July 2020

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Benefits Realization with Digital Twins

“Innovation doesn’t start with the future. It starts with the now and continues into the future
Nicolas WaernNicolas Waern

The Building Whisperer"

Contributing Editor

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It’s critical to begin the journey in realizing Smart Buildings with the end in mind. Picture not only the buildings and what they look like but also the organization in the future. What will it look like? What business objectives have been set for the next year, two years, five years or decade? Strategy is the map, design is the route and implementation provides the vital milestones you’ll need to ensure success.

It is often found that if the changes identified could be undertaken, many of the benefits could be realized with current systems, indicating that the problem is the way individuals are working or using existing systems or the inability of the organization to implement ‘best practice’. A concentration on the business benefits and the change management implication at the start of the process will also encourage business managers to become involved. The challenge is that while technology should be the enabler, and the tool to realize business benefits, it’s not seldom that companies talk about the tools more than they talk about the benefits that should be derived. Innovation doesn’t start with the future, it starts with the now. And continues into the future.

“Innovation doesn’t start with the future. It starts with the now and continues into the future”

figure 1

i.Comparison of benefits management with traditional IS project approaches, Benefits Management by Ward & Daniel 2006

The effective engagement of business managers is often lacking and it is recognized as a factor that repeatedly causes organizations to fail to realize benefits from IT-initiatives. Discussions that are essentially about the functionality of IS/IT, or are dominated by this, are usually of little interest to business managers who can even feel threatened due to their lack of technology understanding and are therefore unable or unwilling to contribute to the project.

Business strategy
ii. Business strategy described as a high level benefits network, Benefits Management by Ward and Daniel 2006

Starting from the right, understanding the global context, what drivers are needed and then reverse engineering this to understand the “as-is situation” could be the key for future innovation efforts. This could be tailored to not only the enterprise objectices, but also to specific initiatives where companies know what the desired outcome they are looking for. An example of this could be a decision maker that needs to make data-driven decision making on how they should work with Smart Buildings in the future. What would be the benefits they are looking for? For whom? What changes needs to be done? Who would own then, and at the last stage, what technology should be used to make these changes happen? Understanding the as is from an organizational perspective is vital because technology is the easy part. Because as I’ve argued before, existing companies are built to die. But with this approach, they will definitely increase their likelyhood of success.

One key aspect of the benefits management approach described is to create an environment in which both business and IS/IT staff participate fully and willingly in the discussions, to contribute and share their knowledge and learn from their colleagues. These conversations would also benefit greatly when having a Digital Twin perspective in mind, adding to the fact that they have a shared understanding in both the benefits that they want to derive. And also that they now have the visual building in the middle, where they can actively show how investments could be beneficial for whom, much easier.

The same data

iii. The same data, the same infrastructure, but with visualization and benefits realization in mind

The most important rationale for joining up the network is to understand the dependencies between the identified changes, the people and stakeholders that need to be involved and the realization of benefits, and who owns what part of the process during the initiative. The linkages show that a given benefit will only be realized if the connected changes are successfully achieved.

Where the digital twin once again provides the contextual value necessary to bring it home, and act as the one true source of data for the whole lifecycle. Also utilizing harmonization tools, it is easy to grab asset data from one data source, add that into either just a drawing, or the BIM models that have been handed over from the construction phase. Easy right? Yes, it actually is. But who will do it? Who can do it?

Mind the gap – handover, what handover?

And here is the big problem. Today, with how current companies are working/not working, the value that should follow the building during the whole lifecycle gets destroyed during the handover phase. That is why all this technology focus, in silos, talking about what constitutes a digital twin, doesn’t always make much sense from a real-world perspective.

Because who will buy it? Which company today during the asset management phase have people responsible for digital twin management? Who has the people that know how to create value from it during the entire lifecycle? Who has the culture of wanting to innovate and create value during the asset management phase, where benefits are talked about and there is an actual vision and mission of providing value to whom? Do companies have a North Star-strategy depicting what the New Normal means?

In the world I live in, no they do not. And that is the challenge.

I’m writing more about this over at Beyond Buildings where’s there’s also some in-depth material to understand this challenge to its core. Because it is such an apparent problem that no one seems to understand or care about. Possibly due to the simple fact that communication across disciplines with the building lifecycle in mind, does not happen, at all. Not within the different disciplines during the construction phase. Especially not during handovers, where there’s a rush to get things done. And the utilization of modern tools in the property management phase in a holistic, organizational way, is not how the world operates. Yet.

contemporary Which is why WE need to go beyond buildings, understand the benefits that needs to be derived, use modern technology to do things better and start realizing the TRUE potential of buildings.

And that is why I am here to advise companies what the world is going to do a month, a year, a decade from now. WINNIIO have a complete understanding of what is needed to stand out from competition, advise on pros and cons, and be the strategy partner for both technology and organization-advice in a Smart World Environment (Construction/Industry/Smart Buildings and Cities).

Please reach out if you have any questions on how to get started, get going, or how to succeed in the next decade!


Nicolas Waern
Digital Transformation Expert – Helping companies find their role in a Smart City Context

A big thank you to Melissa Boutwell at ASP who helps owners realize the true potential of buildings by educating their employees stay in the now to deliver value for real. To Sam Holt at JE Dunn who’s the national Director for Construction company JE Dunn, enabling the industry to build Smart from Start. Ken Olling at SEKAI, Digital Twin creation platform who helps companies take decision on ALL of the data. Toni Luhti at Platform of Trust who helps companies harmonize data from different sources without the need for taxonomies and ontologies. To Mats Persson at Tribia.as who’s helping construction companies with BIM coordination and value realization during the whole lifecycle. Thanks for inspiring me to write this article. And a big thank you to my former Professor, Kalevi Pessi for introducing me to the book Benefits Management by Ward & Daniel on how to deliver value from IS & IT Investments.


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