Peter Curtis, Digital Twin Service Owner at Sopra Steria
The Digital Twinispoised to bethe next frontier in business intelligence. In its simplest form, itis avirtual replica of a real-world entity such as an asset, product, process, or environment, which can be used to model and monitor performance, as well assimulate ‘what if’ scenarios.
And there are many benefits for using Digital Twins – from cutting costs andreducing time to market for new products, to boosting sustainability and supporting predictive maintenance.In fact,KPMGoutlines that organisations can achieve a 6:1 return on investment from Digital Twin implementation.
However, a lack of digital maturity and understanding on how to get to that point will hold some organisations back from embracing Digital Twins and achieving such benefits. Of course, it can be argued that digital maturity is more of a continuous process than an end-goal, but organisations must have the right data and digital foundation in place tostand any chance of implementing Digital Twins successfully. Here are four areas to focus on to reach this:
- Outline strategic goals
A Digital Twin is essentially an umbrella term for a digital strategy. And not having a clear picture about how investmentin digital will benefit the business is often the first hurdle in an organisation’s quest to reach digital maturity.Leadersmust therefore first consider their business aspirations before implementing anything– what do youwant to achieve, what are yourkey goals?
No matter whether you’re aiming to increase business profitability or reduce costs, the Digital Twin is – at a basic level – the strategy that will then support youto reach yourgoals. Only once this is defined,are you able tothen work backwards and figure outthe work needed to underpin anytransformation. If you don’t start by mapping action against strategic goals, then Digital Twins will likely remain an ineffective buzzword rather than driving valuable change.
- Identify and understand business data
It’s a mistake to think that implementing a Digital Twin is a huge undertaking that will require the overhaul of technologies and processes. Fundamentally, so long asthe business has data, and that data is captured, stored in an information managementsystem,and understood by all, then you have the right foundation to get started. However, ultimately, a Digital Twin can only be successful if it is fed by the right data. And that is not only down to information management systems – it requires the workforce being able to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information. In other words, they need to be data literate.
Withthe UK on the verge of a digital skills disaster, however, some business leaders may find that they’ll need to upskill their employees in this area. This will require the full backing of the C-level and a top-down leadershipapproach to encourage a data-driven culture that’s engrained across the company. As the saying goes, you can have all the gear but no idea – andorganisations that upskill their employees indata will be the ones capableof bringing advanced concepts such as Digital Twins to fruition and reaping the benefits.
- Develop proof of value
Implementation of a Digital Twin should not be rushed– instead you must demonstrate proof of value, which aligns with a business goal. This means starting with a small project that doesn’t require too much expenditure and building it in such a way that it can be scaled should it be successful.This will enable the business toevaluate whether the use-case is strong enough to warrant acompanywide strategy and sets the foundations for road mapping quick wins across the company. It also limits investment into a strategy that doesn’t work.
- Continuous improvement
Digital maturity is not a tick box exercise – it is continuous. Leaders must constantly evaluate business competencies against itsdigital needs and invest in the necessarytechnology and skillsets to evolve. Ideally, organisations should set up small scrum teams that are responsible forpropellingdigital strategies forward and ensuring the business continues to generate the right data for Digital Twins to run optimally. It’s also worth engaging withthird parties that are at the forefront of changing technology trends and that have the expertise to support change management within the business.
Because “Digital Twin” is synonymous with being the latest enterprise buzzword, implementation may seem daunting. However, we must remember it is essentially just another name for a digital strategy. So long as your company is at a level of digital maturity that’s capable of capturing, storing, and understandingdata that’s aligned to and supports your business goals, you’llbe on the right path for delivering an effective Digital Twin strategy.Leaders musttherefore ensure they have the right platforms,peopleand partners in place to take Digital Twins from concept to successful implementation that will deliver long-lasting benefits.