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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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Converging IT and OT at the Speed of the IoT | @ThingsExpo #IoT #M2M
A recent study showed that 40 percent of companies at the top of their industries will be replaced in the next 10 years

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
Leading analyst Gartner forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. There is already $1.9 trillion dollars' worth of economic value related to the sale and usage of IoT technology.

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:

  • AirBnB, Uber and Lyft are transforming how people book lodging and arrange transportation, putting enormous pressure on the hospitality and taxi industries.
  • The iPhone blew the former market leader off the map.
  • Additive (3D) printing threatens marine and overland cargo shipping companies.
  • As the photography market swung toward digital, the reign of film-based camera companies ended.

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 IoT opens up new worlds of possibilities because organizations now can extract data from network-connected devices and sensors. This data was never available before. Insights from this data can add enormous value to organizations. But companies must reshape their current infrastructures in order to use their data effectively. And they must hire and train the right people to bring their digital change strategies to fruition.

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
IoT advocates need to make a strong business case for its benefits to OT and the organization as a whole. For example, the IoT could boost corporate profits worldwide by 21 percent in 2022.

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
To make the order even taller, OT executives are facing a major talent gap. Additionally, executives lack a process or industry-approved framework for quantifying the skills needed to perform IoT job roles. Insufficient staffing and lack of expertise is the top-cited barrier for organizations currently looking to implement and benefit from the IoT, according to research from Gartner.

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.

Lessons Learned
Investing in the IoT is investing in the future. Let's explore how to lay out and follow a roadmap to a successful IoT strategy. Successful digital journeys arise from two factors. The first is leadership. Organizations need to hire a digital champion with a firm IoT vision and the enthusiasm to motivate employees to make huge changes in systems and processes. CEOs recognize the importance of tying workplace culture to behavior, with 41 percent making changes to this aspect of their talent strategies. Indeed, companies that take bold actions to align their value proposition, capabilities, products and services together view their culture as their greatest asset.

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.

About Sudarshan Krishnamurthi
Sudarshan Krishnamurthi is a senior manager, Business Strategy, at Cisco Systems with over 20+ years of experience in the technology industry. He leads the Business Strategy function for Education Services within Cisco. He also leads the Strategy and Portfolio Workgroups for the IoT Talent Consortium, which is an industry initiative to address the IoT skills gap and the career trajectories of the future. He has worked with many industry partner, including Rockwell Automation and Panduit, to help create the first skills-based training and certification program focused on IT and OT convergence on the industrial plant floor. Through this program, Rockwell and Cisco have jointly trained and certified more than 1,000 individuals.

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