Navigating the IT/OT convergence

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It’s one thing to have machines in your organization that harvest data as they work. It’s quite another to find a way to extract the intelligence from those machines and use it to make better decisions, improve processes and develop new business models.

This is the sweet spot between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), and according to Gartner, navigating the IT/OT convergence is increasingly critical for business decision-makers today.

Our own research bears this out. In a recent Microsoft study, only 4 percent of IoT initiatives were led by IT personnel, such as chief information officers (CIOs), the vast majority (78 percent) were led by line of business decision makers in business groups themselves. As business leaders push to invest in new and innovative uses of technology, we’re seeing the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming the connective tissue that brings the worlds of IT and OT together.

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Back in May at our annual CEO summit, we heard many discussions around the processes and challenges surrounding this intersection, where cutting-edge data science and IT meet hardware innovation and OT. Some 150 CEOs attended the summit, coming from nearly every industry, across established businesses and emerging disruptors. We heard several questions around the convergence of operations and analytics and how to make that happen: How do we secure everything? How do we normalize data from disparate sources for comparison? Once we have it all in one place, how do we go about analyzing it?

In a recent Microsoft study, only 4 percent of IoT initiatives were led by IT personnel.

To be sure, there are complexities to navigate in finding the right convergence of technologies, but in many cases, that’s where looking at change through the lens of IoT makes the most sense. A true catalyst for business transformation, IoT technologies are already in place to provide solutions for the challenges companies face as they seek to derive real intelligence from their OT.

Today, many companies are finding major success by using this platform approach to transform with IoT. We’ve seen compelling examples of this on display at events this spring — check out how Rockwell Automation and ThyssenKrupp Elevator have moved from being manufacturers of heavy equipment and elevators to become service providers as well.

For companies looking to make similar moves, I expect to see barriers to adoption continue to fall away in the coming years; my team has been focused for several years now on creating pathways for enterprises to navigate this IT/OT convergence. The Microsoft Azure IoT Suite (available in preview later this year) will include a host of technologies that can help accelerate complexity involved in moving data from operational systems and deriving new forms of business intelligence from it in a secure way. Many Microsoft partners around the world are already highly skilled at implementing IoT solutions in various industries. And the new Quick Start program can even help companies exploring IoT get moving in a single session. If your company relies heavily on operational technologies, it’s a great time to start investigating IoT.