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


Rick Geiger

Executive Director

Utilities and Smart Grid