Digitization is on everyone’s lips and does one thing above all: It produces many collective terms or also called buzzwords. These often have one thing in common, namely the ending 4.0. I have been asked a lot lately what this 4.0 actually means and whether there is also a 3.0, because I also use many terms in the blog with the ending 4.0 in the blog, such as

I have explained all of these terms individually and do not want to go into any further detail. However, I would like to take a closer look at the ending 4.0 and provide an attempt to explain it.

What does 4.0 mean – an attempt to explain

The viernull-Magazin.de says: “Web 2.0” seems to be the mother of all “x.0 combinations”. This is especially true for trends that have to do with the internet. We have been using such endings for a long time. For Industry 4.0 it is according to the magazine viernull-magazin.de easy to explain: “Industry 4.0” stands for the “fourth industrial revolution”. Before that, there must have been three other revolutions – at least this is what the creators of the term suggest: “Industry 1.0” means the era of mechanics that began in the 18th century, “Industry 2.0” refers to the era of electronics (20th century) Century) and “Industry 3.0” stands according to this logic for the increasing automation of industry through the use of office IT since the 1970s.
It is a little more complicated with Work 4.0. Here I found from Robert friend a definition:

  • Work 1.0 denotes the beginning industrial society and the first organizations of workers.
  • Work 2.0 is the beginning of mass production and the beginnings of the welfare state at the end of the 19th century.
  • Work 3.0 covers the period of consolidation of the welfare state and workers’ rights on the basis of the social market economy.
  • Work 4.0 will be more networked, more digital and more flexible. What the future world of work will look like in detail is still open. Since the beginning of the 21st century we have been faced with another fundamental change in the mode of production.

I also tried to define Consulting 4.0 in my article, but couldn’t find a definition. Quite simply, there is often no 3.0 or 2.0 for many terms, but 4.0 in this context often simply means the “digitization of something”. Consulting 4.0 could simply mean: We digitize consulting and call it 4.0.

What does 4.0 mean – conclusion

In my conclusion, it does not always make sense to look for 3.0 or 2.0 or 1.0 for every 4.0 ending, as this often does not always exist formally. However, based on Work 4.0 and Industry 4.0, I would like to make a kind of guideline on how terms with the ending 4.0 can be classified.
The table shows that 1.0 is often simply the addition of typical devices. For example, the scissors for the hairdresser or Consulting 1.0 could be the typical face 2 face advice. In 2.0, the work is then supported by technology such as a dictation machine to record customer calls or electronic razors for the hairdresser. In 3.0 these are supported by IT such as iPads or PCs and software such as Excel. 4.0 then means the basic ability of devices to process tasks automatically and even to interact intelligently, such as chess computers or chatbots in customer support.
Of course, it is clear to me that this definition does not apply to all terms, e.g. Web 2.0 is probably not compatible with this definition, but work, industry and consulting 4.0 and certainly many other terms such as administration 4.0 or company 4.0 and house 4.0. You can add the ending to pretty much any noun. However, I hope to be able to give an initial guideline with this attempt at an explanation.

phasemetaphorExplanation
1.0mechanicsOften an item or service without technology such as a direct conversation with a broker or a carriage
2.0electronicsOften the expansion of the items by electronics such as a mixer or the first car or a hairdresser uses an electric razor
3.0ITEquipping with IT such as an iPad or software for the insurance broker or a PC at the workplace
4.0Intelligence / automationDigitization and support through intelligent technology such as Puppet for the configuration of servers or automatic monitoring systems as well as intelligent services such as chatbots.

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Dr. Dominic Lindner
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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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