On the one hand, industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) environments create huge opportunities for enlightened organizations and vendors. Blending IT (information technology) with OT (operational technology) showcases the breadth and depth of vendor and partner expertise and flexibility.
In addition, the upside of seizing these opportunities not only creates a continuum of innovation. Also, for customer success, loyalty and retention, the key becomes embedding an organization’s solutions within a client’s own infrastructure and culture.
However, with IT OT opportunities also come obstacles. Whether or not channel partners, as well as their clients, are successful depends upon the degree to which they are proactive and strategic in solution placement.
At the time of this writing, I had an opportunity to sit down with Brig Serman, former Director, IBM Global Commercial Segment at IBM Corporation. Based on my own observations in working with industrial IoT clients, I asked him about some of the biggest cultural and business model issues involved in executing IT OT convergence strategy – not only from his perspective but also relative to what IBM partners experience.
As we move deeper into the industrial Internet of Things ecosystem, creating an IT OT convergence culture becomes a “very complex issue,” says Brig Serman, formerly of IBM Global Commercial Segment.
Serman acknowledged that, for starters, a manufacturing company can have “significant investment in infrastructure with stand-alone device control that was never intended to be part of a broader, networked system.” In addition, Serman feels that IT OT convergence represents “a transformation [which] can involve a move from proprietary systems to open standards, incorporating security protocols where none were previously required. [As a result, this involves] significant integration of devices that weren’t designed to communicate with each other.”
I agree, having worked with companies who, in the past, successfully placed predictive maintenance software within this infrastructure. However, now they experience stalled sales cycles or reduced rates of customer retention. Why? Because transformation is involved: the software does not scale into the now-connected plant infrastructure.
“On the other hand,” Serman mentions, “we’ve seen companies with little in the way of OT infrastructure that have the opportunity to make rapid improvements because they lack the legacy infrastructure that would require transformation. This is similar to what we’ve seen in countries in Asia, where the lack of legacy telecom infrastructure enabled the rapid adoption of mobile technology, resulting in some of the most ‘wireless’ countries in the world.”
In a sense, lack of legacy OT infrastructure creates an ideal, or a “blank slate,” for creating an IT OT convergence culture. However, the people factor should not be ignored.
“Furthermore,” says Serman, “there is the potential for some organizational friction when moving ‘control’ of these [connected] devices from the line of business leader, i.e., Manufacturing, to the IT leader.”
My own observations within this environment support his observation. We discussed how the inevitability of IT OT convergence impacts more than software and equipment. People remain a critical element of successful execution of this convergence strategy.
IT OT convergence flattens business models. This convergence turns legacy vertical organizational systems into models with horizontal dynamics extending across the enterprise. In planning for IT OT convergence, perhaps the most important element in execution of strategy is the degree of flexibility, variability and engagement found within the people factor.
Often, the initial impact on corporate culture is downplayed as IT and OT convergence totally occupy time, resources and an organization’s project management bandwidth. However, successful implementation of IT OT convergence ultimately is fueled by a proactive workforce engagement strategy, as well.
Channel partner strategy targets an IT OT convergence culture by creating value through collaborative relationships.
Serman perceives “a fast-evolving segment and we are seeing a lot of interest from our partners around IoT. They are seeing similar issues as I’ve mentioned, along with ones that are specific to a given industry or market.”
For example, independent IT service providers collaborate with partners within the IBM model. Serman feels “there is a very strong opportunity for service providers to add value in this convergence. We’ll see a lot more partnerships between OT providers and IT service providers that will deliver IoT offerings that leverage each of their unique skills.”
His observations parallel my own. Perhaps the greatest impact of digital transformation is on organizational culture. Data becomes the common denominator, utilized across an organization rather than being hoarded by one specific department or another. In order to achieve enduring IoT business and operational outcomes, people must work together. However, this collaboration is not typically mandated within legacy organizational models.
The choice is not either-or. Rather, creating an IT OT convergence culture is inclusive and collaborative to achieve transformation.
The scope of the initial opportunity for IT OT convergence varies. However, the impact of solution placement can be impactful in catalyzing an IT OT convergence culture. For example, Serman identified collaborative partners creating “offerings [which] address a point in the process, like security, or deliver a full IoT implementation.”
Ultimately, organizations seeking to create and implement digital transformation strategy should identify “leveraging [not only] the industry and process expertise of the OT provider,” in Serman’s opinion. Also, organizations should identify “the transformation and support expertise of the IT service provider.”
What are your experiences with creating an IT OT convergence strategy? How effectively do your people factor into opportunity identification? What are your current sticking points?
Babette Ten Haken is a catalyst, corporate strategist and facilitator. She writes, speaks, consults and coaches about how cross-functional team collaboration revolutionizes the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) value chain for customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. Her One Millimeter Mindset™ programs draw from her background as a scientist, sales professional, enterprise-level facilitator, Six Sigma Green Belt and certified DFSS Voice of the Customer practitioner. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Contact Babette here. Image author: Adobe Stock.