Industrial IoT and IT/OT Convergence: How to Reap Benefits and Avoid Pitfalls
What is in this article?
- Industrial IoT and IT/OT Convergence: How to Reap Benefits and Avoid Pitfalls
- Technologies that enable IT/OT convergence
- Benefits of IT/OT convergence
- Challenges and issues surrounding IT and OT integration
- Managing the interworking between IT and OT
- IT/OT integration dangers and pitfalls
Challenges and issues surrounding IT and OT integration
With identifiable business benefits and rapidly developing technologies that are closing the IT/OT divide, there are functional and operational differences between IT and OT groups that exist and complicate integration or convergence.
IT and OT groups typically have fundamentally different charters, focus and personnel within their respective organizations. The challenges to IT/OT convergence are not the sensors, hardware, software or technology, but how each group perceives each project or opportunity and in turn, the solutions, which are skewed by their respective domains.
The challenges in IT/OT convergence and project execution are:
- Project ownership;
- Communication between groups and with stakeholders; and
- Adapting or harmonizing conflicting organization needs, processes and policies into a single, common structure.
Project ownership and understanding will be called into question, because of the historical experiences between the groups. Some potential fundamental differences within an organization may include:
- OT has largely been outside the highly pragmatic world of IT and employs process specialists, such chemical or electrical engineers. OT likely manages projects, networks and solutions with the focus of keeping production running and real-time operations. Additionally, OT employs vendor or proprietary hardware and software that is specific to a production process and may not meet the security standards of the IT organization.
- IT has been maintaining business systems and communication networks with five 9’s or more reliability and employs computer and IT specialists. IT typically plans and manages rollouts and upgrades in a very methodical manner, leading to longer rollouts. IT is solidly based on communications standards and centralized operations, which may be perceived as a “roadblock” to deploying OT applications.
For IT/OT convergence to be successful, communication is essential, and there needs to be a clear understanding of each group’s roles.
As organizations work to benefit from the convergence of IT/OT functions, the stakeholders, product owners and organizational managers must continue to understand differences between IT and OT while embracing the similarities. Typically, IT owns the corporate strategic direction, policy, security and implementation of networked communications and business systems. OT, on the other hand, owns process definition, device selection and information flow, which lets it optimize and manage production systems. Product owners own the definition of the business process and the goals for the IT/OT project.
To move any project forward, project management is essential. The IT group is the likely choice for overall management of IT/OT convergence projects, because of its experience with centralized management, network security, information storage, and business systems. After all, the goal of an IT/OT project is to realize business process improvements that result in cost reduction and harmonization of corporate policy and security. Because these two areas may be at odds sometimes, organizations working on IT/OT convergence need to clearly define stakeholders, areas of ownership, etc.