What's The CIO Got To Do With The IoT?

Sharon Gietl, VP of Information Technology and CIO, The Doe Run Company
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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:

1. BECOME FLUENT IN OPERATIONS TECHNOLOGIES (OT)

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 manufacturing processes, monitor and report on conditions, 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?

2. YOU NEED A TRANSLAToR

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 software 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.

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

3. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND

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.

4. DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE

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 that–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.

5. EVERYTHING LOOKS LIKE A FAILURE IN THE MIDDLE

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 fluent 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.

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