Utilities have historically developed and managed IT and OT as two different domains, maintaining segregated technology stacks, protocols, standards, governance models, and organizational divisions. However, in the last few years, a host of business factors and technological advancements have strengthened the case for the integration of IT and OT systems.
Why IT OT integration is essential
Historically, OT and IT for distribution operations have been developed, maintained and used in silos in a utility organization. While technical and organizational challenges prevail for those looking to cross IT-OT boundaries, there are compelling business imperatives and strong technology drivers for increased IT-OT integration.
Business drivers for integration
- Unsynchronized asset data
Even as the volume of data generated across multiple OT and IT applications in the asset life cycle keeps increasing, many utilities continue to deploy disparate IT and OT systems to manage various business processes. Different streams of information are stored in silos, leading to inaccuracies in asset status data and a lack of a synchronized view of asset information across enterprise and operational systems.
- Other factors
It is increasingly imperative for utilities to leverage software to interpret the numerous streams of data flowing in from the array of sensors in their infrastructure networks. The need for IT-OT integration is all the more important considering that most technology vendors continue to offer separate solutions for these two domains, resulting in duplication of systems and processes.
Recommended Solution - An Asset Information Management Framework
In our view, the most effective way to integrate IT and OT is to implement a platform-product-and technology agnostic asset information management (AIM) framework that entails no change to utilities' existing IT and OT systems.
At a larger level, utilities should keep the following three aspects in mind while implementing an architecture for ITOT
- Asset meta model: The framework should be underpinned by a utilities-relevant asset data model that attaches 'meta tags' to assets.
- Business process modeling: The architecture should facilitate the customization of business processes involving utilities' operational and enterprise applications, such as procurement, finance, quality, customer information system, and so on.
- Process monitoring and visualization: An optimal framework for IT-OT integration should provide key stakeholders with easy–and quick–access to asset information.
An AIM framework can help companies achieve optimal balance between operational performance, financial results and risk management. Utilities can better forecast and manage outages by gaining improved visibility into critical asset attributes such as run hours, energy and residual value. Overall, enterprises will be able to maximize the value of assets across the asset lifecycle, and offer better customer services.
The extent of interoperability between enterprise information and operational systems will have a major bearing on the future agility and performance of utilities.