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IT/OT Convergence and the Utility Digital Workplace

Digital workplace technology can aid the safety, productivity and governance of power distribution utility maintenance crews.

Our readers in the energy utility space will be intimately familiar with the integration of information technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT)–often dubbed “IT/OT convergence.”  In a recent article in Oil & Gas Australia Simon Vardy, Accenture Strategy Utilities Lead for Australia and New Zealand, said “Broadly, IT/OT integration can be defined as bringing together the data and information from operations, enterprise systems and external sources, powered by advanced analytics.”

What’s the motivation for utilities to begin tearing down these long established technology silos?  Partly it’s a necessary response to the sheer complexity of managing power networks and the ballooning amount of data that’s generated.  But there’s also a very real impact on the bottom line.

Vardy points out a number of costs that utilities can better control through integration of IT systems. One area where there are potentially large cost savings is the management of unplanned outages. IT systems can help to reduce downtime and “can even identify and analyze the optimal deployment of crews to avoid excessive overtime payments.” Since there are a sequence of steps in the outage management process, IT systems can better link these together to make the process more efficient.

But cost savings are not just about linking together steps in the process. The effective distribution of information throughout the process can also be critical to effectiveness. Collaboration and content management tools like SharePoint and Office 365 can improve efficiency and cost by acting as a central place to store and distribute safety and technical documents to maintenance crews. Then by utilizing consumer-style mobile devices, like tablets, to distribute this information, productivity and worker safety can be improved.

Consumer mobile devices are notoriously uncontrolled and insecure without the right software to manage critical data, however. So what about governance and security of the data? According to Vardy, these things are critical when integrating IT and OT. Document distribution solutions for power utilities need to manage governance and security while balancing worker productivity without increasing risks.

The article also talks about the power of analytics for managing costs and risks in power utilities. The same is true for maintenance crews. Reporting on the consumption of content by field workers can confirm that the right documents are being consumed by the right people. With the right analytics, the process can be tuned to get the desired behavior so that users comply with regulations.

Sound complicated? Fortunately, all of the above capabilities can now be delivered by tools designed for the Digital Workplace. Cost effective, and quick to deploy, these tools can aid utilities to balance the critical requirements for governance and security while delivering productivity to workers and analytics to operations people.

Are you looking to reduce costs, increase productivity and control the distribution of content to utility maintenance crews? Learn how Colligo solutions are able to help!

Reference: Integrating information and operations – a crucial step for utilities

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