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A recent study showed that 40 percent of companies at the top of their industries will be replaced in the next 10 years
Jun. 19, 2017 03:00 PM
Converging IT and OT at the Speed of the IoT
The rolling thunder of digital transformation waits for no business. It will make short work of any organization that does not evolve rapidly. CEOs must quickly define where their organizations can compete for success and lead them on that journey. If they can't-or won't-change, they risk fading away like the slow-moving dinosaurs confronted with a habitat-destroying meteor.
The IoT's Precipitous Changes
The impact crater of this technology shift must not go underestimated. A recent study showed that 40 percent of companies at the top of their industries will be replaced in the next 10 years. Yet, the same survey found that 45 percent of respondents do not think digital disruption is worthy of attention from their organization's board of directors.
This attitude is perilous. Just consider these examples:
There are bright spots for agile companies, however. With the launch of Pokemon Go and its massive recent Apple partnership, Nintendo boosted its relevance by establishing a strong mobile platform.
Rapid change requires that industry leaders proactively plan. Would you rather be Netflix or Blockbuster? Nearly 30 percent of businesses worldwide have already begun limited IoT deployments, according to Strategy Analytics' IoT 2015 Deployment and Usage Trends survey. For organizations that have not yet begun, it's not too late to embrace digital transformation - but they must act now.
Turning the Ship Around
The traditional siloes of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are getting shaken up by the IoT. These two were once separate and did not often communicate with each other. Now they must come together. It's a huge and critical step in the digital journey. The rub? Most do not know how to merge IT and OT. Neither IT nor OT professionals fully grasp converged IoT networking. They do not understand industrial IoT security. They are not fluent in endpoint data management and analytics. And they are not at all certain how the preceding will add value to their organizations. How will it lead to new business models? Or new services and revenue sources?
It will take new talent and the right training to update the skills of existing staff and to find answers to these questions. Connecting 20 billion machines and devices is a huge task. The World Bank predicts that over the next decade, there will be 2 million unfilled information and communication technology (ICT) -related jobs worldwide. There will be a global need to train 220,000 new control engineers every year for manufacturing plant operations alone.
The IT department, known for its information processing duties, is better positioned to take the lead in the digital journey. Data from IoT connected devices will create new information to parse, interpret and monetize. But IT must collaborate with OT during the transition. After all, many of the sensors, devices, operations and software that comprise the IoT reside in the OT side of the organization.
Consider, for instance, a steam valve system that controls water flow through a cooling apparatus. It operates within the OT domain and will continue to operate in the OT domain. In the past, manual intervention was required to take its readings and make decisions. Now, in an IoT environment, data from the apparatus is collected, analyzed and acted upon via the interconnected network and IT software. Solving for manual intervention, data generated from OT-managed devices and sensors is delivered across the IT system to take critical, real-time action.
How the IoT Benefits OT
Safety and comfort are also IoT benefits. Connected sensors and devices can measure and manage hazardous places at no risk to human beings. The IoT can also regulate the organization's physical surroundings to control energy costs and boost comfort.
Yet another benefit of the IoT is efficiency. It will handle routine tasks like reporting misconfigurations and errors as they occur on automated assembly lines. The result? Higher yields and less downtime, which improves profits. Better decision-making is also possible due to the IoT. Pulling trends from empirical data removes assumptions from the process. The ability to view how the system behaves can yield new insights and ideas.
Over the long term, IoT data analysis holds great potential for new revenue opportunities. In the short term, the IoT's immediate effect is lower costs and increased efficiency. All departments will benefit from the IoT. However, in a major cultural shift like this, OT executives must align with current IT initiatives in addition to breaking out of existing silos. It is a tall order.
Skilled Workers in Short Supply
Further, the State of IoT 2015 Global Developer Study found that 51 percent of developers and chief information officers surveyed say they are uncertain they have the skills or resources to deliver on the promise of the IoT.
Updated skills is the second factor. Seventy-two percent of the CEO respondents in the 19th PWC annual Global CEO Survey reported that the availability of key skills is a concern. Both IT and OT need digital expertise. Training staff in this new expertise is essential for organizations to avoid the meteor and thrive in their digital transitions.
No business wants to go the way of the dinosaur. Organizations understand that in order to succeed in today's environment, they need to overcome traditional siloes by bringing together IT and OT to truly get the most out of their IoT efforts.
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