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What Is a Digital Twin of an Organization?


The need to innovate and continuously change is a necessary survival skill for enterprises. How your organization executes that change is something that is unique to your organization. Keeping in touch with the newest ways of implementing change can be overwhelming, given that there are always new enterprise architecture trends vying for your attention. One that is particularly interesting to EA professionals is the digital twin of an organization (DTO)

A DTO is a dynamic software model of any organization. It relies on data to understand how an organization operationalizes its business model, connects with its current state, responds to changes, deploys resources, and delivers expected customer value.

Learn how this emerging trend aligns with your organization’s future plans.

Enterprise Architecture and Business Transformation

IT has changed from being a support function to the basis on which business operates. All companies — whether they realize it or not — are also IT companies. This digitalization has provided huge improvements in terms of automated operations and customer interactions for these companies. It has also caused increased competition, and disruption occurs more readily. 

In this environment, time to execution is key. Rapid execution isn’t just about the speed. It’s about understanding the consequence of change as quickly as possible so that decision-makers can make good decisions. Organizations always have more innovative ideas than execution capacity. Decision-makers need certainty around the consequence of change and what the business benefits are. They need to know who needs to be involved and how long it will take. The impact and ripple effects of that change also need to be considered. Enterprise architects can answer these questions quickly and accurately to support business agility and rapid innovation.

Digital Twin of an Organization 

A digital twin of an organization is about including relevant, dynamic, and operational data on the slower-changing structural data of traditional business, application, and technology architecture. Gartner introduced DTO in 2017, but the concept of digital twins emerged from the manufacturing and production industry over 15 years ago. Its purpose is to create a virtual representation of a physical product or system. The virtual representation is fully integrated with the physical product so that it stays up-to-date, and any changes in the virtual counterpart are reflected in the physical system. The purpose is to allow detailed analysis to be performed on the virtual counterpart without disturbing the original. 

DTO applies the digital twin concept to IT management, enterprise architecture, and design. Augmenting conventional enterprise architecture models with situational awareness information supports improved enterprise decisions.

The operational data in a DTO is concerned with how the company performs as a system. For starters, it asks how many projects are ongoing and where they overlap. It’s not about traditional BI or analytics such as tracking the number of new orders or customers per day.

Gartner’s original article provides 12 examples that can be resolved by combining this type of operational data with traditional enterprise architecture models. 

These use cases are: 

  • Enterprise performance
  • Digital business
  • Customer experience
  • Demand-driven value network
  • Business process management
  • Manufacturing
  • Business moments
  • Business process outsourcing 
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Risk management 
  • Program portfolio management
  • Business capabilities 

DTO as an Enterprise Architecture Trend

The key here is that the digital twin of an organization provides a continuous feedback loop between traditional enterprise architecture (EA) models and the operational data of the organization. One of the major roles of EAs is to support the continuous change process in the organization. The EA needs to combine both the traditional architecture models with information such as: 

  • Which teams are involved in a proposed change project
  • How long the project will take to execute
  • What the current priorities for transformation are
  • How proposed projects link to overarching strategies and objectives
  • The anticipated benefits and when will they be realized
  • The costs of implementing the change
  • The opportunity cost or cost-of-delay if no change is made

Architects need to combine the traditional, structural architecture information with operational information to deliver these changes. Done continuously, this shortens the time-to-decision that is needed in an agile organization. Decision-makers need help, not just with where a change will impact but when that change can occur and what alternatives get them to market more quickly. This combination of structural and operational information is what we mean by DTO. 

For example, a digital tool for enterprise architecture can be used to indicate where proposed change projects will impact the enterprise architecture and identify the teams that need to be involved. An EA tool with survey functionality is also useful and can be broadcast to team owners to update lead-time and estimated duration for their part of the initiative. Timelines can then be generated to show when initiatives can be delivered and enable discussion about adjustments that can be made to get to market earlier.  

Another example use case for the digital twin of an organization is to compare actual, measured benefits with estimates that were used during ideation and prioritization. Integrating external measurement systems, such as analytics and time-reporting, can allow you to identify actual idea benefit realization and use that feedback to improve your prioritization process.

Other initiatives, such as the Intersection Group, are also promoting the combination of organizational, business, and IT views more strongly than has traditionally been done. One of the main goals of EA is to support high-quality, quick decisions for portfolio and change management processes. Combining this dynamic operational data with the enterprise architecture data helps to make those decisions. 

A digital twin of an organization improves traditional enterprise architectural models. It allows for detailed analysis which in turn improves enterprise decisions. The idea is that it can increase efficiency, maximize optimization, and reduce risks. The potential of DTO is enormous, and it’s a trend that we see sticking around.



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