The first stage of digital twin development in business is perhaps the most obvious, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Before you can develop a virtual replica of something, you need a detailed idea of what it is. Which means you need to capture as accurately as possible how processes are currently being handled – not what the manual says, but how things are really being done.
Identifying the starting point
Conducting this analysis and logging the results is what we call business mining. Until fairly recently, information was gathered in a series of in-depth interviews, sometimes backed by questionnaires. In fact, sometimes this approach is still useful as a support.
But these days, much of the hard work can be done digitally. At Capgemini, for example, we use Celonis, an industry leading process mining tool. Within defined data security and procedural boundaries, it enables us to monitor, visualize, and measure key business processes – helping to identify key pain points in the form of bottlenecks, process violations, and exceptions, and therefore areas for potential improvement.
It’s the real-world element of this process that makes it so valuable. It means we can pick up on variants of the same process, because different departments, and teams, and yes, individual people too, do the same things in different ways. Our analysis enables us to identify the variants that affect around 80% of the total transactions. By focusing on these most common variants, we find we can create a comprehensive business case for the improvements identified, and mop up the rest as exceptions. We use this analysis to create a replica of digital processes.
However, before we begin to model our twin – we’ll come to that in the next step, which will be covered in the next article – before then, as I say, we start to take stock of what we’ve learned, and we apply a process reengineering methodology to eliminate redundancy, and then standardize optimize, automate, and robotize processes. At this early stage, it enables us to see opportunities either for general improvement, or for digital transformation, or both.
Business mining in action – a major European utilities organization
Here’s a case in point. This major utilities business sought to improve its procurement process – all the way from vendor onboarding to invoice payment. We put the Celonis tool to work, with a focus that included purchase-to-pay (P2P) and accounts payable (AP).
Working closely with our client, we looked for improvement opportunities, including shifts to touchless processing, and compliance enhancements. We then quantified these opportunities, to establish where savings could most efficiently be made.
Our process reengineering approach identified 36 opportunities in the end-to-end P2P process to drive touch-free processing, improve compliance, and enhance the customer experience. The benefits included processing transactions from purchase order to invoice by an average of two days faster – and all this, remember, is still at the early stage of process mining.
In later stages, we’ll see not just how digital twins are developed and put to work. As with this example, we’ll also see what the results can be. We’ll also look at how digital twins can help organizations transition to – what we call – the Frictionless Enterprise.
Elle Sanchez Cardenas creates target operating models for finance and accounting with an automation first focus to improve transaction cycles, reduce manual effort, and increase capacity within teams. She also designs end to end transformations from process and policy enhancements to touchless processing.