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CIOs key to bridging the IT/OT divide

Thor Olavsrud | June 2, 2017
The convergence of IT and operational technology provides a prime opportunity for business-minded CIOs to shine.

"I've been a CIO and I've been a CTO," Jouret says. "I understand the perspective of an IT organization and the CIO because I was doing that for the first part of my career. The way I see the distinction between these various roles is that the CIO traditionally has been providing tools and services to the carpeted office. There's a whole other world: the world of the factory, the plant, or the infrastructure. They've traditionally not been served by IT. These two worlds are now coming together and becoming more interdependent."

Enter the chief digital officer.

CTOs, Jouret says, may focus on research, or head up engineering or product development, while CDOs take elements from both those roles in service of a business-first perspective. To succeed, CDOs must be able to articulate how technology can address business issues and open up new markets and opportunities. Here, the convergence of OT and IT presents a prime opportunity for CDOs to shine.

"I think the CDO is the intersection of business products and technology, and that's been a bit of a void," he says.

"If I produce power and you want to buy it, can we create a marketplace and record the transactions in the blockchain? What are the limitations? How does that get adopted? As much as you want to have a pure business conversation, you need to understand the capabilities and limitations of the technology as well," he says.

Acknowledging that some forward-thinking CIOs have already adopted that role, he adds, "Could some CIOs do that? Probably. I have no doubt some can. But in many cases, unfortunately, the CIO's domain has dwindled a bit. It's become more contract, vendor, and service management, but less involved in the day-to-day running of the business, because that's based on apps running in the cloud. As a result, many CIOs are not as close to the business side of products and services."

 

The risks of convergence

Wrapping new business models around technology is the missing link, Jouret says. As OT and IT come together, organizations need individuals who can understand the ramifications of selling outcomes rather than products, as well as how to use technology to quantify and reduce risk for the business.

This awareness of risk is especially important in process industries, which take in raw materials and apply a recipe to create a finished product — pharmaceutical plants, chemical plants, and mines are prime examples.

"For a lot of those customers, their process side, plant and automation, the workflow in that plant, that is the equivalent of their secret Coke formula," he says. "They believe it is the industrial OT side of their business that is the source of their competitive advantage."

 

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