IT vs. OT: Unlocking the Power of Convergence

Jon Finerty | 3/6/2024

Topics: Statistics, Data Integration, Operations

The digital age has blurred many lines, and one area experiencing significant convergence is the relationship between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT). While seemingly similar, these domains hold distinct roles within organizations. Let's delve into their differences and explore the exciting opportunities presented by their convergence. 

What Are the Differences Between IT and OT?  

  • IT: IT focuses on the information flow within an organization. It encompasses everything related to data creation, storage, retrieval, and manipulation. This includes hardware like computers and servers, software like operating systems and applications, and networks that connect them all. Essentially, IT is the backbone of information management. 
  • OT: OT, on the other hand, deals with the physical processes that keep an organization running. It encompasses the systems and devices directly involved in controlling and monitoring these processes. Examples include factory automation systems, power grids, building management systems, and medical equipment. OT ensures the smooth running of critical operations. 

Traditionally, IT and OT operated as separate entities, often with different priorities, protocols, and security requirements. However, with the rise of interconnected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), the lines are becoming increasingly blurred. 



What Are the Benefits of IT/OT Convergence?  

IT/OT convergence aims to break down these silos and integrate the functionalities of both worlds. This offers several benefits: 

  • Enhanced decision-making: Real-time data from OT systems can be analyzed by IT systems, providing valuable insights for optimizing operations and making data-driven decisions. 
  • Improved efficiency: By combining IT and OT data, organizations can automate tasks, streamline workflows, and reduce manual data entry, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. 
  • Predictive maintenance: By continuously monitoring OT data, organizations can predict potential equipment failures and schedule preventive maintenance, minimizing downtime and saving costs. 
  • Innovation: Convergence fosters a data-driven culture, driving innovation across various sectors, from manufacturing to healthcare. 


What Are the Challenges of IT/OT Convergence? 

Outdated OT systems 
Some OT systems can be used for decades, unlike their IT counterparts that have shorter lifecycles. Additionally, legacy OT might not be periodically updated, and it usually lacks security capabilities and features to face new, emerging risks. 

Inadequate accessibility 
While most IT can, by design, be discovered and configured remotely, OT systems often don’t offer similar visibility by default – as they were not originally designed for remote accessibility and standardized communication. 

Non-negotiable requirements 
OT systems typically fulfill mission-critical demands by operating continuously, 365 days a year. The challenge lies in addressing security vulnerabilities while minimizing downtime, as critical functions cannot afford service interruptions for updates. 

Limited collaboration 
In the past, IT and OT departments have not needed, nor have they been required, to collaborate much; therefore, they are not used to cross-function teamwork. The lack of coordination can lead to duplicated efforts, security risks, and inefficiencies. 

System integration and process convergence 
Just like IT and OT teams have historically been separated, re-organizing traditionally siloed IT and OT processes into a unified, synergetic infrastructure might be challenging. Although the convergence of IT and OT holds significant potential for enhancing business processes, there can be notable barriers to its implementation. 


How Minitab Can Help Bridge the Gap

Offering a powerful suite of analytical solutions, Minitab can play a crucial role in bridging the gap between IT and OT by providing a unified platform for data analysis and visualization. By enabling IT and OT professionals to collaboratively work with the same data sets and analytical tools, Minitab fosters a data-driven culture that breaks down silos and facilitates informed decision-making. 

Minitab's user-friendly interface and diverse statistical capabilities make it accessible to professionals from both IT and OT backgrounds, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. This, in turn, accelerates the convergence process and empowers organizations to unlock the full potential of IT/OT integration. 


Want to learn how Minitab can facilitate IT/OT convergence? Talk to our experts today!

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