Blog 25.4.2024

IT/OT convergence: bridging the digital divide – findings from interviews with industrial companies

Intelligent Industry

Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) convergence is critical to modern industrial transformation. It involves integrating IT systems used for data-centric computing with OT systems used to monitor events, processes, and devices, and make adjustments in enterprise and industrial operations. 

What is the status of IT/OT convergence and what are the pain points and learnings? We interviewed six companies representing the forest industry, machinery and device manufacturing, and mining technologies, and collected core findings and considerations when planning to implement IT/OT convergence. Interviewees were responsible for Enterprise Architecture, IT, and Digital Product development. 

Interview findings 

Finding 1: There is a need for improving collaboration between IT and OT teams 

Effective IT/OT convergence relies on breaking down silos and fostering collaboration between IT and operational teams. This involves shared responsibilities, understanding each other’s roles, and establishing common goals and governance structures. 

Things that are missing or could be improved: 

  • Establish top level commitment and steering  
  • Develop a common IT/OT strategy and KPIs 
  • Set clear roles and responsibilities that span over the IT/OT areas 
  • Improve understanding of OT challenges and opportunities. Top management feels it is challenging to understand the OT side 
  • Building a business case to improve IT & OT convergence 
  • Focus on data quality OT operational systems  

Finding 2: There is a need for IT/OT landscape harmonisation and automation to improve scalability 

The life span of OT solutions is much longer than IT solutions, and those are often tailored on a factory level and maintained with local OT teams that can be outsourced to a smaller OT partner. 

IT often operates in a centralised model and harmoniser environments like ERP, BI, and integrations. The need to overhaul outdated IT infrastructure is a common challenge, necessitating significant investments and posing operational risks during the transition phase. 

Things that are missing or could be improved: 

  • Implement a governance model that covers both IT and OT including service portfolio and life cycle aspects 
  • Implement a development model that covers both IT and OT 
  • Leverage good practices from IT side to OT side. Already implemented IT practices e.g. using hybrid cloud, Gen AI and software automation could be used on the OT side 
  • Implementing an effective change process is needed. It is challenging to be agile due to complex legacy systems and increasing cybersecurity demands 
  • Remove complexity. Current IT/OT environments are too complex.  

Finding 3: Skill gaps and the ageing workforce 

The risk on ageing workforce in OT side is expected to increase. Experienced OT professionals accumulate years of practical knowledge and understanding of specific systems and processes. When they retire, valuable expertise can be lost if it is not effectively transferred to younger generations. This can create a skill gap and make it difficult to maintain critical infrastructure and respond to unexpected issues. 

Things that are missing or could be improved: 

  • Focus on training, motivating, and retaining talent 
  • Improve OT knowledge. IT staff often have a very limited understanding of the OT side 
  • Attract new talents to innovate and lead from OT side 
  • Build a knowledge base that covers both the IT and OT side 
  • Create more appealing work profiles that include a mixture of new and legacy systems 
  • Move responsibilities from OT to IT. Services with support avilable 

Finding 4: Cyber security as a central concern 

The integration of IT and OT systems brings cybersecurity to the forefront, requiring strategies to protect against threats and ensure data integrity. It requires a comprehensive and proactive approach, emphasising risk management, network security, access control, awareness training, incident response, and collaboration between IT and OT teams. 

Things that are missing or could be improved: 

  • Identify vulnerabilities in both IT and OT systems, including potential entry points for cyber threats. Use these assessments to prioritise security enhancements 
  • Create a comprehensive incident response plan that includes procedures for both IT and OT environments, ensuring a coordinated response to security incidents 
  • Set common KPIs like cyber security index 
  • Adopt Secure-by-Design Principles 
  • Assess the cybersecurity practices of vendors and partners, especially those providing IT and OT products and services 

Based on our interviews IT/OT teams work together on the operative level but lack vision and strategy. The vision for IT/OT convergence is to create a seamless integration of IT and OT systems that efficiently combines information from the whole value chain to support business needs. This integration enables real-time reporting and decision-making and leverages local shadow IT/OT applications that often result from hands-on experience and capabilities from local employees. 

Want to know more about IT/OT convergence? We are happy to help!

Tommi Eklund

With over 30 years of experience, Tommi is an expert in digital transformation and business development. He has worked in several C-level roles and has brought significant value to every organisation he has worked with.

Tommi is a strategic thinker with the ability to envision and execute long-term plans that bring results and enhance customer experience in the digital realm. He has demonstrated unique expertise, particularly in the areas of business models and strategic innovations.

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