Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish evolution from revolution. Consider this: Just 25 years ago there were 130 websites – in. the. world. Two years later, Amazon opened its doors. Six years after that, we had Google. Nine years after that, the iPhone. Today we take our digital lifestyle for granted, distracted by user-friendliness from the fact that we’re living through a period of breakneck technological revolution.
But you know who recognizes revolution? The people who have to pay for it.
In the industrial products sector, the rate of transformative change has arguably been more compressed than in society as a whole. Little more than a decade ago, manufacturing processes were still largely analog. Today, manufacturers exist in a world of digital potentialities: AI, IoT, robots and cobots, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, connected field services, smart supply chains, automated back-office processes, and other innovations that can completely transform their businesses by ushering in unprecedented operational effectiveness and efficiency.
But getting those technologies online entails capital spend–and risk.
Given the costs and strategic importance of this digital journey, manufacturers’ directors are watching closely and keeping technology-driven transformation high on the board agenda. They’re pushing their CEOs to develop digital strategies that will put them ahead of the competition, and they’re demanding updates on how their strategies are progressing and whether they’re delivering the promised benefits.
What boards want is the same kind of assurance they’ve long received from CIOs and corporate IT for ERP implementations and other large systems projects. Luckily, the processes for providing that type of assurance have already evolved to meet the needs of revolutionary – so-called “Industry 4.0”– implementations.
An assurance process that examines both individual smart-factory projects and a company’s overall digital journey helps ensure that all of the elements of project planning are well-defined and able to deliver the desired outcomes. An assurance process also ensures that projects remain on budget and on schedule. And it helps keep the focus on the key business outcomes of the transformation, in order to identify key risks throughout the project lifecycle.
Consisting of either scheduled “health check” evaluations or day-to-day monitoring, such assurance spots gaps and identifies concerns and provides corrective recommendations for the board, senior executives, the project sponsor, and the manufacturing, logistics, and supply chain leaders who typically drive Industry 4.0 initiatives. As a project matures, regular evaluations keep abreast of both new and old issues to help make sure of positive outcomes across four baseline areas of risk: strategic, delivery, business, and technology.
By definition, revolutions are messy – and also complicated, expensive, risky, and guaranteed to keep business leaders up at night. But independent assurance can clarify the process because it helps leaders focus on essential issues and risks, avert negative impacts, and move their organizations toward realizing the benefits of transformational digital change.