Digital disruption… or digital despair?

Six steps to digital twin success

Gartner defines digital disruption as ‘an effect that changes the fundamental expectations and behaviours in a culture, market, industry or process that is caused by, or expressed through, digital capabilities, channels or assets.’

  • Text:Shane McArdle and Haavard Oestensen

Is digital disruption good or bad? It’s a loaded question, and the answer will depend on who you’re asking – and who’s answering. Either way, we can see that digital twin technology in the energy industry is a disruptor. It’s not just a small tweak for the IT team, or a matter of downloading some new software. It’s a fundamental digital change that re-imagines how we work, and how the tools we use can work for us. There’s a fine balance between disruption and despair, though. How can you ensure that adopting a digital approach will deliver the business value expected, and not end in digital defeat? Here are six steps to make a digital twin adoption strategy succeed.

1. Think agile

As you get started with adopting a digital twin approach to move towards more autonomous operations, adopt an agile mindset and select agile partnerships for your digital transformation. Many companies approach digital transformation with a business-as-usual mindset, forcing new solutions onto old habits and ways of working that create blockages to transparency and information flows.

Build in learnings as you get started on your digital journey to unlock value faster. Implement a digital technology adoption roadmap and make small iterations as onboarding continues, ensuring that value can be propagated throughout the project with growth in every area. This encourages a culture of change and energizes people as they visibly see the momentum of growth that comes with digital twin technology when it becomes operational on a virtual replica of facility assets.

Try to move beyond the buzzword. Many companies are agile these days – but true implementation of agile working methods will require dedication and constant re-adjustment to reap the benefits.

2. Define your strategy

Often, there are big gaps between the executive level where new technology decisions are made and the execution level where these are implemented. To avoid this, companies need to have a strong vision and see a clear benefit to adopting a digital twin for their asset operations. Organizations need to be aligned with what a digital change will mean for future operations and need to ensure buy-in across all layers.

It's not enough to select a technology and try it out – rather, tools need to suit the long-term needs and goals of a company. They also need to be compatible on a strategic level, and flexible enough to integrate with existing toolsets.

As part of the strategy, come up with a cohesive vision that aligns digital adoption with operational efficiency. End-users need to see the benefit of new technologies from the beginning, and any digital adoption needs to be embedded as part of your profitability strategy.

3. Select a stable digital technology partner

Naturally, companies will have existing commitments to historical technological choices and existing tech stacks. While these are comfortable and offer stability, it might be time to reconsider. New technology can offer faster ROI and optimized operations with an openness and agility that could outweigh the value of standardization.

Then there’s the discussion of build vs. buy – companies today might have the capital to build their own digital twins instead of finding a digital tech partner that can do it for them. But is it worth it? Here are 3 key factors to consider when establishing your own digital twin. You might not always have the right capabilities in-house to embark on a new implementation journey, and cultural challenges can make it hard to achieve the agility that digital tech is supposed to offer. Aligning with a key industry partner that delivers a cutting-edge digital twin solution provides stability and support for companies that want to scale alongside technology and achieve higher degrees of autonomy.

4. Ensure a stellar end-user experience

End-user engagement is essential to digital twin adoption and ensuring that digital tools are merged into existing ways of working. It’s not easy to change the way you work – new tools can be difficult to understand, may hurt productivity, and can result in new technology shyness. That’s why companies need to move beyond nice-looking graphics and ensure that digital twin adoption is functional, intuitive, and drives business forward.

Give users a memorable experience by selecting technology that is user-centric and provides the ability to iterate functionality based on user feedback. This will minimize friction between the drivers and adopters of digital transformation, while engaging users and spreading positivity about digital twin usability and the benefits it offers.

5. Avoid the big data and AI hype

We know big data and artificial intelligence have potential, but these and other concepts such as Industry 4.0 and machine learning have become buzzwords in the industry. How can digital transformation move beyond buzzwords? When adopting a digital twin with machine learning capabilities, companies need to ensure that their expectations are in line with what is achievable. This can be done by managing the way that machine learning is built into the digital twin. For example, hybrid machine learning is a great enabler for companies to input synthetic data and build robust machine learning models that provide reliable data and realistic simulation capabilities.

Push past the hype to understand where data can be applied, the potential value it holds, and how it can benefit your digital strategy. Ensure that you have the right resources and partners in place – those with digital and industry knowledge that will remain engaged throughout the process of digital twin adoption, and beyond.

6. Embrace new ways of working

When digital transformation is made a reality in the energy industry things don’t always go as planned. A successful digital twin transformation will require companies to set their sights on targeted experimentation, agile working methods, and a working culture that embraces change. Don’t combine digital hype with unrealistic expectations. Rather, collaborate with innovative partners that hold a shared purpose to achieve scalability and agility through leading digital twin technology.

Innovate, iterate, and inspire those that are on the journey with you to support the disruption that comes with digital twin adoption and a new approach to data contextualization and operations. Work with a trusted technology partner that will share your expectations and celebrate your successes.

KDI is proud to be the trusted digitalization partner for our valued customers in the energy industry, enabling them to think big, start small, and scale fast.