Sector Intelligence in the Fourth Industrial Age: SI

Related: Industry 4.0 Organizations: Disruption & Reinvention

This article concerns the Fourth Industrial Age, and the migration for Organizations from 3.0 to 4.0, something that is, or will affect all orgniazations as we know them today.

Any organization has to navigate an increasing number of obstacles — most are based on ‘new-tech’, involving the progression from a state of initial acceptance and understanding of 4.0 practices’ to becoming active, pro-active and eventually achieving strategical alignment between defining course of action and the effects on measurable performance. This journey involves seeing things as they really are, and how the affect represents new paradigms for an entire sector. However, the results often fall short of the journey goals with unsustainable initiatives requiring new operating models using new digital technology [Bollard et al 2017].

When setting new directions in any given sector, a number of common practices are used, such as developing vision statements that may neither be simple, straightforward or even that useful, to defining plans for implementation and execution that may become difficult to sustain.

Continuous course-setting

The ‘new reality’ for organizations today, is the extent to which all intelligence aspects of the organizations feed into continuous assessment and strategical course-setting and adjustment. This also involves the contribution of those normally exclusive to the strategic process. In other words, in 4.0 organizations, leaders are no longer the ones designing and implementing strategy, but focus on direction-setting, effectively ‘letting’ the organization and its dependencies tack according to the wind.

To this end, we use certain traditional models of understanding — the strategy-tactics-operations value pyramid for example, provides a useful framework for placing things in some form of overall context, they do little to really organize information and generate insights, or simply keep up with increasingly dynamic markets [Morris 2013:11]. So while the ‘tripartite’ differentiation between strategical, tactical and operational goes some way to provide leverage, it still fails to account for the extent to which data and data-derived intelligence interfaces with other types of intelligence that may not be top-down strategic, bottom-up operational or even middle-out tactical. But how can ‘old’ mindsets and models account for new developments? Do they work with new-tech? For example, with IoT, we may actually sell less, not more products. Why we may ask?

Because the Internet of Things is telling us the existing one is good enough. IoT is telling a customer there may be nothing wrong with ‘it’ — the product, in the first place. The impact on IoT is massive. If we sell less products, because they are becoming more intelligent, how can product manufacturers for example, hope to keep in the playing field?This is where sector intelligence comes into the picture.

Sector intelligence is knowing what the options are, where the ‘real’ value can be found

UX — user experience, the customer and employee journey, the nature of the permanent workforce, project-based inquiry processes, all require balancing in the development of an organizations ability to provide solutions that not only adhere to any given sector, but can also have the opportunity redefine it. None of this is divisible.

The Player optic

How can we understand, in terms understood by people more tuned into looking through the player and organism optics? The Player optic involves much more than just business models and policy-making. By adopting a sector-based intelligence mindset, we can quickly see where specific advantages and disadvantages lay:


  • material can be contributed and used across a broad intelligence base.
  • strategy can be developed using a broader base of contributing sector-specific factors
  • those sector-specific skills contributing towards development are also responsible for executing it — together with leaders as strategical teams across organizations
  • command and control is replaced by gather and share involving strategic partners
  • more objective sector-specific criteria are included that may be overlooked — balanced threats and opportunities taken into the equation


  • Clarity and stability are compromised since the sector-wide (as opposed to organization-wide) process is not simple, linear or necessarily stable or long-lasting
  • Command and control is replaced by gather and share


Sector intelligence is knowing how insight is leveraged in decision-making processes. It provides choice, putting data to good use, integrating new knowledge into improved products. It creates better services, redefining the value proposition in the sector.

This is why sector intelligence is more important than strategy.

Strategy ought to aim for the conditions that makes sector intelligence easier to find and put it to use. Those companies who are intelligence-driven have simply a far better chance of being around further on down the line, unless the sector is so strong that nothing can change the status quo. Which for most sectors, is becoming an increasingly rare prospect.

When assumed knowledge is increasingly difficult to determine (What industry are we in? Who are our competitors? What are our core-competencies?) [Fischer 2015], sector intelligence is knowing how new-tech impacts the new markets resulting, seeing where the differences lay, and what it means to define ‘new building blocks’, often requiring new insight and intelligence. Therefore, as companies face the need to define new organizational models, increasingly, we hear of ‘reinvention instead of adaption’ [Bollard et al 2017].

To reinvent a sector, requires intelligence put into action — intelligence learning.

Sector intelligence is the intelligence of leadership, using knowledge of sector from across the network.

This is explained by the Virgin group, stating ‘Thanks to technology, leadership is possible without making a sound. It’s just happening online.

From small office environments, to enormous big businesses and massive corporations, technology is having a huge impact on leadership. On a larger scale technology is beginning to allow greater power and governance without needing a physical presence, while in the office, technology is helping to change traditional working patterns… Technology allows more freedom, which can bring new challenges to managers. There’s a fine balance to be struck between micro-managing work as stats and analytics are now available to hand whenever, wherever.

SI is therefore not that your people understand the company, but do they do use what they need to use in order to really understand the market?


Fischer, B. (2015) The End of Expertise. HBR online Oct 19, 2015

Bollard, A.; Larrea, E.; Sood, R. (2017). The next-generation operating model for the digital world. McKinsey article March 2017