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The growing influence of IT management over OT systems

For decades Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) networks have been ran and managed completely separately.

While IT has been traditionally responsibility for the creation, transmission, storage, and securing of data, OT has focused on establishing and maintaining control processes and physical assets, such as manufacturing plant floors.

This is beginning to change. Technological developments, including the digitalisation of the marketplace and deployment of new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, are now causing these separate environments to converge.

The growing security threat posed by the increased connectivity required to leverage these developments, is further blurring the lines between IT and OT. When the lines are blurred it leaves the question, where does the responsibility for security and disaster resilience lie?

Bringing IT innovation into OT environments

The IDC previously predicted that 35% of large global manufacturers with smart manufacturing initiatives will integrate IT and OT systems to achieve advantages in efficiency and response time by 2019. The time to prepare for this is now.

The benefits to be gained from bringing IT innovation into an OT environment, such as greater efficiency of plant floor operations, predictive analytics to reduce unplanned downtime and reduction in costs can generate substantial business value.

However, integrating IT and OT effectively means more than just combining physical assets, it requires organisations to consider the people and processes across these now interconnected areas. To be effective the need to avoid duplication of resources and to ensure that gaps in monitoring aren’t opened up, leading to compliance and security risks, should be addressed.

Importance of storing and securing your data

IIoT developments have meant that a substantial volume of useful data if now being collected and stored – with enormous amounts of insights to be derived and utilised. But the competitive edge that this data can generate can also be a risk if not managed and looked after correctly.

OT cyber security and disaster resilience concerns on the plant floor are increasing with the volume and impact of security attacks on the rise. Especially given that security breaches of OT network can have an immediate financial impact on an organisation, resulting in operational downtime, lost production and reputational damage.

Traditionally controlled by OT management, there a real need to turn to their IT counterparts to tap into their years of cyber threat experience, to fully and robustly defend their OT systems. IT management too need to take steps to better understand and take a more active role in supporting the plant floor.

However, IT teams who aren’t experienced with OT systems, may not have the detailed knowledge required to fully support OT environments. They may find that reaching out to experts, who can bridge the knowledge gap between the IT disciplines and OT environments, to be beneficial.

Bringing IT and OT together, along with relevant partners and subject matter experts, is the next step in the cultural and technological evolution that companies looking to utilise operational data to gain the competitive edge and achieve measurable business benefits should look to take.