If you believe the stereotypes, then the worlds of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are very different. In one, ranks of commoditized beige boxes hold institutional memory, critical intellectual property, and the bosses’ email: The data center is everything. In the other, proprietary, expensive, and arcane electromechanical monsters lurk next to the production lines on the factory floor: Keeping the line running is everything. The truth is more complicated, particularly in the world of OT, where very recognizable computers have been used for years.

IT and OT evolved separately for good reasons, but the world has changed. OT teams still do everything they can to keep the lines running, and IT teams generally have more awareness of the risks posed by cyberattacks, but attitudes, tools, and the key performance indicators by which success is measured are converging. It’s just as well.

In my latest report, “Bridge The IT/OT Divide To Win With Smart Manufacturing,” I argue that “digital business ambitions die in the chasm between IT and OT.” Bold strategic moonshots to transform manufacturers into digital manufacturers, smart manufacturers, or even services companies are all very well, and most of those strategies look good on paper. But we see, again and again, that those strategies fail when people, processes, responsibility, and data are not harmonized between IT and OT. Effective digital solutions need input from both, particularly as carefully curated pilots move to production.

Returning to the stereotypes with which we began, it’s wrong to suggest that the data center is everything. It’s also wrong to suggest that keeping the line running is everything. Meeting the needs of the business — and its customers — is the aim, and both the data center and production line have their part to play in that.

Modern manufacturers need to find ways to combine the best of IT with the best of OT: Both have much to offer. Let me know what you think. Forrester clients can schedule an inquiry call to talk about this. Anyone can schedule a briefing.


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