For the past few years, companies have made significant investments in Operational Technology (OT) as a key enabler of digital transformation and automation of manufacturing, logistics and other physical processes. The embedded sensors, switches and other capabilities that OT provides have enabled companies to effectively bridge the divide between the physical and digital environments. This is re-defining the interactions between humans, information, processes and machines – enabling real-time operational decision-making and tuning of processes for peak performance.
Until recently, Operational Technology implementations have been recognized as discrete and independent from core IT systems, with a limited and focused purpose of supporting manufacturing and logistics activities. The proliferation of IoT devices is changing that; IoT is doing the same for individual-user interactions with technology that OT did for manufacturing processes – bridging the gap between the physical and digital environments and enabling technology to be seamlessly integrated into normal daily activities.
For CIOs and their IT organizations, IoT has a much greater strategic impact. IT organizations have, for the most part, been able to treat OT as an isolated anomaly and exception to the normal rules and technology’s defined role within the enterprise. As such, IT has been able to ignore Operational Technology implementations in the business-technology ecosystem and remain focused on traditional IT systems supporting human-based business processes and data management functions. IoT is forcing the IT department to expand its focus beyond the digital and process environment of the enterprise into the physical environment, and this will require significant re-tooling of both IT management systems and skill sets.
IoT brings with it some key challenges, including distributed management, security, streaming of large volumes of real-time data and heightened business criticality of technology directly embedded in human activities. These are some of the same challenges that Operational Technology presented, but, instead of being isolated to a subset of a company, they are now relevant to every employee, partner, supplier and customer with which a company interacts. IoT is essentially OT applied to the entire enterprise.
As companies and individual users become more aware of the potential value of IoT in their environment, new business scenarios will emerge that will force IT departments to evolve and adapt to the physical environment context of technology. IoT and OT systems will become core technology components, enabling the modern digital enterprise, and are expected soon to represent the majority of user and physical interactions with technology. As this shift happens, IT departments will begin re-defining themselves based on the new technology context as enablers of OT. They will deepen their interactions with users and find new opportunities to enable business agility while ensuring all the core fundamentals (security, privacy, compliance, data management, etc.) remain solid.
OT has been a part of the business environment for some time, but IT organizations have largely ignored it. IoT is forcing IT to take notice and take action – adopting new ways of working that are more process/user-centric and have the capabilities to manage a fluid ecosystem of geographically distributed devices. Device connectivity and data-quality management capabilities will soon require upgrades to support the large volumes of real-time data being generated to ensure timely and effective operational decision-making. Simultaneously, all the core fundamentals must be maintained to ensure business continuity and risk management.
We have not reached the end of the book on IT’s transformation to OT. There are many pages left to write as IoT begins the final chapter – bringing the conclusion into focus and clarity to the path forward. During the near term, IT is readily adopting OT for IoT-based applications. The Top 5 IoT Applications are featured in the video here. For immediate assistance, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org