February 03, 2017
The Internet of Things Means Integrating IT and OT
As organizations launch IoT projects, technology professionals must work together in ways they haven’t before.
In my role as CDW’s Internet of Things practice lead, I hear a lot of different definitions of IoT that complicate the discussion.
At its core, IoT is the convergence of IT and operational technology, or OT. To simplify the concept of IoT, I draw an analogy between IoT and the human body. IT is the brain, where the processing takes place, while OT is like the body’s senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste) that provide input. The brain is extremely powerful, but without its senses — or sensors, in the case of OT — the body can’t function effectively.
This convergence also extends to IT and OT professionals. Prior to IoT, these professionals lived in different parts of an organization, with little interaction. IT teams might have helped OT staff with, say, a supervisory control and data acquisition system on a shop floor, but they wouldn’t view it as something they control.
As IoT begins to open up new ways to operate and manage systems that deliver financial returns, these two worlds will have to come together in ways they haven’t previously. This will require organizations to overcome some tough challenges. Beyond technical challenges — including all that’s involved with tying industrial networks into an enterprise network — merging IT and OT disciplines means overcoming cultural differences. IT and OT teams also have to deal with change management, not just in the organizational structure itself, but in the roles and responsibilities of various players within their teams.
Budget Shifts and IT’s Imperative
As organizations move toward digital transformation through IoT, many are considering moving some of their IT budgets to line-of-business operations. While LOB leaders understand some of the business outcomes they can achieve through IoT solutions — such as increasing operational efficiencies, improving the customer experience or providing new services — they’re not IT professionals.
Ultimately, even if LOB executives have more control over the purse strings and ideas about solutions that will improve their operations, IT leaders have to be integrally involved. They provide the checks and balances to ensure that IoT implementations follow best practices. They understand how operations and industrial networks and devices will be integrated, managed and maintained over the long term.
Invite Everyone to the Table
Ensuring that IoT initiatives deliver on investments requires IT orchestration. My team’s directive is to help organizations bring together all the moving parts to orchestrate a complete solution. This starts with inviting different players from the IT and OT departments — many of whom have never worked together before — to the same table, along with other parties from within and outside the organization.
Digital transformation requires top-down buy-in and support on several fronts and helps get these parties in one place to start the dialogue. Based on IoT experience and expertise, my team engages customers at the business level to detail desired outcomes, and define the goals and objectives they’ll need to meet to achieve these outcomes. We then help them translate these goals and objectives into a technology roadmap that can be implemented in a reasonable time frame.
IoT deployments are complex undertakings. They’re not the kind of project that most organizations can handle on their own, nor can they be completely outsourced. An organization understands its specific business and people, as well as its IT and OT ecosystems, while IoT specialists manage the layers of complexity involved in IoT deployments every day. Ultimately, digital transformation is a journey — one whose success depends on a strategic, ongoing partnership.
To learn more about how CDW’s IoT team can help your organization achieve its digital transformation, visit CDW.com/InternetOfThings
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