Monday, March 13, 2023

Navigating the Digital Twin Market

Digital Twins have become a mainstay of digital transformation initiatives everywhere.  For the past five years, technology companies have been sharpening their messaging on digital twins, explaining how digital twins will revolutionize your business processes, and touting the mastery of their digital twin platforms.  But are all digital twins created equal?  How do you compare them all?  How do you get started?

The sheer number of companies involved in the digital twin market is accelerating innovation and propelling the industry forward.  While that presents tremendous potential it also presents opportunities for misinformation and market confusion. Not all digital twins are created equal and each software product takes a different view of the problem being solved.

Instead of evaluating vendors and comparing products A, B, and C, I recommend a bottom-up approach led by you, the customer.

Digital twins should be driven by use cases and allow you to decide how you want to view information. This five-step digital twin checklist will help you evaluate whether you’re looking at a digital twin or whether you need a digital twin.

1.Start with a single use case

Ask yourself, “what problem do I need to solve with this digital twin?” Perhaps you want to decrease design time or reduce build time. Maybe you want several systems to interact to improve your campus security. Digital Twin use cases should have a goal and expected value returns. Once you have a foundational digital twin identified, the more use cases and value you can derive from the same digital twin. They key is to start small and build along the way. Digital twins start with a single use case that should be driven by you, not by a vendor.

  1. Identify the data you want to aggregate

Once you have your use case, you’ll need to identify all systems relevant to achieving that business improvement. You may need to acquire another piece of software or hardware to achieve your goals, or perhaps you already have more than you need. There are often many ways to optimize what you already have without adding more and more software applications.

  1. Discover your data sources, whether from one or many vendors

Your data sources may be all from the same vendor or you might have software from several. Data needs to be untethered from software and allowed to flow as needed. This flow of data helps enable the Digital Thread. A tip to achieving this is to set data standards for the creation and integration of the data into the digital twin. A digital twin will work to serve you the right data at the right time to make the decisions you need, or to run what-if scenarios about your options.

  1. Display data the way you want

A digital twin solution will allow you to decide which data is most important. You will decide your KPIs and how you want to see information. Your business processes and how you need to evaluate data will drive your dashboards. As you see, the key theme is that you are in the driver’s seat.

  1. Test decisions before you make them

Most leaders we talk to would love a crystal ball to see the impact of decisions before they are made. In many ways, a digital twin is that crystal ball. What-if scenarios offer you a peek into the impact of decisions and where downstream you’ll see the most gains and/or losses.

Get Started

This checklist can drive any digital twin initiative you may be embarking upon.  As you evaluate solutions, ensure that you can answer each of the items.  Although the checklist is simple, these are not simple projects.  The first thing to do to get started is evaluate your priorities.  In most cases, you may have the systems you need already, but need help creating a roadmap and understanding what is possible. In some ways, the limitation of digital twins is your imagination.

Digital twin initiatives are typically complex, multi-system, multi-year projects. Once you lay out your gaps and identify your priorities, a roadmap can create clear milestones and identify low-hanging fruit versus longer-term gains.

On a final note, I would also recommend incorporating change management into your project.  One of the lessons we’ve learned working with large muti-national companies, that operate more like tankers than speedboats, is that change management should not be underestimated.  The most successful projects have several internal leadership champions, broad cross-functional support, and strong internal communication.

As you look to begin your next digital twin project, I hope this advice helps you wade through the hype and ensure that you set up your team for success.

About the author
Brett Moushon is the vice president of professional services for Gafcon Digital, a software-agnostic systems integrator for digital twins.  He is a senior executive with has over 25+ years of experience leading global companies in strategic initiatives and value realization. He has deep experience with various industries including Architect/Engineering/Construction, Global Manufacturing, Media & Entertainment, and Energy.