IT-OT Integration-Everyone Must Be On-Board

Without an open mind and the willingness to change, IT-OT convergence will be difficult to attain.
Published: Fri 07 Feb 2014

As the utility and the power grid transforms into a more complex state, more insight is needed in order to take full advantage of the many opportunities that this change will bring. Energy systems will become more dependent on information systems. As a result, different types of technology and procedures is calling for a better way in which to analyse the business and its asset functioning. It is for this reason then that many utilities are turning to enhanced business intelligence and analytics to improve service delivery, as well as system functionality.

The integration of OT and IT departments forms part of this data integration process. By combining the two, utilities will gain new data chains and an effective analysis of data will be created. This integration will help the utility to make more informed decisions about their business.

There are a number of drivers, as well as challenges for the integration of IT and OT and these include:

  • New sensors and grid control concepts

  • The growing need for business intelligence and advanced analytics

  • Geospatial and topology- based solutions

  • Increased focus on real-time dependency

  • Facilitation of the energy transition

  • Change in the operational chain

  • New challenges in grid stability

Challenges that OT-IT integration face

A number of challenges exist in OT/IT integration and each must be overcome, explains Celina Kroon, Consultant, Alliander Consultancy Group, The Netherlands, in her presentation, IT-OT Integration from an Organisational Point of View, at the European Utility Week 2013.

Resisting change

Many people don’t see a reason to move or change. The benefits are not always a good enough motivation for everyone. A lack of success in the past, complacency, or a low sense of urgency can also be major contributors. In order to resolve this, long-term goals must be created in order to get people working together towards a common goal in the future.

Major differences

OT and IT departments have many differences which can make integration really difficult. Each has different solutions, value systems, operations, governance, and cultures. They could even have different stakeholders.

Change of strategy

Ms Kroon is of the opinion that people can change but you can’t always change them. She says, “You can’t force change-it’s a personal process and each person must be willing to change.”

Effecting successful change

It is crucial that everyone shares the same vision and ambition. Without the same level of commitment, the end goal of effective integration will not be realised.

Ms Kroon explains that by setting short term goals for the two departments, knowledge is shared and the real benefits of integration are experienced. By celebrating successes and creating a sense of excitement, the integration process is made easier. This should involve all levels, including high-level management. It is critical that managers show their commitment to the integration process and explain exactly why it will benefit the company and its staff members.

Participants from both OT and IT need to be open with each other so that trust can be enhanced. By respecting each others’ opinions and taking the time to understand each one, an open atmosphere will be created.

In this space, differences may be viewed as opportunities as discussions are facilitated.

Eventually, new rituals will be created by all participants and a new OT-IT culture will be established.

In conclusion, Ms Kroon explains that all participants need to have an open mind when it comes to tackling differences. She adds that as each person begins to benefit on a personal level, there will be an increased belief in the benefits and success of OT-IT integration. She says, “It is important to let everyone know that they can have a personal effect on integration. Because, although integration affects departments, it also affects the individual. It is therefore important to ensure that everyone is on-board for this to work.”