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Your Digital Doppelganger

by Steven Stanton
March 22nd, 2018

You 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 doppelganger, that is your personalized electronic image composed of all your digital activities stored in browser cookies and in the cloud, automatically captured and synthesized by innumerable vendors and data merchants. Your digital crumbs can make your interactions easier and more individually relevant. Service providers and sellers use this digital dossier to interact with you.

Organizations also have digital doppelgangers, only theirs are bigger and more fragmented. You can think of these “digital twins” as digital operating systems (dOS) that coordinate resources and processes across departments and with other organizations.

The power of this metaphor comes from envisioning your organization’s digital twin as your customer sees it.  How does your electronic ghost look to your key stakeholders? 

The March 2017 McKinsey & Company report titled “How to start building your next-generation operating model,” stated, “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.” 

This means that smart organizations, large and small, must take a more deliberate approach to digitizing their businesses, by creating integrated digital operating systems (dOS) to improve financial and operational performance. The performance implications are enormous as these cases illustrate:

 A regional healthcare provider reduced 30-day readmissions from 25% to zero, reduced costs 10%, and increased profits by digitizing their new patient intake process, then linking it to clinical, non-clinical and administrative processes.

  • A consortium of five towns reduced costs by 8%, guaranteed compliance with state regulations, and saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, by digitizing each towns procurement processes, sharing purchase activities on one portal that also guaranteed regulatory compliance.
  • A global technology company reduced development time and introduced a new product 6 months before their competition, generating millions of dollars in new revenue by digitizing development processes, people, and apps, across globally distributed teams and software development partners.
  • An e-commerce firm synchronized 3 tiers of its supply-chain, eliminated fulfillment errors, reduced cycle-times, and increased revenue per customer by 10%. They digitized processes, people, and systems so they had visibility and control throughout multiple tiers of their supplier networks (networks-of networks.)

Each of these organizations used the same strategy to achieve quantum leaps in productivity.  They explicitly optimized their digital doppelganger to better serve their stakeholders. What does an optimized doppelganger look like? Well-designed doppelgangers coordinate people, information, systems, rules, and processes. Every dOS includes:

  • Processes: Structured, flexible and ad-hoc workflows executed by both people and systems
  • Information: Structured & unstructured information like databases, apps, documents, notes, messages, lists, etc.
  • Services: Types of services requested or delivered to internal or external customers
  • Networks: Networks include employees, partners, customers, & suppliers participating across supply-, value- or project-chains

Why Now?

The organization’s digital operating system (dOS) can be a powerful “secret sauce” to improve performance in our rapidly emerging “post-ERP” digitizing era.

Let’s look at service delivery since it’s 78% of the US economy. The delivery of a service requires coordination of worker tasks and information that facilitates interactions (commerce) between “service requester” and “service provider”. For example:

  • An internal “IT service request” process must coordinate worker activities and data with project management, costing, equipment suppliers, software vendors, and Value Added Resellers (VARs).
  • An Engineering Change Order (ECO) process affects processes, data, and people in manufacturing, incoming inspection, inventory, sales, resellers, accounting, suppliers, and each supplier’s supply-chain.
  • A patient referral processes involves the referring organization, other health service providers, the patient/family, other systems (EMRs), vendors/suppliers, payers, and regulators.

At a personal level, every time you use 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, and in the Internet cloud flowing through a hard-coded process. You take the ride while your twin coordinates the service delivery process and pays the fare.

Optimizing and integrating your organization’s digital OS has huge benefits:

  • Makes it easier for workers & partners to do perform flawlessly
  • Achieves new levels of productivity, efficiency, & value
  • Creates new revenue streams
  • Reduces cost beyond just “leaning”
  • Controls compliance and eliminates errors

 What does your dOS look like now?

For nearly all organizations, their dOS is currently manual and fragmented. 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 workflows and private data sharing. These conditions cause errors, delays, and inconsistent customer and partner value.

 The key to achieving new levels of performance is to dramatically transform your perspective from visible objects and activities, to your digital image.  Think about what your digital doppelganger looks like to your customers (internal & external ones). Is your digital OS tightly coordinated or digitally schizophrenic, displaying multiple personalities?

Success requires reconceiving your organization as a tightly integrated, extremely detailed “twin”. Creating a high performance “digital OS” involves:

  1. Integrating silos of data currently scattered across apps, legacy systems, and shared folder
  2. Automating work processes currently performed manually via e-mail and instant messaging
  3. Automating real-time reports & analytics that are currently tracked manually via spreadsheets and project management charts
  4. Sharing proprietary data and processes via secure and private communications with partners, suppliers, and customers.

Starting Simple: One Step At A Time

This digital OS stuff sounds complicated but it’s actually simple to start. Just focus on digitizing one process at a time.

Step 1:

Identify one or two processes to digitize

Step 2:

Create process map illustrating the steps involved.  Include the task list (checklist) for each step. On average this takes 1-2 days to map one process, depending on the number of process steps involved. Most processes have 8 steps.

Step 3:

List the information types involved.  These include documents, templates, forms, notes, databases, etc.

Step 4:

List the apps or legacy systems used during the process

Step 5:

List the internal & external organizations involved.

Step 6:

Finally, rapidly prototype / configure the process on a next-gen work management platform, built to digitize business processes. This should take no more than a couple weeks and require no software programming.


“An organization’s digital OS provides a unified point of control and reporting for coordination of people, information, and systems that optimize operations and financial performance.”

Check out these other related articles.

  • Presto Digitization
  • Digitize or Die: Nice Capabilities of a Digitized Process
Steven Stanton booksby Steven Stanton

Steven Stanton is a co-founder of FCB Partners, and one of the pioneers of business model innovation. Steven is the co-author, with Dr. Hammer, of “The Reengineering Revolution” and the Harvard Business Review article, “How Process Organizations Really Work.”

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