Digital Twins: What they are and why every IT leader should know about them
As IoT, digital modeling and data analytics become increasingly powerful, more companies are using digital twin technology to improve the efficiency, reliability and functionality of processes and systems. The technology is becoming one of the most popular new trends of 2017, named one of Gartner’s top 10 strategic technologies of the new year. Used for prediction, quality analysis, design and maintenance, these solutions have had a major impact on the way companies do business. The solutions are so effective, even organizations like NASA are using it to design, build and test mission critical equipment for spaceflight. By allowing them to work on expensive equipment in a digital environment, digital twins help to cut costs and improve reliability and safety. But what are digital twins and how can you use them to make the business more effective?
What is a digital twin?
A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical process, system or service. The term was coined by GE to describe a new line of products, however the category has grown to include a wide range of digital blueprint technologies. By using IoT sensors, physics data and advanced modeling, it is possible to analyze a physical object digitally, predict potential problems, find ways to improve efficiency, and test how it will respond to changing real world conditions. They represent the next evolution in modeling, allowing technicians, process managers, and other skilled professionals to work on systems, even when they aren’t physically present.
How can I use them to drive business goals?
Digital twin technology represents a major leap from traditional monitoring, modeling and analytics capabilities. The ability to fully model a physical thing digitally can have many implications for the real world, allowing organizations to design better solutions, operate more efficiently and work collaboratively.
Improved collaboration – In the past, each group would have its own data set and lack the ability to coordinate on problems effectively. With digital twins, people all across the organization can have the same access to a realistic digital model at every stage of the product life cycle. This allows companies to harness the full power of their resources to solve problems and create innovative solutions.
Improve system reliability – With unprecedented access to system conditions and
predictive modelling, technicians can identify problems before they occur. This makes systems and processes more reliable than ever.
Foster innovation – Digital twins allow product and systems designer to explore various scenarios, tweak variables and test conditions with the click of a button. This allows for unprecedented innovation and the ability to test new ideas while lowering product development costs.
More data is more insight – Digital twins allow companies to fully exploit the data they collect from IoT sensors. Every new minute of operational data will provide greater insight into the model and allow users to more effectively design, test and monitor physical assets in digital space.
Digital twins represent a revolution in system and process monitoring, design and collaborative work. With the technology’s ability to allow users across the organization to accurately model the inner workings of physical things, it is possible to dramatically reduce costs and create new, better solutions in areas that before were impossible. This is one of the most significant implications of the IoT revolution and will likely continue to grow in importance in the coming years.
Better Business Relationship Management –
Reconfiguring a Multi-Billion Dollar Pharmaceutical Company’s BRM Function to Drive Business Value
WGroup was recently contracted to help a major pharmaceutical company re-engineer its business relationship management (BRM) function. The role was originally designed to be strategic in nature, where the BRMs and the business would collaborate to use technology to generate revenue, but instead the BRMs were reduced to a role of order takers for IT. As a result, the business did not see any real value created by the BRMs, and did not view them as technology leaders or peers.
Through our engagement, the client reorganized the group from a 30 person BRM team to a 10 person team of BRM professionals with much more experience. The new team was able to gain the trust of business leaders to deliver on their strategic needs, and were actually viewed as peers of the business unit presidents. This, coupled with a better governance approach created a BRM unit that was better aligned with business goals and delivered real value to the company.
The problem with traditional BRM
In order to understand how we at WGroup were able to successfully re-engineer our client’s BRM unit, it is important to understand the many problems with traditional BRM. Too often, BRM professionals fall into the trap of order taking versus advising and not serving as strategic minded ambassadors between IT and the business, but as redundant order fulfillers. These kinds of BRM professionals are constantly running back and forth between business units and IT, trying to satisfy demands while only giving limited thought to how to improve processes or drive business goals. This way of doing BRM often creates more work for the overly taxed IT department without adding more value to the business.
What effective BRM looks like
The right people for BRM roles don’t just do paperwork and take IT requests from business units. They should be constantly thinking of new ways to leverage IT to drive business results. This helps develop trusted relationships between the business and IT while improving efficiency and lowering costs.
It is not always necessary to assemble a new team of BRMs. Retraining is possible with your existing resources if you have business minded technologists who can be peers to business leadership.
In order to gain credibility as an advisor to the business, BRM leaders have to completely understand business needs. IT is ultimately about delivering the tools and solutions that the business units need to generate more revenue and lower costs, and BRM professionals should be the ones to connect the dots and work with both parties to develop effective solutions using technology.
BRM is an invaluable function in the modern enterprise. Unfortunately, many companies aren’t doing it right. By not placing enough emphasis on business goals and hiring people without strategic forces, neither the IT group nor the business’s needs are met. They’re left with BRM units that don’t deliver value. If you get it right, BRM can go a long way to improving communication between IT and the business and driving better business results.
In order to optimize the speed of IT transformation, it is important to first understand the obstacles that keep things slow. By identifying problem areas and taking steps to address them, companies can more successfully implement changes that improve the speed at which IT operates.
Lack of foresight – Perhaps the greatest obstacle of speed in IT is simply a lack of foresight. When leaders within IT and the company do not have the will to look beyond today, they are unable to plan for the future and keep their company at the cutting edge. This can manifest itself in several ways, including under-budgeting initiatives, failing to implement new ideas, and improperly allocating resources. It is extremely important that all stakeholders understand the importance of looking to the future and are willing to invest the necessary resources to properly implement changes.
Poor communication – Rapid IT requires organized communication among a wide range of individuals. Failing to ensure that all key players are on the same page and that there are predefined channels over which to communicate during the project will inevitably lead to problems. It is critical that IT leaders take steps to communicate their plans and ensure that everyone understands what the goals are, what needs to be done, and what everyone’s role is.
No buy-in from business – Some businesses don’t recognize the value of emerging IT developments. They believe that if it works now, it should keep working for the future. Unfortunately, this is simply not true and those companies that aren’t constantly working to improve their technology will fall behind. Lack of buy-in from business leaders can result in under-funded projects and many other problems down the road.
Technical debt – Ignoring technical debt today will only lead to major headaches later. Problems with outdated systems and software can cause security concerns, reliability issues, and many other difficulties. The longer the organization waits to address these problems, the more difficult it will be to do so and the more they will contribute to inefficiency and loss.
Security – Companies should not prioritize speed above security concerns. However, there are ways to transition rapidly without exposing systems and data to excessive risk. By ensuring that systems are up-to-date and implementing a structured transition plan that puts security first, companies can avoid issues while optimizing the speed to transition.
Physical Infrastructure – Although IT deals in digital information, it ultimately relies on real-world infrastructure to function, and that infrastructure takes a set amount of time to build out. This can be a major roadblock to rapidly rolling out new features and services.
In a future article, we’ll make recommendations for overcoming these obstacles. In the meantime, download the comprehensive white paper, Operate IT at the Speed of Business to learn more about the relationship between speed and transformation.
As companies continue to increase their strategic reliance on vendors, outsourced services and collaborative alliances, business leaders should “rethink” Vendor Management. In fact, the sheer number of vendors engaged in organizations of all sizes is projected to grow substantially, making it more difficult for traditional procurement organizations to manage. Thus it should be an important strategic imperative to establish a vendor management discipline through a best-in-class Vendor Management Office (VMO).
High-performing VMO’s are increasingly demonstrating their value in Fortune 100 companies as well as smaller organizations. Each is scaled in accordance with the organization’s objectives and needs, but the results are growing every day. Regardless of size, there are common objectives and measures to drive VMO effectiveness and best practices. They are:
Revenue enhancement / Increased margins
Optimized vendor performance & leverage
Reduction of run-rate expenses and budgeted capital expenditures
Governance Model ensuring: strategic alignment, value realization, portfolio management, Sponsorship and accountability, Risk management, VMO Process and Policy adoption
Achieving a successful VMO implementation requires a comprehensive approach and methodology engaging hundreds of processes, responsibilities, policies and tools and technologies, threaded together with newly collaborative vendor relationships. The degree of success is largely determined by the ability to bring all of this together in a best-in-class VMO that is tightly aligned with the company’s strategic and tactical business objectives.
By establishing and evolving an effective VMO, organizations can drive significant value from vendor relationships and serve a key role in the execution of business objectives. Additionally, VMOs with the components of a world-class vendor management function are able to help organizations achieve targeted business outcomes over the long-term.