Whats The CIO Got To Do With The IOT?

by Sharon Gietl, VP Of Information Technology and CIO , The Doe Run Company

The role of the CIO  continues  to  evolve as technology now permeates every industry.  As CIO, some of the changes you’ve driven  within  IT may have included moving to the cloud, implementing mobile apps, reducing technology debt and addressing cyber security concerns.

Today's most  effective CIOs  are driving digital transformation  across their entire company, their  supply chain and even their customers. An Internet of Things (IoT) initiative  is one  aspect of digital transformation  that some CIOs may find they are uncomfortable leading. CIOs can effectively lead IoT initiatives by following these five tips:

IoT technologies are deeply imbedded within a company’s operations. The CIO may not  be fluent in these technologies. Reach out and connect with the OT staff at your company to learn and understand their world. Learn the acronyms used by OT professionals, such as HMIs (human machine interfaces). Take time to understand why PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers),  robotics,  sensors and other OT technologies are important to your company.  Find  out  if these devices and technologies manage critical manufactur- ing processes, monitor and report on con- ditions, provide information on equipment  maintenance  cycles, or  automate processes. How does the information coming from these systems impact decision-making or the quality of those decisions?

"The big data produced by IoT devices may be the foundation of what’s needed for  data  driven decision making"

When IT and OT intersect there can be conflict. The OT view of the world is 180 degrees different from the IT worldview. OT systems are built to last decades versus the 18-48 month lifecycles of IT systems. OT systems personnel subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” adage. A problematic change on an OT system could bring down a process that is key to production.  However, OT personnel need to understand that running an unsupported soft- ware operating system on an OT system can also put their process in jeopardy. IT needs to communicate  why an upgrade is needed and work with OT personnel to schedule it appropriately.  To successfully drive an IoT initiative, you need a translator someone fluent in both OT and IT worldviews. Once everyone is speaking the same language,  acceptance and  success of IoT  initiatives are more likely.

One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly successful people is to “begin with the end in mind.” Understanding the problems IoT technology is solving and the value being delivered with its implementation is key. Just because another  company is using robotics  in a process doesn’t mean that  your company has the same use case. Think about the cost vs. benefit. Consider how difficult it may be for your workforce to embrace the changes. Begin in an area where you have supporters and can find some quick wins. This will set you up for some big wins as you move your IoT initiatives toward the end you have in mind.

Slow and steady wins the race. Planning is often underrated. Jumping  ahead  to  execute without  a  well  constructed  plan is akin to being the hare. Great ideas are just thatn ideas until they are implemented. Take the time to identify your company’s business drivers, areas needing productivity gains and baseline metrics. Develop improvement  targets. Determine  if you need to  integrate your IoT projects with your analytics initiatives. The big data produced by IoT devices may be the foundation  of what’s needed for data-driven decision-making. Identify key players across the company who can help you drive the projects forward. Answer the question: How can company leaders and operations  personnel benefit from marrying OT system information  with IT system information? Now work the plan.

In her book, The Change Masters, Rosabeth Moss Kanter states, “everything looks like a failure in the middle.” She went on to say that  the difference between success and failure is perseverance. This rings true for every complex project and change initiative I’ve experienced in my career. Giving up in the middle of a difficult endeavor ensures failure. Finding  innovative ways to address issues and obstacles is the way to success. If it was easy, everyone would have done whatever complex IoT initiative you are undertaking .

As CIO,  you can drive the  Internet  of Things  as part of your  company's digital transformation.  Become flu- ent  with  the  operations  technologies  currently  within your company. Develop a translator for IT/OT.  Ensure the person is respected by your IT team as well as the OT team. Begin with the end in mind. Start with quick wins to  gain  credibility. Those  quick wins will enable you  to  sell the  big  wins. Thoughtfully  plan  your  IoT portfolio  of  initiatives,  identify  metrics,  obtain  company internal  support  and work  the  plan. Persevere to achieve and maintain  the  gains you receive from  your IoT initiatives.