Creating a Digital Twin of your Organization

The concept of a digital twin has been around for at least two decades. It refers to having a computerized representation of a real-world physical system, such as an engine or a building.  

In the initial phase, the digital twin may be more like a “digital shadow”, that is, it may be based on data received once.

But over time, it may be extended to be a living simulation model that updates and changes as the system is undergoing changes.

In other words, a digital twin is more than a dashboard. Dashboards provide visualization of current processes. Digital twins enable simulation and prediction.[1]

Because organizations are also systems, the question becomes: Is it possible to create digital twins of organizations?  

This is in fact the vision that we are now working toward in Reconfig. In the current version of the tool, you are able to visualize the work processes that people participate in and the interactions between them. This is then mapped onto the current organizational structure.

But more importantly, you can alter the structure. For example, you can move roles from one unit to another, or combine two units. When you do this, you can see the effect in real-time by means of five indicators (a sixth will be added soon).

The key purpose is to allow decision-makers to visualize and test the effects of potential organizational changes before they are introduced. See the image below for an example.

I am aware that other people, particularly in the business process management community, are also working on similar concepts.

However, it seems that their goal is somewhat different. Typically, these efforts are based on data that are extracted from existing IT systems, such as event logs, and from what I gather, the purpose is mainly to support operational efficiency.

In contrast, in Reconfig, we are more oriented toward the overall, organizational model or the “architecture” of the firm, if you will.

We collect data by using a survey questionnaire distributed to employees of the organization. We have been experimenting with other data sources, and in future, we may, for example, import email traffic data into Reconfig.

But our experience so far is that it is easier to get valid data directly from the employees in the organization. It means that we can get their views on the activities and working relationships that they believe are most important. It also has the benefit of involving them in the process, and prepare them for the analysis that follows.

The creation of digital twins of organizations will change organization design.

I have always insisted that we should use a data-driven approach. But this approach goes further. To borrow terms from two well-known contributors in my field,[2] it not only allows us to describe “what-is” but to explore how our organization “might-be” or “should-be” in the future.

 

  

[1] Becker, M. C. & Pentland, B. T. (2022). Digital twin of an organization. Are you serious? In A. Marrella & B. Weber (Eds.), BPM 2021 Workshops, LNBIP, pp. 243-254.

[2] Burton, R. M., & Obel, B. (2011). Computational modeling for what-is, what-might-be, and what-should-be studies—and triangulation. Organization Science, 22(5), 1195–1202.

Image by Freepik

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