                         Data Availability

Poor                                    Good




“Living on a Prayer”


“Wasted Opportunity”

Good                 3.   

“Need a hero”


“The Sweet Spot”

**shaded portion refers to initial impact of industry 4.0 practices

For a team having poor access to data and limited ability to infer the process context as highlighted in box 1, achieving a desired result is more of a miracle. One doesn’t have the right picture of the system nor the people or process to help undertake a decision. When you have right people and process but poor data availability from process then the system largely works on individual brilliance and gut feel to make the most out of the available data symptoms, as highlighted in box 3. The desirable position is box 4 where one has right data and interpretation to aid good decision making.  Also, having good data availability and poor interpretation skills is a wasted opportunity (box 2) something organizations need to be careful about as they open their arms for Industry 4.0 offerings.

If one steps back and looks at potential benefit from Industry 4.0, the above table spells it out loud and clear. Today we have an opportunity to shut out challenges resulting from poor availability of data, where organizations can cover box1 and box 3 errors and challenges. It improves the chances of the organization to take right decision based on right data. It is important to note here that the data interpretation ability will still vary among organizations and this will emerge as a differentiator in years to come.  Even as artificial intelligence takes over basic or preliminary analysis ability, the underlying algorithms build by organizations will differ based on their unique personal and process capabilities. Thus, while in first phase Industry 4.0 will help solve the limitations of access of right data for decision making across organizations, its interpretation and ability to use will still be a source of differentiation across organizations. In subsequent phases organizations with superior human talent and knowledge processes will be able to better leverage the benefits of Industry 4.0

    “In the fields of observation chance favours only the prepared mind.” ~ Louis Pasteur

Dr. Shantam Shukla leads innovation efforts for leading industrial goods firm Forbes Marshall. Shantam also teaches strategy and innovation courses across leading Indian Institutes of Management in India. He can be reached at

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1 Comment
  1. Zouzou says

    It’s worth reading Your .

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