Industrial businesses continue to undergo a rapid digital transformation as digitalization increases operational efficiency, productivity, and responsiveness to the market. Digital enterprises can create new, more competitive solutions and services and superior customer experiences.
Gathering, analysing, and utilising vast amounts of data from equipment, processes, customers, and suppliers also drive this transformation. Broad, organisational information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) convergence, in which data-centric IT systems integrate with operations equipment and technology, can provide a huge competitive advantage when executed successfully.
IT-OT convergence is cited as one of the most important factors for organisations to achieve their strategic goals—68% of respondents—with a majority implementing or annually reviewing some form of this process.
Integration challenges range from getting old equipment to work with new systems and platforms to bridging the different goals and priorities of IT and OT teams. Others include:
- Technical and cultural integration issues.
- Incompatible legacy applications.
- Security vulnerabilities and concerns integrating IT and OT systems.
- Lack of expertise in IT/OT integration.
- Organisational complexity.
Despite these hurdles, many industrial organisations are working to excel at their IT/OT convergence strategy.
“Addressing these challenges requires investing in complementary solutions such as digital technologies and risk management, and ensuring that IT/OT convergence has clear, quantifiable business advantages by creating strong data monetization strategies and being responsive to evolving customer needs,” said Roberta Gamble, partner and vice president at Frost & Sullivan.
She added that reducing production downtimes and increasing competitiveness through optimizing operational performance (by reducing OPEX, and faster time to market) are the most common OT investment drivers across industries.
“Initiatives are led at the C level, with CEOs being the most common champions. Interestingly, they have a balanced view of achieving convergence across all three types; IT-centric roles tend to have physical convergence goals.”Roberta Gamble
Frost suggests that Oil & gas industries must build industry-appropriate apps and systems that build value from data, prioritize creating operations and production performance views, and bridge growing skill and workforce gaps limiting IT/OT potential.
Utilities industrials must transition from silos to a matrix of multidisciplinary teams focused on end-to-end business goals, create strong defences against cyber threats, and harmonize data collection protocols.
Among the automotive industrials, Gamble suggested these prioritise automation to improve quality, reduce OT costs, and build workforce flexibility; use advanced connectivity for reliable, real-time connectivity; and build or partner with a solution provider to create industry-focused tools.
“Manufacturing industrials must create continuity and visibility across a disparate organisation, work with value chain partners on data/digital transformation strategies, adopt cohesive and integral cybersecurity solutions across platforms and networks, and opt for open systems that easily integrate across different equipment generations and legacy data systems,” she concluded.