This morning (25 March, 2021) I was at Reekoh IOT’s Industry 4.0 breakfast “Digital Transformation: A Leadership Perspective”.

The TL;DR from this event is is: don’t wait for government; as business leaders you should ask “what is the missing piece?”.

Embrace risk to discover opportunity.

As someone who mostly, at Accelerando Consulting, helps smaller businesses create innovative solutions, I agree that big business could learn a thing or to from the small fish about Making Shit Happen.

Following is an edited version of my live tweets from the event

First speaker Neil Glentworth shocks the room: “Industry 4.0 is a load of BS”. “We haven’t solved basic societal problems”. We haven’t turned to technology to use data well”. “We are really poor as an industry at selling the value.”

Neil Glentworth at the mic Neil Glentworth at the mic

Says Neil “we are not dealing with the swamp of data we create”. “You aren’t going to solve the problem unless you really start to connect the data together”. “We have failed miserably”, for example Smart City Technology isn’t lowering rates or taxes.

Second speaker is Merrick Spain from Civic Analytica. Merrick offers “Five Ds”.

Merrick Spain at the mic Merrick Spain at the mic
  • D1: Dichotomy. Data is everywhere but we only use 0.5% of it.

  • D2: Delusion.. The Emperor’s new clothes. The reality is that the people who speak for organizations about data aren’t in the trenches and have a too-rosy outlook.

  • D3:Dysfunction. Most organizations aren’t using data well. Horse and cart level tech.

  • D4: Diversity. Too many silos. Too homogeneous teams. Too little collaboration. Crowdsource by partnering says Merrick.

  • D5: Democracy. “We need to empower more people to do more things with more data”. The reason shopping is seamless and easy is because “the product has been Prodictized”. Think about data from that perspective. Decentralize.

Final speaker before the panel is Dale Rankine, CEO at Reekoh IoT. “Technology is not a question of bits and bytes, it’s about the business outcome”. Digital transformation comes down to the business and structural changes that technology enables, says Dale.

Dale Rankine at the mic Dale Rankine at the mic

Designing says Dale, with security and interoperability from the start is crucial. Hand in hand with democratization is seeing that the cost of getting data to the right people is low. A lot of data is still locked away. We need more sense, not more sensors.

Dale asks “What does it take to ensure that the data flows to where it needs to be?” The necessary ease of interfacing does not exist right through the value chain. Once we’ve architected for interoperability Dale wants a conversation on getting more value.

Manel time now with Neil Glentworth, Merrick Spain and Dale Rankine. Merrick: data needs to be allowed to go wherever it needs to go. Dashboards aren’t enough.

The Event Manel The Event Manel

Moderator Steve Terry throws a question to Neil. Neil: “In most organizations, data only becomes valuable when it gets lost”. “If you want your org to be data driven wht does it mean”. “Job losses” is what most people think.

Question from Peter in the audience: We can only hold five concepts at once (one more than a rabbit!).. What’s stopping us from being innovative?. Merrick: people, not data. Peter agrees: we aren’t teaching entrants to the field why we do IT

Says Neil Glentworth: “name me an interesting person in digital leadership from government in australia”. “We could solve the biggest problems if we were willing to take risk”. From Dale: a fear based position never generates innovation.

A fear based position never generates innovation.

It’s our job, says Dale Rankine as leaders to create an environment that allows innovation, not to specify or personally drive it..

Centre For Data Leadership luminary Adam Beck asks a question about the role of the C Suite. Neil says: “find the absurdity”.  Merrick adds taking risks is necessary to find new use cases that enable scaling..

A Non Question from the floor: automation should free humans to be creative. thoughts? [ed: hell yes sing it!]. Dale Rankine: AI at the edge (and COVID!) are furthering the depopulation of the factory floor. The role of data is now moving further up the value chain.

More from Dale Rankine: decision support is becoming business driven not asset driven. Neil Glentworth says the next evolution is autonomy; eg. removing pilots and ATC from air travel, is possible (but unpalatable). “Technology’s created more jobs than it ever displaced.”

“Canberra just bankrolls large consulting companies to create apps that none of us use” says Neil Glentworth. “Queensland is now a digital laggard”. “We’re investing in the wrong areas”. “We’ve got no plan. No incentive…”

Until there is real leadership says Neil Glentworth there is no incentive. Neil highlights Rio Tinto who has eradicated drivers and retrained them to do more valuable work.

From Merrick Spain: “Leadership is required in identifying gaps and bridging silos”. Think of leadership as demand-side and IT as supply side.

A cross functional view, says Dale Rankine is not something all organizations are achieving. He gives an example of a council who raised a tender to create a capability they already had in another department.

Says Neil Glentworth, Brisbane City Council has created a data analytics unit that has become indispensable, run by a planner, not a geek. Mackay had world beating initiative created by a chemical engineer who was nearly fired for it. Passionate individuals matter.

Attendee David Holman observes the benefit of ASKING your customers what they need. How do we provide support as leaders to enable change. Neil: “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less!” We need, he says, to be more supportive of failure.

If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less!

Don’t, says Neil, be quick to throw stones. Our job as leaders is to grow the pie, not just our slice. Everyone in this room needs to be uncomfortable, to understand that we have to take risks. Merrick Spain: it starts with the questions you ask.

From Dale Rankine: our industry loves case studies. COVID gifted us so many case studies of taking risks to effect fast change. “Maybe this is an opportunity to reset our notion of acceptable risk”

“Maybe this [pandemic] is an opportunity to reset our notion of acceptable risk” - Dale Rankine

A tale from Merrick Spain, sectors like health and agribusiness could be revolutionized by an ecosystem of data sharing.

[ed: totally, I’m involved in a project to do just this!]

In closing, moderator Steve Terry thanks panel and audience. #fin. Thanks to all for a fascinating session!

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