Utility Week

Utility Week 17th April 2015

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24 | 17TH - 23RD APRIL 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets Market view I n many utilities' organisations, the chief information officer (CIO) is the person responsible for the company's IT systems. They have a vast estate of networks and data centres to look aer, delivering enter- prise applications and communications to staff across the business, from head office to contact centres and even customer-facing websites. Typically, they're responsible for cyber-security too, including pro- tecting sensitive customer data. It's a demanding and specialist role, but one that is set to change dramatically. According to new research in Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO, new pressures on the CIO are coming from all directions. In particular, participants in the research identified a significant increase of data coming into and through the organi- sation as a major challenge to their role (83 per cent). In addition, 81 per cent said the increasing implementation of cloud services was a force for change and 75 per cent pointed to demand from employees for access to the organisation's data when working away from the office. The emergence of big data in particular is creating challenges for the CIOs of utilities. In most industries, the CIO oversees all the organisation's IT systems. But in the utilities industry there are also separate industrial control systems, which operate pumps and valves, regulating temperature and pres- sure, managing flow, and so on. These sys- tems are run by engineers who traditionally work independently of their colleagues in IT. Increasingly, these systems are being net- worked to the rest of the business – in effect bringing a whole new world of data into the enterprise realm for the CIO to worry about. There are lots of benefits from connect- ing data from industrial control systems with wider business applications. It offers the board greater insight into the running of the business and gives them a better view of the status of service delivery. And for the CIO, it creates new opportu- nities to engage with their colleagues across the business, joining up pockets of data to unlock new value for the business. It's a timely development for CIOs and their companies, especially in the water industry, where deregulation is set to open up the market to more competition. Water firms will be increasingly looking to technol- ogy solutions built around big data to meet a ra of new challenges such as improving customer experience, as retention becomes a business driver for the first time. But there are new and heightened challenges too, particularly around secu- rity. Many industrial control systems sim- ply weren't designed with cyber-security in mind, unlike enterprise IT, which has evolved in a world of cyber threats. Indeed, in bringing together the world of enterprise IT and industrial control systems, great care needs to be taken because networking Scada devices to get management data can open them up to being hacked. And from the per- spective of a criminal, it's much less risky to tamper remotely with a water treatment plant, than to physically poison a reservoir. From the CIO's perspective, the conver- gence of industrial and enterprise IT systems will demand a complete rethink of the risk to their organisation's wider IT systems. CIOs will need to reconsider what needs to be protected, what the value of these assets are and create a list according to these priorities that will help them choose where to invest their time and resources. They also need to understand the growing volume of data and the value and sensitivity of the information it contains and decide on the priority of that. The CIO's strategic view across their organ- isation means they are in a good position to put in place solutions such as BT Assure Analytics, which draw together disparate data from across the business and allow analysts to visually integrate and analyse it to spot com- plex attacks. By introducing solutions such as this, CIOs can lead a joined-up approach to security across their organisation. In this new world, where data flows from industrial systems into the enterprise, the CIO could give the business a single view of its operations plus the ability to scale them up and down as necessary. Smart devices monitoring plant, people and processes are already start- ing to deliver continuous perfor- mance data, and this Internet of Things will also advance much needed auto- mation in the industry. Consolidating these new streams of data will need good connectivity and standards to make the boardroom dashboard a reality – something still hard to achieve practically when utilities' infrastructure is located in some remote places. So choosing the right technology partners will become increas- ingly important for CIOs, too. Interestingly, Art of Connecting finds that 96 per cent of senior IT decision-makers surveyed in the energy and resources sector say their technology partners are creative and 89 per cent agree that working with such vendors encourages creativity. But in real life, only 40 per cent actually approach vendors for creative solutions. There is huge scope for CIOs and vendors to collaborate more around innovation as the worlds of operational and enterprise IT come together. Even when the CIO's ideas are still half-formed, vendors can oen suggest an original way of using technologies to do what the business needs. With its complexity, scale and unique IT footprint, the utilities sector magnifies the challenges of CIOs everywhere. The danger is that if the CIO cannot keep up, then the organisation will find another way to do what it wants. But those CIOs who are ready to respond creatively to these opportunities will transform their career, their business and their industry. Simon Ormston, head of utilities, BT Global Services New data, new security needs The worlds of enterprise IT and industrial control are coming together, creating opportunities and threats for the CIOs of utilities. Simon Ormston explores the balance of risk and reward. "Many industrial control systems simply weren't designed with cyber-security in mind, unlike enterprise IT, which has evolved in a world of cyber threats"

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