The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a transformative journey in manufacturing and industrial automation, redefining how industries operate and push the boundaries of efficiency. However, the question of who should own the IIoT strategy poses a challenge for many organizations. Should it fall under the jurisdiction of the Operations Technology (OT) team, or the Information Technology (IT) department?  Or should it be a collaborative effort between the two?

Operations Technology is charged with the control and monitoring of industrial processes and assets. That includes systems like SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), and industrial control systems. OT focuses on ensuring the reliability, safety, and efficiency of industrial processes.

As for IT, the department deals with managing and processing information and encompasses networks, servers, databases, and enterprise applications. IT manages business processes, data storage, and information flow within an organization.

Both departments have a claim to creating a strategy for IIoT systems that is efficient and productive. A recent survey of 350 professionals revealed that nearly a quarter advocate for a collaborative approach between the two. But as the saying goes, “One size does not fit all.” Determining the proper owner of the IIoT strategy requires a nuanced evaluation that takes various factors into account — ranging from business goals and regulatory compliance to executive alignment.

Take stock of specific business needs

To decide on IIoT ownership, understanding business goals and objectives is a great first step. Since different industries and organizations have specific processes and unique needs, the IIoT strategy should align with the overarching business objectives. For instance, a company focusing on cost savings may approach IIoT differently than a company prioritizing product innovation.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for the way your business operates when contemplating ownership of the IIoT strategy:

  1. Current Collaboration Between IT and OT Teams

Effective communication and collaboration between IT and OT teams are crucial for the success of an IIoT strategy. Assessing the existing synergy between these departments will help determine if there is any path forward for teamwork. 

2. Regulatory Compliance and Regulations

Industries operate inside different regulatory frameworks. Whether it involves adhering to safety standards or data privacy regulations, understanding and integrating compliance considerations is non-negotiable. The ownership of the IIoT strategy must navigate these regulatory waters and should defer to the approach that will maintain complete compliance. 

3. Data Ownership and Security

 The IIoT strategy must not only enhance operational efficiency but also ensure the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information. IIoT devices and systems generate massive amounts of data that must be managed and secured. Understanding what departments have access and ownership of that data, and are responsible for keeping it secure, should help determine the strategy. 

4. Executive Alignment and Leadership

Leadership plays a pivotal role in steering the IIoT ship. Executive alignment helps to secure the necessary resources, support, and a unified vision for the IIoT strategy. The journey becomes smoother when leaders champion the cause and are actively involved in the decision-making process basing it on the overall company strategy.

5. Established Industry Norms

Every industry has its own set of norms and practices. Understanding these norms can guide organizations in crafting an IIoT strategy that not only meets industry standards but also positions them as leaders in the field.

Industries such as shipping and logistics, energy, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical have processes and policies that dictate the corresponding IIoT ownership strategy. 

A pharmaceutical manufacturer’s digital transformation journey

Here’s a real-world example of digital transformation at a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer with approximately 70 manufacturing sites worldwide. Faced with ambitious goals, including ensuring a reliable supply of quality medicine, expanding its product portfolio, and achieving over $1 billion in cost savings, the company needed to modernize its operations. 

The pharmaceutical company was worried about data loss, security breaches, and more so IT and OT needed to work together to meet the aforementioned business goals. The company needed to establish the right data foundation to power several use cases aimed at meeting both their business-level and regulatory compliance objectives including FDA audits. The organization set out to create an interoperable data foundation that would give it a single view into all of its factories. Ultimately, using an MQTT broker allowed them to connect thousands of machines in every factory, enabling the sharing and consolidation of data from OT to IT. This enabled them to automate the data collection needed to satisfy their regulatory compliance needs including FDA audits.

A strategic ownership decision for transformative outcomes

This pharmaceutical giant’s success demonstrates that the ownership of an IIoT strategy is not just a technical decision but a strategic one. It is a nuanced interplay of technology, business acumen, and regulatory understanding that can lead to transformative outcomes.

The path to determining the ownership of an IIoT strategy is multifaceted. Organizations can navigate this complex landscape by considering factors such as business goals, collaboration between IT and OT teams, regulatory compliance, data ownership, executive alignment, and industry norms. The right IIoT strategy, coupled with robust technical solutions, can not only transform operations but also drive business success while ensuring regulatory compliance.