Your Digital Doppelganger

With Michael Neece

Steven StantonYou may not be aware of this but both you and your organization have a dual citizenship, with one foot in cyberspace and the other on Terra Firma.

This is because you have a ghostly twin, a digital doppelgänger, that is your personalized electronic image composed of all your digital activities stored in browser cookies and in the Internet cloud, automatically captured and synthesized by innumerable vendors and data merchants. Your digital crumbs make online interactions faster, easier and more relevant. They’re your personal digital dossier.

Organizations also have digital doppelgängers, only theirs are bigger and more fragmented. These online shadows function as digital operating systems, coordinating information flows among individuals, across departments and out to customers and suppliers.

The power of this metaphor comes from envisioning your organization’s digital twin as your customer sees it. As McKinsey reports, “The operating model of the future combines digital technologies and process-improvement capabilities in an integrated sequenced way to drastically improve customer journeys and internal processes.” These days smart organizations, large and small, take a deliberate approach to digitizing their businesses. The implications are enormous:

  • A regional healthcare provider reduced 30-day readmissions from 25% to zero, reduced costs 10%, and increased profits by digitizing patient intake, linking it to clinical and administrative processes.
  • A consortium of five towns reduced procurement costs by 8.5%, guaranteed regulatory compliance with state laws, and saved tens of millions of dollars, by digitizing and sharing purchase activities on one portal.
  • A global technology company introduced a new product 6 months before the competition, generating millions of dollars in new revenue, by digitizing development workflows and integrating databases.
  • An e-commerce firm synchronized its supply chain, eliminating errors, reducing cycle-time, and increasing revenue per customer by 10%. The newly digitized process provided visibility across both staff and suppliers.

Each organization optimized their digital doppelgänger to better support internal stakeholders, trading partners and customers by coordinating key elements:

  • Processes: Structured and ad-hoc workflows
  • Information: Streamlined data gathering, storing and use
  • Services: Customer-focused features and functionality
  • Networks: Suppliers, staff and customers linked in each transaction

A digital operating system is the secret sauce for success in the post-ERP era. Let’s look at the service sector, now almost 80% of the U.S. economy. The delivery of a service requires coordination of worker tasks and shared information that facilitates interactions between customer and provider. For example:

  • An IT Service Request, requires coordination among developers, project managers, purchasers, equipment suppliers, and software vendors.
  • An Engineering Change Order process affects processes, data, and people in manufacturing, inventory, sales, accounting, and supplier networks.
  • A Patient Referral process involves primary care physicians, their office managers, specialists, schedulers, billers, payers, and most important, patients.

At a personal level, every time you use a ride sharing service (Uber or Lyft), your electronic twin broadcasts a service request to a network of service providers (drivers) so you get transportation services to your destination. Your digital twin involves data stored on your phone, in the cloud and in third party databases. Then, while you ride, your twin tracks your location provides directions, and pays the fare.

Optimizing an organization’s digital operating model has huge benefits:

  • Getting better quality results
  • Improving productivity
  • Revealing problems
  • Facilitating compliance

Currently most operating models are based on fragmented data and work flows. Legacy systems, apps, and shared folders hold multitudes of data silos. Unmanaged manual activities like e-mailing, instant messaging, and spreadsheet reporting also prevent coordination of work activities and private data sharing. These conditions cause errors, delays, and inconsistencies.

The key to achieving new levels of performance is to shift your perspective from visible to digital, and from self-serving to customer-focused. Think about what your digital doppelgänger looks like to customers. Is the customer experience streamlined or chaotic? Reliable or schizophrenic? Success requires re-conceiving the organization as having a tightly integrated, extremely detailed digital twin:

It sounds complicated but it can be quite simple. Just digitize one procedure at a time:

  1. Identify the procedure – a sub-process within the end-end workflow
  2. Map the steps, in swim lane format, with task and tool lists for each step
  3. Describe information types – databases, documents, templates, notes
  4. Redesign the procedure as a prototype on a work management platform
  5. Test, iterate and release into production

An organization’s digital operating system provides a unified point of control and reporting for coordination of people, information, and systems that optimizes operational and financial performance.

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