Peter Curtis, Digital Twin Service Owner at Sopra Steria
The Digital Twin is poised to be the next frontier in business intelligence. In its simplest form, it is a virtual 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 as simulate ‘what if’ scenarios.
And there are many benefits for using Digital Twins – from cutting costs and reducing time to market for new products, to boosting sustainability and supporting predictive maintenance. In fact, KPMG outlines 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 to stand any chance of implementing Digital Twins successfully. Here are four areas to focus on to reach this:
1. Outline strategic goals
A Digital Twin is essentially an umbrella term for a digital strategy. And not having a clear picture about how investment in digital will benefit the business is often the first hurdle in an organisation’s quest to reach digital maturity. Leaders must therefore first consider their business aspirations before implementing anything – what do you want to achieve, what are your key 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 you to reach your goals. Only once this is defined, are you able to then work backwards and figure out the work needed to underpin any transformation. 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.
2. 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 as the business has data, and that data is captured, stored in an information management system, 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.
With the 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 leadership approach 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 – and organisations that upskill their employees in data will be the ones capable of bringing advanced concepts such as Digital Twins to fruition and reaping the benefits.
3. 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 to evaluate whether the use-case is strong enough to warrant a companywide strategy and sets the foundations for road mapping quick wins across the company. It also limits investment into a strategy that doesn’t work.
4. Continuous improvement
Digital maturity is not a tick box exercise – it is continuous. Leaders must constantly evaluate business competencies against its digital needs and invest in the necessary technology and skillsets to evolve. Ideally, organisations should set up small scrum teams that are responsible for propelling digital strategies forward and ensuring the business continues to generate the right data for Digital Twins to run optimally. It’s also worth engaging with third 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 understanding data that’s aligned to and supports your business goals, you’ll be on the right path for delivering an effective Digital Twin strategy. Leaders must therefore ensure they have the right platforms, people and partners in place to take Digital Twins from concept to successful implementation that will deliver long-lasting benefits.
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