Analytics Success Depends on Solving Your Company’s IT vs. OT Challenges

The success of any analytics solution in the oil and gas industry often depends on how closely Information Technology and Operational Technology can integrate efforts.

Ryan Richison
February 12, 2019

One of our most frequently asked questions is:

How do you help oil and gas companies solve their IT vs. OT challenges?

The success of any analytics solution in the oil and gas industry often depends on how closely Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) can integrate efforts. No matter how proficient each department is on their own, if they don’t stop working independently the gains from data and analytics are much harder to realize. The desire to overcome the IT-OT divide is strong by executives and personnel, but the practical, technical, and even cultural roadblocks of enacting an IT-OT convergence strategy are never simple to get through. One of the first steps is getting both departments to understand the stakes and why analytics will never succeed for them without some sort of IT-OT convergence.

Building the Full Production Analytics Stack requires a common set of IT-OT priorities and objectives

In the figure below, we have illustrated the activities that comprise a complete analytics solution. These are the key areas that a company must get right in order to build an analytics capability that will deliver significant gains. Each layer builds on the previous one, highlighting the interdependencies of all the activities. We call this the Full Production Analytics Stack. We have color coded where, for the most part, we often see the lines of demarcation drawn between IT and OT at companies when we start working with them. Traditionally, IT and OT have worked fairly independently in the oil and gas industry, defining their goals and objectives for success independently.

Typical OT and IT Responsibilities

OT is typically responsible for what happens in the field, such as automated control systems, communications, field data capture, SCADA, and alarming. OT people want to have control of the hardware and software in the field so they can directly manage their alarms and automation. They are the ones expected to quickly respond to production problems and HSE events. When a company wants to do analytics, they soon realize that the setup in the field is not optimal for collecting the kind of data needed to build real-time models. Automation settings usually bind equipment to behave only one way when they reach a threshold and aren’t configured more flexibly to take advantage of model predictions.

IT focuses on the database housing side of SCADA and makes sure that this data is easy to access and understand in a company. They are the experts that make the data circulate to make better decision-making possible. Similar to OT, when a company has analytics ambitions, what they optimize for in IT will change. In addition to data security and database reliability, IT has to broaden its objectives with an eye to connect and ensure data quality across the entire company. They also will want to focus on how analytical insights will be understood and used by the field.  

The most important takeaway is that a Full Production Analytics Stack requires OT and IT to get on the same page when it comes to priorities and objectives. We often see these two departments narrowly optimizing within their scope rather than working toward the goals of creating their analytics engine.

Analytics requires a bottom-to-top integration of activities. If just one layer or activity is not done well then true gains from an analytics initiative will never happen. When IT and OT work separately, an analytics program will never get past the starting gate.

Start with data quality in order to begin paving the way toward IT-OT convergence in oil and gas  

If a company wants to gain more real-time insights from its data and analytics, its data collection and quality assurance processes have to be precisely engineered. What OT does and how they do it determine the timeliness, granularity, and quality of the data that feeds much of the analytical model building process. The accuracy and usefulness of analytical insights can only be as good as the data feeding them.

This means IT must get more involved with what goes on in OT. OT has to work with IT to adjust its hardware and communications so timely, analytics ready data can be collected. Then IT must pool and clean data from all other sources in a company, including financial and third-party data. Machine learning reaps the greatest results when every potential input and outcome variable can be analyzed in one source. This puts the ever-growing haystack of data together so the needles can be found.

OT’s ability to make significant gains in production and the bottom line for the company depend on IT making real-time insights, such as problem detection and diagnosis, actionable across the entire company. User-friendly software interfaces and reliable mobile phone capability are key to company-wide adoption. Production and economic gains depend on people in the field getting real-time information and taking action at the exact right moment to stop a problem before it happens, perform maintenance before a failure, or alter settings at the ideal time to optimize output.

To complete the transformation to a data-driven company, OT needs to clearly define protocols for taking action and ensure those are logged in the software. The analytics engine will only get smarter if who did what and when is always captured so the models can assess the impact of the changes and learn from them.

What this all amounts to is that analytics requires extremely close interdependence between IT and OT. If even just one part of the analytics stack is not done well, the results will be seriously compromised.  

eLynx’s Full Production Analytics Stack seamlessly combines IT and OT

We are an organization that originated to serve Operations Teams with an Information Technology solution. We were the first and still one of the only companies in oil and gas to perfect the full-service SCADA solution. In order to deliver the results for hundreds of customers, we had to overcome the difficult challenge of IT-OT integration ourselves. This also makes us one of the best to help our customers overcome this challenge.

eLynx Analytics can help integrate IT and OT

The eLynx solution includes all functions of the Full Production Analytics Stack. We are the only company in oil and gas that has built this beginning-to-end analytics capability. Customers can choose to use our entire solution or plug in the exact pieces they need to move forward in their march toward analytical payoff.

Our expert IT and OT professionals work hand-in-hand with each other and with IT and OT executives and personnel at our partner companies. This is one of the biggest reasons we get results so quickly. We have the entire capability ready to go and know how to break down barriers in an organization.

Our team knows how to break down the barriers at every level

We understand the needs and priorities of both departments of your organization. Our experience working with so many teams in the industry means that we have likely encountered an organization much like yours. One of the first steps we take is to help IT and OT understand why analytics will require them to converge in important ways. We then help them clearly define their unique and essential roles in transforming their company through data.

We quickly build trust with both teams because our OT endorsed solution always meets modern IT standards. Our software and security standards are always up to date, while we have developed reliable alarm strategies that field personnel rely on with the utmost confidence.

eLynx provides an OT solution that meets modern IT standards

By bridging the divide between your two teams with our product and service offerings, we will help your organization rapidly transform. The payoff of your analytics program is directly tied to how quickly and effectively you can overcome the IT-OT challenges in your company.

Contact us to learn more about how eLynx can help you achieve your analytics goals.

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Ryan Richison
Ryan joined eLynx as CIO in 2018. Ryan values the development and delivery of strong analytics products. He is currently focused on learning all he can about the product and the people that support it—with the goal of ensuring that eLynx continues to deliver a great customer experience as it prepares for growth.

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