It’s become a well-trodden phrase over the last few months – Covid has accelerated pre-existing business trends, with the shift to digital primary among them.
For decades now, businesses have been slowly building their digital infrastructures, leveraging technology to drive innovation, improve business agility, and streamline operations.
While most still haven’t realised the full potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), 2020 has acted as a galvanising force. It has spurred digital adoption to build resilience and the ability to monitor, diagnose and maintain operations remotely, in case of further shocks to the market.
Technology investment alone, however, is no longer enough – complete connectivity between, and visibility of, a facility, cybersecurity and physical security, sustainability, operational efficiency, and the workforce, is a necessity. Without it, the myriad of technological systems will prove ineffective, and decades of investment will be wasted.
This level of connectivity and understanding is difficult to achieve. Rapid changes in technology, budgetary challenges, a scarcity of talent, and the increasing frequency of seismic market events make navigating the new era of digitalisation incredibly challenging.
To improve cybersecurity, efficiency and sustainability and build long term resilience there are five key lessons:
Broaden and diversify internal initiatives
Cybersecurity, personal safety, and data security are clear priorities, but expertise across a broad spectrum of operational efficiency initiatives is equally essential.
Although some initiatives stand out as immediately compelling, the reality is that many are intertwined, making them equally important and challenging. An honest look at internal capabilities, external resources, and ways to leverage a combination of both is a good step toward tackling initiatives.
Decisions on whether to tackle initiatives with internal or external resources are often made with a broad brush—meaning that some companies fall into the “do it yourself” camp and others default to hiring a third-party services provider to handle. A better way to approach these decisions is to assess whether the in-house skills have the right level of expertise. Then determine whether the tasks are making the best use of internal skills. In many cases, internal roles can perform higher-value work if an outside services resource is leveraged.
Many perceive risk in hiring an outside firm because they fear this may result in layoffs. But in reality, a company’s health is often dependent upon having skill sets that aren’t in its core competency.
Connect facility and operational innovation with security
Physical security and data security are inextricably linked with facilities and operations management. As operating technologies are infused with connected products and digital platforms, the facilities and operations organisations become an integral part of cybersecurity and physical security.
Protecting the organisation requires adhering to strong processes. It also requires advanced expertise and the ability to continually revise these processes, which will challenge the limits of internal staff resources.
An organisation’s security depends upon including the firm’s facilities and operations management with the same level of rigor as its IT and communications infrastructure. For these digitally transformed environments, it is essential to include facilities and operations leadership in decisions that impact the physical aspects of the organisation. Often, services organisations can develop and maintain best-in-class processes to ensure security.
Implement technologies that facilitate flexible management
One of the key trends over 2020 has been reducing onsite numbers. Engaging with third-party services can raise the fear of bringing new people into the facility who could present risk.
Shifting to remote management will alleviate this. The growth of and expansion to new locations and the increasing digitalisation of facilities, as well as the move to remote working, will make managing them a lot different in the future. Consider new ways of managing that rely on data-driven decisions. Shifting to digital services is a major transition for organisations, especially mission-critical facilities that have built their reputations on their ability to protect physical facilities and ensure resilient operations.
As proactive and predictive maintenance technologies mature, they bear consideration as they have the potential to reduce or eliminate downtime. And when downtime does occur, operations can be restored much more quickly. Having trust in the provider that the technologies are secure is an important consideration.
Find common ground with internal roles
Different roles have very different perceptions of how difficult initiatives are. For example, C-suite executives were most concerned about security threats to their infrastructure, while procurement manager, director, and VP roles indicated challenges to improving environmental impact/sustainability and finding the right talent to service new technology implementations as key concerns.
Leveraging an external services provider can be helpful in making progress on shared goals.
Seek experienced, industry specific partners
It is critical that your partner understands trends and challenges for your industry and brings in the appropriate technology, process, and talent to augment your current talent and operations infrastructure. For every industry, there are unique challenges that can turn into obstacles if they aren’t well understood. Specific operational challenges, regulatory and compliance demands, and environmental conditions exist for each industry. A solution that is ideal for one organisation will not be viable for another. By using a partner that has a deep understanding of your industry and operations, it’s possible to speed time to value and avoid potential pitfalls by leveraging the collective learning of others.
About the Author
David Pownall is Vice President of Services, UK & Ireland at Schneider Electric. He is an Experienced Services Director with a demonstrated history of delivering customer value and business performance in the industrial automation industry. Skilled in Process Control, Operations Management, Sales, Control Systems Design, and SCADA.
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