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While the business world has experienced slow progress in its quest for digital transformation, the industrial sector prides itself in having almost fully embraced the transformative impact of digital technologies. Oil fields are now remotely monitored, with their assets managed and analyzed using digital technology, while the mining industry has moved forward towards autonomous capabilities by developing self-driving trucks.

Getting the two groups together and start thinking long term can bridge the cultural divide. It will build a better relationship where both the IT and OT will look at each other as partners that will complement one another.

The Logicalis Global CIO Survey 2017-2018 sought to find out how Chief Information Officers (CIOs) thought of their companies as digital innovators. Close to 900 information technology (IT) directors and CIOs from around the world took part in the survey. The survey results showed that only 5% of the respondents felt that their company was a “digital innovator,” and around 20% of the respondents thought their organization was an early adopter.

According to respondents, the top three barriers to digital transformation are: “organizational culture” (56% of respondents), cost of new technology (50%), and “large or complex legacy infrastructure.” CIOs in particular believe that complexity, cost, culture, skills and security are the main barriers to digital transformation, with 44% of them believing complex legacy tech is the main barrier.

The industrial sector benefits more from the effects of digital technology, which is asset-intensive, and the role of the IT is as a support act. It is different from the rest of the business world which needs to develop a strong customer service system or a financial management system where IT performs a dominant role.

IT departments are not alone in the industrial sector’s digital transformation, as it is important to engage both operations and engineering that are also essential components of building a digital future. Successful digital transformation requires bold actions and the convergence of the three sectors, partly by the evolution of operational technology (OT) to monitor the control system of an industry.

The popularity of operational technology is due in part to the amount of investments industrial vendors have poured into the industrial internet. The result is the rise of two separately run systems that look similar in architecture. Operational technology products now look more and more like IT products, and this is where the cultural divide becomes more pronounced.

IT in Operations

Any attempt to bring IT and OT together will face significant challenges, with the cultural differences between engineers and IT posing as the biggest hurdle. Engineers and IT people live and think differently. Engineers take safety and reliability seriously, knowing that people could die when something goes wrong in their domain. They view problem solving simplistically – determine past processes, make modifications, and optimize it for an on-going situation and lock it down, never to touch it again until a new problem comes up. IT people will not subscribe to that point of view because they are aware that most of the OT that engineers expect to be safe, reliable, and stable, use the most unstable software platforms.

The difference in points of view of IT people and OT people will become pronounced once the IT people integrate into the industrial system. The enterprise requires the IT department everywhere in the organization to update networks and implement cyber-security measures. The department is essential in safeguarding the security of plant operations.

When introducing IT people into the industrial control system environment, operations usually do not understand the need for IT people in operations because they do not have a clear understanding of the specific control environment. IT people train to perform a task, most of the time not realizing that they are part of the larger control system operation. Engineers view IT people as unable to realize the larger context. Engineers working in the industries are not very much impressed by the newest technologies. For them, if the machine works fine, they don’t care if it is old or new.

Getting the two groups together and start thinking long term can bridge the cultural divide. It will build a better relationship where both the IT and OT will look at each other as partners that will complement one another. Companies must invest in the education side of the story in order to foster harmony between IT and OT. Establishing firmly the corporate culture and establishing the communications between the two departments will ensure the success of the digital transformation in the industry.

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