IT and OT convergence: How enterprise architecture can help



By Dr. Gerald R. Gray

Electric Power Research Institute


Consider a situation where an organization decides to invest in Distribution Energy Resources (DER).   The support lines have blurred as operational assets become smarter and now use more technologies that were traditionally the domain of the back-office and supported by information technology (IT) experts. 


For example, in Figure 1 below, DER may be controlled by a management system (DERMS) but it also exchanges information with other back-office systems using various standard or proprietary-based means.  The systems integration may be the domain of IT, while the operation of DER is the domain of the operational technology (OT) people. 


As devices become smarter and require more IT-based support there is a growing convergence of IT and OT skill sets.  As one participant in a recent EPRI CIO Workshop rhetorically asked, "If a database administrator spends 80 percent of their time analyzing operational data, is that an IT job or an OT job?”


The challenges of convergence are as much cultural as they are technical.  However, an enterprise architecture practice can help deal with the issues of IT and OT convergence while also ensuring that smart grid efforts stay aligned with business strategy.  In the DER example, both IT and OT need to be included in determining what the requirements are, and which systems and standards might be used.


Example: DER architecture that may include various back-office, distribution management, control operations, DER and Demand Response management systems.

Enterprise architecture is an iterative methodology for developing architecture. A common analogy is that it is "city planning for IT.” However, this is somewhat of a misnomer because the methodology considers organizational vision, business architecture, as well as application, data and technology architecture one would expect in IT. Enterprise architecture complements but does not replace other methodologies such as Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), or project management. It can also be used in both waterfall or agile system development life cycle approaches.


The enterprise architecture approach is top-down driven which helps to make sure there is alignment with the organizational strategy, vision and business architecture, before evaluating any specific technologies. Enterprise architecture typically also uses a framework to guide the architecture development. There are several frameworks available including Zachman, The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), and frameworks in use by the U.S. government, including Department of Defense (DODAF) and Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF).


In recognition of the unique architecture needs of utilities, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is leading a Smart Grid Enterprise Architecture Interest Group as part of its IntelliGrid research program. This effort will focus on building a repository of smart grid related artifacts that utilities can reuse, such as data models, use cases and guiding principles, with contributions being made by some of the leading enterprise architects in the utility industry. This interest group is open to all utilities. More information is available here. This is also a key activity for the IntelliGrid program as noted in the 2012 Annual Review.


For more information about the interest group or the paper, please contact Dr. Gerald R. Gray at


Dr. Gerald R. Gray is Senior Project Manager, Utility Enterprise Architecture & Integration at the Electric Power Research Institute.


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