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Don’t Force Information Technology (IT) to Manage What IT Can’t – Let OT Handle Its Own Operations

January 29, 2024
IT and OT

IT vs OT

Informational Technology (IT) encompasses the tools and processes used to manage electronic data and IT systems, including software version tracking and upgrades, vulnerability tracking, cloud mapping, and more.

Operational Technology (OT) is the integration of hardware and software for monitoring and controlling physical devices and processes. OT focuses on infrastructure and environmental systems that support physical operations such as fire safety, plumbing, HVAC, and cooling systems.

A large multi-tenant data center operator initially invested in ServiceNow aiming for a unified platform to manage its IT services and infrastructure assets. While ServiceNow excelled in handling IT service management (ITSM), challenges arose when integrating mission-critical infrastructure assets into the system.

Challenge

As the organization began to input data related to infrastructure assets (often referred to as “grey space” elements), they encountered significant hurdles. The unique requirements of managing these critical assets—encompassing specific workflows, approval processes, and asset management needs—were not readily accommodated by the standard ServiceNow functionalities.

ServiceNow Customization Demands

To adapt ServiceNow to their OT needs, the organization found itself requiring extensive customizations to jury-rig a platform that still didn’t meet their needs. This included:

Continuous Development

Continuous Development

The hiring of 2-3 full-time ServiceNow developers focused solely on customizing the platform to handle specific requirements of infrastructure asset management.

Dedicated Quality Assurance

Dedicated Quality Assurance

Deployment of dedicated QA resources to ensure that these customizations did not disrupt the existing IT service management processes.

Increased Costs

Increased Costs

An additional financial burden of $300,000 to $500,000 per year was incurred, dedicated to customizations and maintenance.

ITSM can't do what MCIM does for OT

Insight

The organization realized that ITSM tools like ServiceNow and mission-critical infrastructure management (MCIM) tools cater to fundamentally different user groups with distinct needs:

  • ITSM Tools: Primarily designed for IT professionals to manage information technology services.
  • MCIM Tools: Tailored for operations personnel managing physical infrastructure critical to the business’s core operations.

Solution

Transitioning operational management to MCIM, specifically designed for the purpose, while leveraging its superior integration capabilities to feed necessary information back into ServiceNow. This approach aimed to:

  • Eliminate Continuous Customization: By using a tool specifically designed for managing mission-critical facilities, the need for ongoing customizations in ServiceNow was removed.
  • Reduce Costs: Eliminating the high costs associated with customizing and maintaining a non-specialized tool for specialized tasks.
  • Mitigate Operational Risk: Using a specialized tool like MCIM reduces the risk associated with using a generalized platform for specialized tasks.
  • Prevent Data Integrity Issues: Prevents the accrual of “bad data” and technical debt, ensuring cleaner, more reliable data handling.

Results

By adopting MCIM for managing their mission-critical infrastructure, the organization significantly streamlined their operations. They achieved a reduction in annual costs, minimized the risk of data errors, and enhanced overall operational efficiency. This strategic separation of IT and operations management underscored the importance of selecting the right tool for specific tasks, underscoring that while integration is valuable, specialization cannot be overlooked.

Conclusion

This case study exemplifies the critical need for organizations to understand the distinct roles of ITSM and MCIM platforms. Leveraging MCIM for operational tasks in mission-critical environments not only optimizes performance but also significantly reduces unnecessary expenditures and enhances data integrity and security.

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