Jan 1, 2020 | Trends, Technology

Bridging the OT–IT Gap

There was a time when building operations (OT) and information technology (IT) had no reason to talk. OT handled buildings systems such as HVAC, lighting, elevators, meters, and access control, and IT was about printers, workstations, networks, and business applications.

Historically, in the built environment, OT and IT have not overlapped and were managed as separate operational and organizational silos. OT and IT each were developed to accomplish a distinct mission; the two functions traditionally have had contrasting agendas and employed dissimilar tools and priorities. Decades of parallel development provided each with unrelated processes and technologies running on distinct infrastructures, following separate standards, using different protocols, all managed by isolated organizational departments.

However, advances in building systems, the influx of IP-enabled devices and equipment, connectivity and integration, the rising importance of data and analytics, and behavioral changes have shifted the dynamics between OT and IT. At the core of this evolution is how OT and IT contribute to the enterprise and how they collaborate and work together. The rate of innovation and rapid advancement have reshaped how we manage, operate, and interact with our buildings and facilities.

OT systems in buildings are part of the building structure. Their lifetime is on the order of a decade or more—in contrast to IT devices, which have a much shorter life span. Also, IT device failures, such as a printer in error mode, are noticed almost immediately, whereas OT failures could go unrecognized indefinitely, or until someone notices a problem of high energy usage or reduced indoor air quality.

Interesting changes in OT and IT are blurring the lines between the two environments. OT is expected to continue to expand its role in most organizations, enabling greater integration of business processes, physical activities, and supporting technology. The integration of OT more tightly into organizations’ core business operations means that the OT side of the house must be more strategic so that it can engage with and impact all facets of an organization, including IT.

What does it take to bridge the gap?

✓ Development of joint standards and governance structures to align IT and OT

✓ Open communications and dialogue

✓ Cultural transformation

✓ Combined management and execution of cross-functional technologies

✓ Development of interdisciplinary skills within both domains

✓ Combining the traditionally split responsibilities between IT and OT, especially concerning security

✓ Single management and monitoring of infrastructures

✓ Closer alignment of business strategies with business outcomes

Although OT and IT for buildings are broad domains and complex in their own right, significant outcomes, cost synergies, and value can be derived from aligning them. If these two areas work together, they can support each other. Successful integration of these once disparate counterparts promises significant advantages in many areas, including performance and efficiency, agility, occupant satisfaction, decision making and business outcomes, and risk and cost reduction. Organizations that dedicate themselves to bridging the gap between OT and IT will gain a significant competitive advantage.

How Can Albireo Energy Help You?

At Albireo Energy, our goal is to reduce the complexity and lack of understanding between OT and IT. With a deep understanding of OT and IT, combined with our portfolio of capabilities, services, and deployments, which encompass millions of square feet of the commercial building world, we have bridged the gap between OT and IT in facilities such as data centers, labs, commercial high-rise properties, institutes of higher education, schools, federal buildings, military installations, and healthcare institutions.

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