By Nikhil Sonawane - February 28, 2023 6 Mins Read
Operational technology (OT) environments in this age of digital transformation need to be transformed to get a competitive edge in the market and deliver a top-notch employee experience. With the advent of Industry 5.0, enterprises that do not have the majority of their processes digitally transformed might have disastrous impacts on business continuity.
According to a recent report published by Epicor titled “Voice of Essential Manufacturing Worker report,” nearly 48% of the respondents feel their company is very modern. The report also highlights that almost 60% of the respondents are okay with a pay cut if they can work for a more tech-driven factory.
Operational technology infrastructures include programmable systems or devices that track and manage manual processes and infrastructure components. There is a surge in OT devices across industries, from industrial equipment to medical instruments. Usually, such devices are developed and implemented with advanced technologies and are isolated from IT networks.
Hence, many industries overlook the capabilities that the digital transformation of OT network environments might offer. Bringing IT and operational technology together is the best way for enterprises to flourish exponentially and accomplish their operational goals. It has become crucial to digitize the industrial control system to improve the efficiency and accuracy of its processes.
Following are the top 5 strategies to achieve successful digital transformation in IT and OT environments:
Enterprises that embark on a journey of digitally transforming their IT and OT networks need to execute a gap analysis to identify requirements for IT and OT convergence. Enterprises can leverage a maturity model to determine their success in achieving intelligent and connected manufacturing.
Business leaders need to ensure that their maturity models need to have advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), data analytics, Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT) to add value to the supply chain. It is crucial to ensure that maturity models are well evaluated per the current industrial demands regarding machine connectivity.
Modern enterprises need to have well-connected OT systems, highly automated workflows, interoperability, network security, and streamlined data flow to accomplish their digital transformation goals.
Businesses need a blueprint of their supply chain and its bottlenecks during enterprise resource planning. The IT and OT convergence roadmap needs effective ways to overcome skill shortages, minimize operational costs, and upgrade current IT infrastructure.
IT decision-makers need to have pre-implementation to a post-implementation plan ready to ensure successful implementation. Setting KPIs and utilizing centralized data models to track the IT and OT network performance is crucial. Changes made in the industrial control systems based on these KPIs and data models will help streamline and standardize processes.
Establishing clear roles and responsibilities to streamline the interaction, integration, and workflow between the IT and OT teams enables to enhancement of the process
It is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost of operations, increase resource efficiency, and mitigate risk.
Moreover, enforcing stringent change management tools and strategies will catalyze the entire digital transformation journey of the IT and OT network environments.
Asset-intensive industries have begun to implement digitalization strategies to collect and store a large capacity of data for analysis and reporting. They’ve also been challenged with managing scattered data across multiple systems or silos, making it difficult to unlock data’s value at scale.
To provide scalable data insights that support profitability and sustainability goals, organizations in 2023 need easy access to industrial data. To do this, more companies will develop and execute transition plans that integrate mission-critical OT systems with IT platforms and data. Digital transformation initiatives like extensive data collection will be central to IT and OT functions.
Seamless integration across multiple systems and organizational silos will also take center stage in 2023 as expectations around digitalization projects intensify. C-suite leaders will focus on investment and collaboration in cross-functional initiatives shared by the business’s IT and OT divisions to elevate operational data to the enterprise level and uncover meaningful insights across the organization.
“Leadership teams will also increasingly take a hard look at their digital maturity, especially given the current cost pressures and challenging macroeconomic conditions, to provide better focus for their organization’s digital transformation projects. Lastly, they will more seriously and urgently evaluate the tangible short-term and long-term impacts of these investments on sustainability and profitability goals,” says Dwaine Plauche, Sr Manager of Product Marketing, AspenTech.
With the digitization of OT systems, they become more connected to the internet and IT networks than the traditional IT network. Digitizing OT networks will expose them to more direct connections with businesses, original equipment manufacturer OEMs, and various third parties.
However, business owners that want to embark on a journey to migrate legacy OT networks to the cloud need to be aware of all the threats and risks involved in the digital transformation journey. Many businesses were victims of a security incident that disrupted their operational or mission-critical systems resulting in business disruption.
The surge in successful cyber-attacks on OT environments is due to more connectivity to external systems and networks. Various enterprises do not enforce effective network segmentation practices, leading to a full-blown attack that leaves the OT network crippled.
Enterprises that aim to minimize the risk should consider designing and implementing an effective security control framework to improve security. Existing OT security solutions and resources have become obsolete compared to the evolving and rising sophisticated threats from cybercriminals.
Moreover, the attack surface area is also growing, making securing IT and OT environments challenging. The regulatory bodies and supply chain vendors demand enterprises be transparent and compliant.
A comprehensive IT-OT network convergence strategy is vital for enterprises to improve the efficiency of both environments. CIOs and CISOs need to work cohesively to design and implement a holistic industrial control system (ICS) cybersecurity posture to improve the resiliency of their networks,
Business leaders can consider the strategies mentioned above to achieve successful digital transformation in the IT and OT environments.
Nikhil Sonawane is a Tech Journalist with OnDot Media. He has 4+ years of technical expertise in drafting content strategies for Blockchain, Supply Chain Management, Artificial Intelligence, and IoT. His Commitment to ongoing learning and improvement helps him to deliver thought-provoking insights and analysis on complex technologies and tools that are revolutionizing modern enterprises. He brings his eye for editorial detail and keen sense of language skills to every article he writes. If he is not working, he will be found on treks, walking in forests, or swimming in the ocean.
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