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The respective roles of operational technology (OT) and IT teams in making industrial IoT decisions has been the source of much curiosity – and in some cases pain – among traditional IT industry vendors. In many cases, IT vendors are selling traditional technology products (for instance, storage or compute) into entirely new teams and situations. In other instances, they are trying to sell new-to-them capabilities (such as so-called vertical industry offerings) via equally new product bundles or pricing plans.

That said, IoT technology buying and vendor decision-making criteria may not be as foreign as they once believed. Increasingly – and especially as projects scale more broadly – IT teams at enterprises are taking on the primary budget and deployment responsibility for IoT projects, albeit with significant input and direction from the OT team.

Critically, OT understands the importance of IoT technology decisions in ultimate IoT project success, and are increasingly counting on IT colleagues to help make those critical choices. Beyond vendor dynamics, OT also realizes that a growing number of technologies – including many that are new, not only to the OT side but also the IT side of the house – are critical to IoT project success. That includes enhanced IoT connectivity, in particular coming 5G network services, as well as artificial intelligence/machine learning analytics, and a range of more niche but nonetheless critical enabling technologies including blockchain, AR/VR and computer vision.

Better alignment between OT and IT on both how organizations make technology and vendor decisions and what technologies are most critical is a vital step forward in ensuring industrial IoT initiatives deliver on their full promise.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM 451 ALLIANCE’S IOT OT PERSPECTIVES SURVEY:

Technology Decisions

Within two years, 74% of OT respondents expect to be using 5G wireless to handle at least a portion of their organization’s IoT connectivity.That is a very aggressive adoption curve, given that in most geographies 5G as a mobile broadband service is just scaling up, let alone 5G services tuned to IoT devices and use cases. That said, interest in 5G for IoT is very high. The network technology is also slated to play a major role in private network deployments in support of IoT initiatives, with 52% of respondents saying they plan to deploy a private 5G network, 37% planning a private 4G LTE network, 13% planning a wireless private network based on other network technologies, and 17% saying they have no plans to deploy a private wireless network for IoT.

Does your org plan to use any of the following private wireless network technologies as part of its IoT infrastructure?

Today, the most used IT environment/consumption model for IoT applications is software as a service, with 23% citing SaaS as their primary approach to supporting current IoT deployments. In two years, however, relatively straightforward SaaS and hosted IoT applications will be increasingly replaced by more substantive IoT infrastructure, including hosted private cloud as a primary IoT deployment path by 23% respondents, followed by public IaaS and PaaS (20%).

Choosing the most appropriate venue (edge vs. near-edge vs. core/cloud) in which to deploy IoT storage, compute and analytics remains an important decision.Sixty-five percent of respondents cite security as the top factor determining the placement of IoT workloads, followed by cost (57%), availability of network connections (50%) and infrastructure resiliency (43%). Meanwhile, 67% of respondents either somewhat or strongly agree that their organization made mistakes in choosing where to deploy IoT applications, in a way that negatively impacted IoT success. This highlights the critical nature of such decisions.

IoT initiatives are made possible by a range of enabling technologies, many of which are relatively new to enterprises, but are already viewed as having a significant impact on IoT projects.The ones rated as having a ‘high impact’ on IoT are led by AI (41%), blockchain (36%) and video analytics (35%). Rounding out the technology rankings are virtual reality (31%), augmented reality (29%), autonomous robotics (28%), no-code application development (28%) and digital twin (22%).

Vendor Decisions

Respondents to our survey of OT professionals highlighted their role in choosing technology vendors in support of their industrial IoT projects. Forty-one percent strongly agree and 48% somewhat agree the choices their organization makes about IoT technology and vendor decisions ‘have a major impact on the success or failure’ of their IoT initiatives.

IT and OT both contribute to or influence IoT technology and vendor choices, although IoT is more likely to have primary responsibility for those choices. Seventy-two percent of respondents say IT contributed to IoT technology and vendor decision-making, followed by OT (60%), line of business (34%), third-party vendor partners (18%) and digital business units (17%). When it comes to primary responsibility, however, IT is much more likely to be in charge, with 50% of respondents giving IT that primary role, followed by OT (23%). Meanwhile, 13% of respondents say they don’t designate any group with lead responsibility, instead sharing it across multiple contributors.

who contributes to buying decisions for IoT deployments?

OT respondents say they look for ‘best-of-breed technologies’ (chosen by 64% of respondents) and ‘IoT requirements expertise’ (50%) as the top attributes when choosing IoT vendors. Those two top choices are followed by cost vs. competitors (48%), ability to deliver business outcomes (44%), use of the vendor elsewhere in the organization (43%) and partner integration (41%). Coming in lowest, somewhat surprisingly, is deep vertical knowledge and experience (29%).

OT respondents expect IT vendors to play a critical role in helping deliver IoT projects.Twenty-eight percent of respondents say IT vendors should lead and deliver IoT projects from project definition to implementation. However, a larger percentage of respondents (44%) preferred IT to work as an equal among other partners (such as OT vendors or SIs) in defining or implementing projects. The smallest percentage of respondents say IT should be involved in more limited ways, either as technology suppliers only (25%) or in as limited a way as possible (2%).

As an OT professional, what is the primary role you see IT vendors playing in your company's IoT initiatives?

The majority of respondents (73%) say they are using IT professional services firms (for instance, systems integrators or consultants) to assist in IoT initiatives and deployments. As for the type of professional services firm used, 66% of respondents say they use an IT vendor consulting arm, followed by large SI firms (41%), large consulting firms (38%), OT vendor consulting arms (35%) and boutique vertical industry consultants (17%).

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