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27 Aug 2020

NBlog Aug 27 - creative teamwork post-lockdown

A couple of days ago I blogged about MURAL, just one of many creative tools supporting collaborative working. If you missed it, please catch up and contemplate about how you might use tools such as that right now for teamworking during the COVID19 lockdowns.

Today I've been thinking about 'the new normal' as the world emerges from the pandemic, inspired by the intersection of two threads.

Firstly, thanks to a Zoom session with participants and presenters from Queensland, I've been reading-up on "industry 4.0". I'm not totally au fait with it yet but as I see it the key distinguishing features are:
  • Ever-increasing automation of manufacturing, with smart devices and robotics supplementing the capabilities of both manual and knowledge workers;
  • Industrial IoT, coupling sensors and actuators on the production line with each other, allowing workers to interact with the machinery through screens and keyboards etc. and a growing  layer of automation smarts and networking;
  • Ever-increasing reliance on IT, data, analytics, systems and artificial intelligence (with implications for risk, resilience, reliability and security);
  • New capabilities, particularly in the specification and design areas - such as virtual reality simulations and rapid prototyping of jigs, machines and products by "additive manufacturing" (industrial 3D printers);
  • An increasing focus on adding value through knowledge work in research and development plus product service/support, de-emphasising the manufacturing production core activities (which, I guess, started with the off-shoring of manufacturing to low-wage economies, and is now leading to both on- and off-shore automated manufacturing);  
  • Rapid innovation and change, leading to difficulties in strategic corporate planning (with credible planning horizons falling to just a couple of years!) and personal career planning (e.g. how can workers learn to use tools and techniques that either aren't refined enough to be taught, perhaps not even invented yet?);
  • Shortages of people with the requisite skills, knowledge and adaptability, able to thrive despite the challenges and seize opportunities as they arise.
Secondly, various governance experts have been grappling with changes brought about directly and suddenly by COVID19, and what remains to be done as we collectively recognise that, thanks to dependencies, incidents can spread ripples far and wide through the extended supply networks we've built. For example, through a YouTube session, David Koenig emphasised the governance need for resiliency, implying not just a greater appreciation of supply network risks, but better quality information and stronger control of those risks. David promotes a positive view of risk, in other words boards and senior exec management deliberately taking risks where that best serves the needs of the business and its stakeholders (implying a convergence of their clear rooftop view of the rapidly changing external environment with solid management information about the situation way down in the engine room, driving the corporation towards effective and efficient achievement of its business objectives). 'Taking risks smartly' is cool. 

[Aside: where do you stand on this if you are an infosec pro? Do you accept the duality of risk and opportunity, or that the "exploitation" of information can be both illegitimate and legitimate? Do you see information risk as a business and human issue, rather than purely a technology issue? If so, you may be CISO material!]

So, this evening I'm wondering about the governance and enterprise risk management aspects of Industry 4.0. Yes there are all manner of risks associated with automation, industrial IoT, rapid innovation and change ... but at the same time there is significant potential for strong organisations that understand what they are getting into, and are both willing and able to exploit opportunities opened up, in part, by COVID19.

I'm intrigued by the possibility of small, nimbler, innovative organisations collaborating to take down the industry goliaths - the lumbering supertankers. Those creative collaborative teamworking tools I mentioned earlier could be game-changers. Being frank about it, although some SMEs will fail valiantly, they are more expendable than those misguided supertankers heading inexorably for the rocks. 

Now is the time to be bold, SME friends! Watch your ankles, goliaths! 

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