LNS Research Principal Analyst, Dan Miklovic explores the evolution of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and its capabilities.
The challenge for many organizations is making the leap from an IT centric view that is typically associated with classic EA activities, to the day-to-day operations of the business. LNS Research strongly supports the tools and techniques of EA, and believes that when applying it to daily operations businesses need to think in new terms; that is the concept of Operational Architecture. Operational Architecture takes the discipline of the IT domain and its EA activities, but translates them to reflect the operational side of the business. It is only natural that we think of Operational Architecture as the culmination of the IT-OT convergence.
The IT-OT Convergence is Driving Us Towards New Tools
Ever since the first application of digital computers to process control some 55+ years ago the march toward the convergence of Information Technology (IT) into the day-to-day operations, often referred to as Operational Technology or OT has been ongoing. In some respects, it is amazing that it has taken more than 50 years to get where we are today. On the other hand, it has only been in the last 7-10 years that we have seen the convergence of a whole series of IT advancements that have led to the cascade we see today. It is the growth of mobile technology, especially smartphones or Smart Connected Assets, coupled with the proliferation of wireless technology driving the wider deployment of field sensing technology. This technology has made the concept of anyone getting the information they need wherever they need it and whenever they need it real. Today it is difficult to find any process instrumentation or control elements that are not digital technology and communications enabled. Even the simplest on-off switches may have indicators that can communicate with an external system. Because the digitization of the plant seems to have crashed down upon us in only a few short years, the reality is this is a trend that has been occurring for decades. While nearly 20 billion Internet of Thing (IoT) devices distributed among 7 billion people, we have already reached the point where every single person on earth is already linked to 3 IoT devices. Those same people are headed towards 7 connected devices on average by 2020 if some industry pundits are to be believed. Since less than ½ of people are currently internet connected the numbers are far larger.
This widespread penetration of the IoT in general, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) specifically means that we need to consider IT in every aspect of business. For this reason LNS Research contends that the art and practice of IT’s EA processes make sense for analyzing today’s operational environments. However, we recognize that business operations, while highly dependent on IT have unique aspects that drive the way businesses need to define the systems and technologies they will use in the pursuit of Operational Excellence.
Operational Architecture is the Natural Way to Pursue Operational Excellence in Support of Digital Transformation
In our original series of posts we outlined how to apply EA techniques when crafting an architecture appropriate for your manufacturing or asset intensive operations. These posts highlighted activities that are not typically associated with a traditional EA exercise, but are a valuable set of tools to help identify the as-is and to-be operational modes the enterprise has and will need to evolve to. Rather than try to force-fit an IT approach, we believe that the hybrid approach we are calling Operational Architecture, which defines the systems and technology that support the operations of a business across its value chain, is the approach to take.
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