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Part Four: IT & OT, Utilities – IT and OT, Corporate Change

This is the fourth blog in a four part series on the convergence of IT and OT (Operational Technologies) by Rick Geiger

Operational Technology has evolved from serial communication to modern systems that are largely, if not completely, IP networked systems.  The unique requirements of OT have often lead to shadow IT departments within the OT department with networks and servers procured and operated by OT with little or no involvement from IT.

Welcome to the final installment of this blog series looking at the convergence of IT and OT (Operational Technologies). In part three of this series, I examined how utilities can gain additional operational efficiency through IT/OT convergence. In today’s post, I’ll discuss some of the organizational changes that must take place in order for IT and OT convergence to be successful.

IT and OT convergence must address issues around organization and cultural change.  Here are suggestions on ways to undertake those changes. Both IT and OT bring critical knowledge, experience and capabilities that are required to meet the challenges they face. Any organizational change challenges vested interests, established turf, and past business practices. 

No turnkey formula or recipe exists that works for every company, but there are fundamentals to building the need for change and creating an environment in which change can be successful. Those include:

Executive sponsorship and collaboration are required.  If the CEO and department or business unit executives don’t share a common vision and strategy, it is very unlikely that change will be successful.

Communicate a compelling vision
Vision and strategy must be effectively communicated throughout the organization setting forth the necessity and value proposition of the vision as well as solid reasons why the status quo is not sufficient.

Share ownership of the goal
Identify the stakeholders and communicate across the organization the value they each bring to the ultimate goal.  This is especially needed when bringing organizations together.

Create common ground
In order to build the trust needed for successful collaboration people need the opportunity to build informal relationships. Different departments may never have had the need or opportunity to get to know people in other departments and may have only interacted with them in a forced, transactional way that may lead to confrontation as often as anything else.  There are a variety of ways to create common ground including cross trainings, cross department assignments, or joint projects.

Never underestimate the value of a common experience.  Send employees from the organizations being combined to a training class or seminar.  It matters less what the subject is than it does that participation is required and there’s opportunity for unstructured time to get acquainted, share interests, and start those informal relationships that are the foundation of trust.

Guide the stakeholders to create and own the transition
Executive sponsorship and leadership builds on common ground and creates ownership in the results by working with the stakeholders to create and execute the required change.  Sometimes tough decisions have to be made in this process for those that refuse participation or ownership.  The stakeholders must also have a tangible benefit from successfully accomplishing the goal.

What’s in it for Cisco?

Cisco does not generally offer business process development, leaving that to consulting partners such as Accenture, Deloitte, West Monroe Partners and others.  Does Cisco have a direct stake in IT/OT convergence?  Cisco’s stake is in the business success that results from successful collaboration that joins the resources and expertise of both areas.  Successful businesses make successful customers.  Cisco has a role to play in encouraging, facilitating and enabling both the collaboration and the value that companies need as the result.

Cisco has a portfolio of leading edge Cyber and Physical Security solutions. Cisco’s Advanced Services offerings help our customers develop and deploy a collaborative, unified approach to encourage the best results from the collaboration and convergence of IT and OT.  Are you up to date on Cisco’s solutions and capabilities? We are here to help!

Part Four: IT & OT, Utilities – IT and OT, Corporate Change

Cisco to Provide Secure Ops Solution to Royal Dutch Shell

October 15, 2014 at 10:45 am PST


This week sees the IoT ( Internet of Things) World Forum (IoTWF) Research & Innovation Symposium that is showing IoT related subjects such as the current research, use cases, and customer experiences as part of  the Internet of Everything.  This time the symposium will focus on transportation and energy, key areas where IoT can change the life of every human being.

To complement the IoT relevance in Energy, you will have seen the press release today from Cisco highlighting the adoption of the Cisco Secure Ops Solution by Royal Dutch Shell, details of which were shared with delegates at the forum (and if not I’ve put a link at the bottom of this post).

Peter Granger “drills-down” on the new Secure Ops solution adopted by Royal Dutch Shell

We saw the collaboration between Cisco and Shell and Shell’s commitment to Cisco’s architectural approach at Cisco Live. If you haven’t read it you can here: High Energy at Cisco Live in San Francisco.  At the event Alan Matula (CIO and EVP, Shell) spelled out the changing IT and OT (Operational Technologies) environment in his industry, and how Shell had seen this all coming…

“About 3 or 4 years ago we saw the internet of everything coming and we decided to set up a unique differentiated technology outfit and we put it right next to research and development and that actually pushes the technology advances as close as possible to the business outcomes that we’re trying to drive.”

You also saw (if following my blog) that Cisco announced Secure Ops here: Unveiling Cisco Collaborative Operations and Secure Ops Solutions. So now we have the customer proof point: the important piece!

So, what’s new? well a lot actually. I think the first thing is how Cisco is changing to not only work with partners as we’ve always done, but to take the lead in providing a solution directly to our customers if that’s what they want. With this solution there are a number of partners, but Cisco provides leadership so everyone knows their role and we have a more holistic approach, guided by Cisco.

Now down to the business. Shell will deploy the Cisco Secure Ops Solution at upstream, downstream and lubricant sites. The Cisco Secure Ops Solution provides remote proactive monitoring and Service-Level-Agreement -(SLA)-driven management of security, applications and infrastructure.  At the IoTWF Shell shared that it has deployed the Cisco Secure Ops Solution to increase the security maturity level by improving its cyber security and risk management, while lowering costs of delivery and operations.

When you think about all the challenges that oil and gas industry companies face today, you’ll see that they operate in the world’s toughest conditions. Whether it’s traditional on-shore or off-shore or non-traditional methods (horizontal drilling and “fracking” for example), energy companies have to be aware of a variety of threats, including safety, environmental, and cyber threats, when making important decisions in real-time.

“Cisco’s solution is designed to help companies combat new and evolving cyber security threats to the energy industry, specifically in the industrial control system (ICS) domain. Working with Shell, Cisco has developed solutions that directly address security concerns for the types of  sometimes harsh environments in which Shell operates.”

“Cisco Secure Ops is a turn-key solution that implements and maintains security controls, risk management and compliance for industrial control system (ICS) environments using a combination of people, process and technology. Industrial control system delivery partners, like Rockwell and Yokogawa Electric, support the solution. Additional partners will be forthcoming.”

Here’s a quote from Greg Carter of Cisco (Director/GM, Internet of Everything Services Group, Cisco) that confirms the benefits:

“Cisco Secure Ops Solution was designed to provide a robust and secure solution to quickly address potential threats that come with the increase in connected people, processes and things with IoE. I’m thrilled that Shell is already seeing the benefits from these innovations on a global scale and look forward to continued success with this solution across other verticals in the months ahead.”

If you want to learn more about the Cisco Secure Ops solution, click here. To read a copy of the Press release, click here.



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Field Support for New Workers with Mobile video Collaboration – Wherever They Are

Holding onto “Tribal Knowledge”

Recent data from the Department of Energy (DOE) indicates that approximately 60% of electric utility workers will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. The impending loss of the most skilled and knowledgeable workers in the industry has put many utility companies on red alert.  This potential workforce crisis means that companies have just a few years to transfer what’s often referred to as, “Tribal Knowledge” from those retiring to those who will have to fill their shoes.

Many utility workers hold positions within their companies for nearly 30 years, so one can easily imagine the amount of intangible knowledge and varying experiences that each worker has. What companies really need is a way to tap into the experienced worker’s knowledge while traveling in the field.  Better yet, they would like to find a way to limit travel in the field; traveling hundreds of miles to analyze and solve problems poses its own set of risks, from driving hazards to on the job injuries. When something goes wrong on the grid, lives are at risk.

Challenges in the Field

Much of the information and knowledge needed by today’s utility worker is stored in a computer or in the cloud, and is not accessible in the field by the organization’s workers. Because of this, institutional knowledge and expertise decreases. Many companies today are purchasing collaboration solutions, including web meeting software, video and Internet-based phone systems. This package is intended to upgrade collaboration across business units, address the issues of lost tribal knowledge, increase workforce effectiveness and manage company priorities arising from their aging workforce. Challenges faced include a slow, sub-optimal rollout plan, forced by lower company revenues. Analysis points to automation of capture and storage of knowledge, utilities could take advantage of their expert employee’s skills and leverage their knowledge for less experienced workers in the field, thereby giving a good return on investment for early deployment of mobile collaboration.

There are three immediate problems to resolve: access to Tribal Knowledge, better utilization of experts for training, and improving safety for the mobile workforce traveling in the field.  Companies remind us on a regular basis that training a utility lineman can take 10 years or more – and the average age of the current power lineman workforce is 47-years-old.  Utilities are also focusing on retention of younger employees, who are generally more technologically savvy and who expect work access to tools they use outside the workplace, like smart phones and other wireless technologies.  In fact, new or younger workers prefer to work in an area with new technology. Mobile devices such as smart phones and ruggedized tablets can be especially useful in the field where workers can get access to advice from experts in real-time or even start a meeting -- all to create increase access to institutional knowledge.

One component of Cisco’s solution is expert locator software. Employees such as line workers and technicians would have the ability to be connected anytime or anywhere via a five-product Enterprise Collaboration solution: Expert Locator, IP call control with video IP phones, web meeting (Webex), an immersive video solution (TelePresence) and ruggedized mobile video (Librestream Onsight).

New technology can change the way utilities conduct business

Workers would use mobile video in the field to show details of problems to experts throughout the company, senior workers could provide advice and support for repair of damaged equipment in the field without having to travel to the field. Experts can also quickly convene and escalate meetings to resolve a problem via the web and Telepresence. If a worker is on-site and there are challenges with a device, the worker can start a meeting, have the ability to share and give/get advice in real-time. Because of this, repair times go down while safety goes up.

How can Cisco help your organization support new collaboration and create a mobile workforce? Find out more by visiting our solutions page and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Welcome Cisco’s Donald Graham to The Cisco Energy Blog

Please welcome Donald Graham, Practice Advisor, Manufacturing & Energy Practice, Business Transformation Group to the Cisco Energy Blog.


Donald Graham, Practice Advisor
Manufacturing & Energy Practice
Business Transformation Group

I am pleased to introduce Donald Graham, a Sr. Vertical Practice Advisor in Cisco’s Business Transformation Group, to the Cisco Energy Blog. I his role Donald is responsible for helping to catalyze and accelerate customer business impact from technology investment across the Utilities and Smart Grid Practice.   He draws upon 20 years of private and public sector experience where he assisted companies through development of technology transformation strategies.  His areas of expertise includes; Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Grid and Utilities, Security, Workforce enablement, Organization Transformation, and Business/IT Alignment.

Before joining Cisco Systems, Donald worked at IBM Global Services, where he assisted Fortune 500 clients, such as HSBC, Gore, New Zealand Diary and Citibank in developing global and business architectures for organizational transformation strategies.

He is a graduate of New Jersey Institute of Technology, BS, Industrial Engineering,a  Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), a member of IEEE Power and Energy Society and Marine Corps veteran.

He has presented on a wide range of Technology and Business events such as:

We look forward to his industry insights and thought leadership. Welcome Donald!

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Part Three: IT & OT, Utilities – The Need and the Opportunity

This is the third of a four part series on the convergence of IT and OT (Operational Technologies) by Rick Geiger

Physical Security is one example of Operational Technology that has evolved from serial communication to modern systems that are largely, if not completely, IP networked systems.  The unique requirements of Operational Technology systems have often lead to shadow IT departments within the OT department with networks and servers procured and operated by the OT department with little or no involvement from IT.

Welcome to part three of this blog series looking at the convergence of IT and OT (Operational Technologies). In part two of this series, I discussed the need and opportunity for Cyber and Physical security convergence and the primary activities of Physical Security on a day to day basis. Today, I’ll dive a little deeper into how utilities can prepare for and combat cyber-attacks.

For decades, utilities have brought rigor and discipline to storm response. For example, the minute meteorologists predict a hurricane, utilities begin executing their crisis response activities.  Customer care increases staff to handle an onslaught of calls. IT then suspends impacting work and ensures all systems are operational. Procurement contacts suppliers, knowing the utility will likely need additional transformers and poles to replace damaged ones.

In contrast, utilities have limited experience responding to a coordinated cyber-attack. They tend to view cybersecurity incidents as a technical problem and often relegate them to IT. Today’s cybersecurity events are becoming more and more like natural disasters, so much so that the Department of Homeland Security is staging its fourth cybersecurity event: Cyber Storm IV. This event allows utilities to test their cybersecurity programs and provides the framework for the most extensive government-sponsored cybersecurity exercise of its kind.

The grid is modernized by incorporating two-way communications. Utilities can gain additional operational efficiency through IT/OT convergence. While these improvements lead to great benefits, the increased interconnectivity has made the grid more vulnerable to remote cyber-attacks. The federal government recognizes these new risks. On February 12, 2013, President Obama signed an executive order creating a cybersecurity framework and information sharing between government and private sector. There is also plenty of legislation brewing to legally mandate utilities to take security precautions.

Smart grid technologies provide utilities visibility into the grid to know which houses/businesses do not have power. Utilities need that same level of visibility within their infrastructure to know where cyber damage has occurred.  Customers do not fault their utility when a storm knocks out the power, but do fault them if their response is poor. While we cannot stop the storms or cyber-attacks, we can have a fully thought out cyber-attack response plan so utilities can avoid the front page of the newspaper or the lead story on the national news.

What’s in it for Cisco?

Cisco’s portfolio of cyber and physical security technology, solutions and services support NERC-CIP compliance and a sound, risk assessment approach to security architecture and implementation.  Cisco has ongoing business processes and services that represent best practices and experience to address both security and compliance.  NERC-CIP is just the start of the journey for utilities.  The NIST Framework resulting from President Obama’s Executive Order provides a way for companies to share threat and event data.  Cisco already operates a similar service for Cisco Customers and Cisco products in PSIRT.

Cisco has a portfolio of leading edge Cyber and Physical Security solutions. Cisco’s Advanced Services offerings help our customers develop and deploy a collaborative, unified approach to Physical and Cyber security. Stay tuned for my next series where I will dive deeper into organizational and cultural changes that must take place for successful IT and OT convergence.