Building your business case
So, how do you build a business case for your digital twin, and make sure you make the right decisions?
The first step is to ensure that there is an aligned understanding of what a digital twin should be, as outlined above. That means not just thinking of it as a technology investment, but a new, transformational concept that enables your organisation or society to adapt its physical environment and operating model, using the power of data and digital technology.
With this mindset, I see organisations starting their digital twin journey from three perspectives:
At an organisational level:
You can build a digital transformation program with clear ambitions and goals, detailed roadmaps, robust governance and informed investments. Methodologies, like the business transformation and enterprise architecture frameworks developed by Novius, a recently acquired company by Royal HaskoningDHV, have been proven to be supportive in developing these programs.
At an operational level:
You start with specific use cases to explore what a digital twin can do, often working in small experiments resulting in a proof of concepts before upscaling.
From an asset life cycle perspective:
You can embed digital twinning and related technology already in the design processes to ensure that next to a physical asset, the digital twin is operational when you start using the asset
Whatever perspectives you’re starting from, in the end, will need to come together and this way gradually building an ecosystem of digital twins.
In this journey and to build a solid business case, the identification of the areas – so-called use cases - where a digital twin would add the most value is key.
Often use cases around dynamic, fast-changing environments are most relevant, where the actionable insights and predictive and prescriptive powers of a twin can be hugely important.
Cost vs. benefit
Once you have established and evaluated the potential benefits of these use cases, you need to weigh each project’s potential value against the costs of data acquisition and technological investment.
Part of the cost assessment is to understand if you can deploy existing solutions, like algorithms, or if you’ll need to create customised solutions for your use case.
At Royal HaskoningDHV Digital, we’ve been creating these algorithms for the last 25 years around specific use cases like wastewater treatment, traffic management, crowd management, and logistics. But, in other more specific cases, and where there are no ‘off the shelf’ solutions available, we’ve collaborated with domain experts (like energy, safety, water, or logistics), enterprise architects, data engineers and data scientists to create bespoke alternatives.
This use case assessment can be complex and shouldn’t be done in isolation. Depending on the perspective, it should be aligned with the relevant strategic planning and investment agenda. For example, integrating your digital twin in the capital expenditure of your assets can help to realise synergies and optimise the business case.
Prioritising the use cases is a key step to build a roadmap for your digital twinning. But it’s also important to take factors like interoperability, security, and data governance into account. Since, for a digital twin to provide the most value in the long run, it shouldn’t operate as an independent entity. Ultimately, you want to gradually build an ecosystem of digital twins that feed into each other and provide exponential rewards.
Therefore, an important element to take into account is the top-level decisions and guiding principles about how to store, manage and govern data – and which data standards to apply to ensure an ecosystem is effective.
As this ecosystem grows, continually analysing and optimising the results is an essential part of its continuous improvement.
Ultimately, this ecosystem can eventually even be extended across multiple organisations, helping you to add more value by partnering with others in your industry – or adjacent ones.