The Digital Twin Organization: Can Enterprise Architecture Help?

One of the more interesting developments in the tech space taking place right now is the emergence of digital twin technology. For those of you asking What is a digital twin? right now, allow us to elaborate. 

What is a Digital Twin? 

A digital twin, as per Gartner, is “a digital representation of a real-world entity or system”. More exactly, digital twin technology provides the ability to create a virtual representation that accurately simulates (hence twin) both the physical components as well as the dynamics and behavior of how an Internet of Things device performs and functions throughout the entire duration of its lifecycle. This is achieved by collecting and interpreting vast datasets from deployed sensors in order to realize the desired sameness between the real-world element and its duplicate.  

Digital twin technology has been in use in the aerospace industry for some time now. However, it’s only recently became a major development thanks to the advent of the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. The main benefits in a traditional (read equipment/hardware-oriented) deployment include: 

  • Gaining insights into operational inefficiencies 
  • Prolonging the lifespan of equipment through better stewardship, i.e., preventive maintenance, ongoing parameter optimization 
  • Minimizing downtime 
  • Using the operational data to inform research and development, resulting in superior future designs and implementations 

Almost anything you can think of can have a digital twin – an office building, a water filtration system, footwear, your cat etc. So, the question that naturally arises is – why not the enterprise?  

Realizing the Digital Twin of the Organization with Enterprise Architecture & the BiZZdesign Suite 

The Digital Twin of the Organization is a concept created by Gartner. Quite simply, it is predicated on using a digital representation of an organization (its business model, strategies etc.) to better plan and execute a business transformation initiative. The whole idea behind the digital twin concept, and the reason why it is so useful, is that it offers a virtual model that can be analyzed and tweaked more easily than the real thing. The new insights and efficiencies you uncover this way can in turn be used to improve the organization.  

Model is the key word here. Models are massless, frictionless, virtually free, reusable, and – importantly – they are also the lifeblood of enterprise architecture. Thus, EA is by default positioned to play a key part in taking the Digital Twin of the Organization from concept to reality. We have been arguing the importance of a model-based approach to business change for quite some time on this blog, now it seems the future is starting to catch up. Let us have a more detailed look at how exactly EA helps, and offer some examples based on the BiZZdesign suite. In a recent blog post, we already outlined the power of this combination of structure and data to realize “BI 2.0”. The Digital Twin of the Organization builds on that. 

Digital Representation 

Having a virtual representation of the organization is the first requisite for a DTO initiative. You need to see your enterprise landscape if you are going to optimize it. This first requirement is fully answered by Enterprise Studio, our collaborative business design platform. Enterprise Studio offers powerful, integrated modeling across multiple disciplines (EA, Business Process Management, Business Model & Strategy and others), as well as all the capabilities needed for seamlessly planning and executing meaningful organizational change. 

Thanks to its intuitive modeling interface, users can build an accurate representation of the enterprise across all relevant levels – Strategy, Business, Applications, Infrastructure. What’s more, it supports Capability-based planning, which enforces a business outcome-oriented mindset and helps to focus the company’s resources on delivering actual business value. It is even possible to go beyond the confines of the organization and model the wider ecosystem in which it functions – for instance, things like suppliers, regulatory constraints, as well as customers and their behavior.  

Using advanced customer journey maps in Enterprise Studio you can help unlock the value in your products and services by highlighting areas where customer interaction can be optimized to increase customer satisfaction. All these features and more are available in an easily-navigable environment that lets you move across models and drill down on desired artifacts with ease. This facilitates modeling and ensures a steady level of progress during complex projects such as a Digital Twin Organization implementation. 

Strategy to Operations Alignment 

Of course, having the digital representation of the enterprise is only the first step. Making an organization more effective and efficient is about finding opportunities for improvement and carrying them out without disrupting the business.  

This is where having a clear model framework to integrate and make sense of operational data comes in really handy. Enterprise Studio features support for an extensive range of standards and frameworks, including ArchiMate, TOGAF, BPMN, NIST 800-53, Open FAIR and many others. Access to high-quality guidance, support and best practice examples means you do not have to reinvent the wheel and can instead focus on your objectives without petty distractions along the way. 

Another one of Enterprise Studio’s stand-out features is its powerful analysis engine. Cutting through complexity in pursue of internal coherence and agility requires strong analytical tools with which to uncover opportunities for optimization (be it for business process improvement, or application rationalization etc.). The platform offers users access to a vast selection of analyses. These are an important component of the ‘tweaking’ aspect of the Digital Twin of the Organization, since they help with getting new, valuable insights.  

Without going into too much detail, the platform supports impact analysis, dependency analysis, process analysis, lifecycle analysis, as well as financial analysis to name but a few. Enterprise architects or other affiliated roles can also execute SWOT, PESTEL, and Porter’s 5 Forces analyses, and a range of other ones, scorecard-related or otherwise.  

Integrate, Consolidate and Operationalize Data 

Finally, since having a reliable image of the organization means access to (near) real-time data, to ensure the ‘twin’ quality of the model(s), the BiZZdesign platform integrates some state-of-the-art technology to enable you the highest agility, flexibility and productivity on the market. HoriZZon is our cutting-edge collaboration and publication portal, a key component of any DTO initiative. 

HoriZZon can be seen through two lenses. On one hand, it is a fantastic tool for disseminating information across the enterprise and socializing content to all the relevant stakeholder groups in the right format. Its data analysis along with its dashboarding and reporting capabilities are powered by Kibana technology (part of the Elastic Stack), making it a crucial tool for operationalizing data, i.e., getting people to engage with and act upon it. Since enterprise architects do not run the business by themselves, their work needs to be easily understood by management and other business-side stakeholders. HoriZZon makes socializing architectural content very straightforward thanks to the visually rich outputs that instantly communicate findings to audiences. As such, it increases the likelihood and speed of making informed, constructive decisions, which has a long-term positive effect on the business. 

On the other hand, HoriZZon’s high connectivity and integration capabilities, already mentioned in our earlier blog post, allow it to act like a hub. Its Kafka component allows extremely fast data streaming, which makes it a desirable platform for consolidating data from third party tools (for instance, Business Intelligence tools, CMDBs, IT Service Management tools, process mining etc.). Having a portal that features a live image of the organization and presenting insights in the form of signature-ready deliverables brings to life the idea behind Gartner’s Digital Twin of the Organization. It places decision makers in front of a reliable representation of the enterprise and lets them immediately influence the real-life direction of the company and/or the way things are done. Whether it be updating the business model due to new regulation, removing inefficiencies from business processes, or cutting investment from areas that do not support the end business goals, decision makers can carry out real change to the business they run by using this digital model the same way engineers would change the parameters of a water pump in a traditional, industrial digital twin setting. 

Conclusion 

Of course, working to realize the digital twin of your organization is a complex endeavor that requires a powerful platform behind it and a fairly high level of EA maturity. Nonetheless, considering the advantages it stands to deliver, enterprise architects would be well advised to do their due diligence and explore this concept for all that it could bring to their organizations. Done correctly, it can generate meaningful returns, and contribute to the creation of a competitive advantage. 

The BiZZdesign suite is a leading EA platform that offers market-leading modeling, analytics, and data integration capabilities. To see how it can help you realize the digital business of tomorrow, please get in touch today! 


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