Staying In-Tune to a Rapidly Evolving Enterprise Technology Landscape

Sharon Gietl, CIO, The Doe Run Company

Please elaborate on the challenges that are prevalent in the enterprise technology landscape?

Through the challenges that we have tried to address we have known that the actual challenge lies in understanding the IT and OT operations technology interfaces and also working through disparate worldviews. In the IT world, it’s essential to keep things moving; accordingly, we have created a role within the organization that serves as intermediary responsibility and collaborates with both the OT and the IT side. So, having the allocation of a resource that takes care of integration, collaboration, and implementation of novel technologies will be the key to success.

What are some of the emerging technology trends that you see in the market?

Hiring the staff for intermediary roles is one of the major concerns. Colleges and universities haven’t addressed this notion of getting the millennials trained for emerging technologies. For instance, we had a fresh graduate with high potential whom we had to prepare for the intermediary role because this job doesn’t exist today. To make this objective a success, one has to make the role interesting so that the folks are willing to accept it and not feel like it’s going to be a dead end job. To this end, we are providing OT training. As an experiment, we bought a couple of drones and then our OT analysts were put together in a cross-functional team comprised of operational, environmental, IT people to collaborate. Apart from one use case the rest of them did work, and it’s created a lot of excitement across the company. In the same way, we are adding other technologies with better openness between the operational and the IT people.

  ​Individuals in the schools need to focus on gaining knowledge on the emerging technologies at an early stage 

Could you talk about your approach to identify the right partnership/solutions providers from the lot?

Firstly I’ve been working with a company and their venture capitalist, and they have steered us in the direction that they think might be a good fit for us. Another aspect is performing proof of concepts; this is the path that small to midsize businesses take to look for potential partners. We will have folks reach out to us; we will research in various industry-related journals, or through the venture capitalist that we have partnered with. When we observe that a particular offering might be a good fit for us, then we go ahead develop and design a proof of concept to determine if this is the route we want to go.

What are some of the generic points of discussion that go on in your leadership panel? What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?

Being on the executive team of the company I have the responsibility of facilitating companywide strategic planning sessions and I also look after the enterprise project management office that reports to IT. So we understand what the best strategy for the company as well as the projects across the entire organization. By now we have a good grasp of our company strategy and projects, and so moving forward we will have a brainstorming session to think about ways to further drive digital technology and innovation across the company. Also, throughout the year we conduct meetings which we call as strategic alignment meetings to take steps towards change.

How do you see the evolution a few years from now with regards to disruptions and transformations within technology space?

I believe that the workforce has to change because every job is going to end up being a technology embedded job. There’s going to be a lot of automation, and robotics is going to be huge in the upcoming years as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Individuals in the schools need to focus on gaining knowledge on the emerging technologies at an early stage of their education, and accordingly, schools should ensure that their education, and accordingly, schools should ensure that their students are comfortable with technology and the application of it.

What is your advice for budding technologists in the IoT space?

One needs to understand the industry they are in, collaborate with their peers, be bold to take up a leadership role, and advance the things that are going to create the most value for the organization. But to go ahead with the initiatives you need to know will people follow you and for that to happen, they need to have complete trust in you. In any business that involves manufacturing or where you have got an operation technology component you have to look for integrations with your IT environment otherwise you will be overlooked in the industry.

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