The Firstline Worker Experience
IT and OT
The Intersection of IT and OT
When most people think about the technology within their company, they think only about Information Technology (IT). The reality is that enterprise technology also includes operational technology (OT) – especially for industrial firms. In fact, OT is, in many cases, even more mission-critical than IT. OT incorporates all the physical infrastructure that underlies many businesses, such as power plants, production lines, vehicles, locomotive and aircraft engines, HVAC equipment, oil & gas rig equipment, and many, many others. This infrastructure is made up of complex machinery – and increasingly is also being connected to networks. This is part of the Internet of Things (IoT). This intersection of IT and OT has significant implications for most companies, but especially those in industrial sectors like manufacturing, oil & gas, utilities, service & repair, medical devices & healthcare, and real estate.
Simply, IoT can be viewed as the intersection of IT and OT, or where the digital world meets the physical world. Most often, the bridge between those worlds are people – firstline workers such as field technicians, equipment operators, and service reps – whose jobs can be made easier, better, and safer through the use of data and information from their surroundings.
Evolution of Mobile
Evolution of Mobile Firstline Worker Digital Experiences
Firstline mobile workers were once the pioneers of mobile solutions. However, firstline workers desperately need a digital refresh. While the mobile user experience for consumers and other mobile professionals has evolved to incorporate the cutting edge of technology, mobile firstline workers have often been left behind – but there’s a renaissance brewing for digital technology in industrial and field environments. Emerging technologies – such as IoT and machine sensors, body-worn hardware and wearables, augmented reality and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence and voice assistants – are launching a new era of immersive firstline worker digital experiences.
With this next generation of mobile worker experiences comes the opportunity for companies to realize improved operational efficiencies, better customer engagement, and enhanced revenues. But first, organizations need to understand how to harness these powerful digital technologies by aligning solutions with business objectives.
Building a Bridge
Building a Bridge between IT and Line-of-business
The intersection of technology with the physical world will yield significant opportunities for value creation across all organizations. However, this convergence can challenge organizations, as IT and OT environments differ across many dimensions, including business owners, primary function, technology lifecycle, reliability requirements, analytics needs, and the physical environment where the technology resides. Companies that are successful in harnessing the benefits of the convergence of IT & OT will be those that understand that close collaboration between line-of-business and IT is a necessity in this new world.
Innovating for Operational Success
Most people think of digital innovation as the exclusive domain of IT, marketing, or product organizations within the enterprise. For many companies, however, innovation that moves the needle for the business must come from operations. To innovate for operational success, companies must commit to:
Developing a Process for IT/OT Innovation: Most organizations don’t have a current process for researching, experimenting, lab testing, and piloting emerging technologies for connected OT. It’s critical for operations and IT leaders to establish an efficient and effective process that identifies potentially impactful innovations and provides a sandbox environment for experimentation and development.
Establishing a Lifecycle of “Innovate, Create, Run, Enhance”: Too often, enterprise IT projects are undertaken by gathering an extensive list of requirements from the business, developing solutions with a waterfall approach, not having business owners responsible for a solution once it’s implemented, and thinking that once it’s built, it’s done. This approach needs to adapt to an ever-changing technology environment. Instead, companies must establish a process for continuous innovation, execute development with an iterative approach, assign “product owners” instead of “project managers,” and continuously update solutions with future revisions and releases. This is the mantra of “Innovate, Create, Run, Enhance.”
Taking a View from the Field: Creating solutions for firstline workers cannot be done from the boardroom. Instead, companies must understand the user experience from the field level. Design must start with an intimate knowledge of the firstline worker business processes to develop solutions that work for users and, in turn, deliver business impact for the company.
Achieving Business Impact
Technology should never be implemented for technology’s sake. Instead, there needs to be a measurable objective when considering creating emerging technologies for the firstline workforce. We call this “business impact,” and firstline workers can often utilize emerging technology to do their jobs faster, better, and safer.
Faster: What is the business impact? Greater operational efficiency leading to cost savings (bottom line) and/or turnarounds leading to quicker revenue recognition (top line). How can this be measured? With metrics like SLAs, truck rolls, job turnarounds/repeats, etc.
Better: What is the business impact? Better quality for the customer. This leads to improved customer engagement and retention, which yields better customer satisfaction and revenue growth. How can this be measured? With metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS), service contracts, renewals, etc.
Safer: What is the business impact? Improved employee and environmental safety, which creates happier and more efficient employees as well as more effective adherence to regulatory requirements. How can this be measured? With compliance scores, employee adherence to safety processes, days out of work from injury, etc.