Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Tossing the CIO around from BAU to Innovation to OT, bring it on …

Evolution never stops, at least for the CIO who has been pushed around with ever changing technology and business paradigms. In the early days the push was to automate internal processes and then the focus shifted to the external world – suppliers, distributors, customers, basically the entire ecosystem. IT did a good job embracing mainframes, client server, browser, mobile, and everything in between. As technology invaded our lives, democratization led to expectations moving to business roles and innovation.

CIOs obliged by taking on additional roles based on their expertise, passion and organizational need to infuse loads of technology into parts of the company for operational efficiency or leadership position in the industry. They helped finance, sales and marketing, supply chain, human resources, legal and compliance, customer engagement, facilities and administration, everyone who asked for technology input, they received a helping hand from IT and the CIO even when the industry kept throwing new disruptions.

If you are not on the internet, you will be dead; if you don’t implement datawarehousing there is no way information will be meaningful; cloud computing is changing the world; social media is necessary for us to invest in – our customers are there; the smartphone revolution is changing the way our end customers engage, we should be on their phone; mobile wallets, digital payments, what about artificial intelligence and chatbots or machine learning; heard that deep learning is the new snake oil which we should invest in…

Connect into the innovation network, drive change, manage expectations, service level agreements moving up with time, outsource what is not critical, manage multi-vendor deliverables, cross-functional projects, and run an efficient department. Every fad raised a bogie which needed to be addressed; every publication and conference also discussed various aspects of how technology will impact the business or change the industry or kill existing businesses with disintermediation. The plate of the CIO overflows and how !

But wait, manufacturing automation took a quiet journey towards implementing PLCs and SCADA; they did not involve the IT folks, they bought their own equipment with automation capabilities, bundled with computing infrastructure, uninterrupted power supply, interface using basic protocols with the machines which evolved slower than the rest of IT. Lagging behind, they survived Y2K and other scares with minimal impact; cheap compute power and algorithms to analyze machine data suddenly catapulted Operational Technology into the forefront.

There are benefits with analysis of machine data, it helps reduce downtime, improve productivity and lower cost of maintenance and operation. Longer life for the machines impacts capital required for renewal of plant and machinery; it made sense to get the IT folks into the room and leverage the humungous data. IT accommodated the new use cases by providing the requisite support to their new customer. Resultant benefits are large enough to raise attention and elevate the need to a strategic level requiring investments.

Many CIOs have taken this in their stride adding to their portfolio of capabilities and services, opening up a new avenue of technological benefit especially since past investments were quite rudimentary and value of data was unknown. Advent of Internet of Things and the ability to create correlations has changed the nature of the beast. Operational Technology is now mainstream and requires skills that IT has had for some time now. CIOs are happily taking on the new thereby adding one more feather to their cap.

It is a matter of time that across other functions like supply chain too, the data gathered through warehouses, vehicular movement, transit points, and traceability with serialization, all will add to the desire and ability. For the CIO this is a great opportunity to spread his/her circle of influence and provide enterprise value. For those who do not or are unable to, they shall probably be marginalized and find themselves struggling to stay relevant. OT combined with IT will drive the business of the future, it is up to the CIO to take advantage.

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