Manufacturing to IT: “You just don’t understand the reality of the factory floor.”

IT to Manufacturing: “Your legacy systems expose us to security and hackers.”

Greater than 99% of the companies I visit waste time, budget, and emotional cycles battling between the information technology (IT) and the manufacturing organizations. While we are familiar with the term IT, Operations Technology (OT) describes the factory organization and systems running the shop floor and connecting equipment. OT tends to drive most internet of things (IoT) projects.

Source: http://www.sensationalquotes.com/Dating.html

IT and OT use many of the same terms; however, they do not speak the same language. Our research shows not only do IT and OT not speak the same language, each organization prioritizes the same terms in the opposite order of each other:

                                                 IT                                                               OT

The result: lack of alignment, trust, and confidence. Ultimately, the IT and OT groups work against each other rather than collaboratively.

Historically, IT projects supporting operations spend months (sometimes years) gathering requirements, planning, and then implementing a solution. By the time the solution gets deployed the business objectives have evolved to the point where the solution no longer addresses the need. IT has struggled to gain sufficient access, time, and mindshare from their operational counterparts to be effective.

However, Operations must co-own the historical misalignment for a project’s challenge to be successfully deployed.

Gartner Research’s Britain Steenstrup appropriately summarized the anticipated future state between IT and OT in this research:

“As more companies work toward IT/OT alignment, the CIO and the IT organization will be at the forefront of fostering relationships and changing the culture of the organization. This will require a hybrid of traditional IT and OT skills and development of new intellectual property, while experience external to the company will be tapped into to assist with cross-topic education.”

At Cisco, we have evolved our manufacturing (OT) execution model with our IT deployment model. Our approach is simple. We converged our IT and OT teams, not only virtually, but also physically in the same office space. We developed a Services Management Operating System (SMOS) led by operations services, not technology services. In addition to these tactical steps, the most significant step we took shifted our deployment approach.

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/500040364848314587/

We now focus our efforts guided by “North Stars” to achieve our strategic objectives. We shifted away from long requirements gathering phases to short/rapid cycles of learning projects (30-60-90 days). The goal of these rapid cycles of learning is to advance toward the objectives. Advancing toward the objective means we’ve learned something and then applied the learnings towards achieving the North Star. In fact, we have achieved our most significant cycles of learning by “failing fast” during the 30-60-90 day cycles.

Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing our white paper, video, and infographic providing examples on how to converge your IT and OT approach. We’ve included a number of customer success stories including:

  • Fanuc: Zero Downtime for Big Data Maintenance Analytics
  • Daimler Trucks North America: Combined factory and corporate network for manufacturing operations

We also describe required business capabilities like:

  • Enabling real-time decision making through fog computing
  • Eliminating unplanned downtime through predictive maintenance
  • Deploying wireless technology on the factory floor
  • Ensuring cybersecurity for a new world of connected machines

Please take a few moments to read these insightful and actionable materials, then contact me or your Cisco representative so we can help get you started.

More IT/OT materials are available here:


Neil Heller

Manufacturing Industry Solutions