APTUMX and the Digital Twin

A Digital Twin is a model of something in the real-world. 

In the real-world a model is a exact scaled-down copy. 

The AptumX model is an exact digital copy of business.

As the name says - a TWIN.


First some definitions:

Digital Twin - This is a model of something from the real world defined in a digital form. There must be a one-to-one correlation - you must be able to point to the real world counterpart for every element in the Digital Twin. This is important. There are products that claim to be Digital Twins that are in fact conceptual representations of a real world artefact, which precludes the most critical feature of a Digital Twin - its elements must interact with their real world counterpart ...both ways.

There are a variety of digital product types that aim to define what happens in the real world but without the real-world real-time interaction the veracity of their claim to be a Digital Twin can’t be demonstrated. The term comes from NASA and the need to be able to monitor and intervene in the performance of its spacecraft and crew.

The use of Digital Twins will become mandatory with the increasing use of two technologies - the IoT (Internet of Things) and the automation of business activity. The IoT connects real world objects to digital systems. Its productivity potential promises exponential growth in its use - especially teamed with automated business systems. Microsoft has a Digital Twin platform to enable IoT connectivity - https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/digital-twins/

The critical thing to remember about a Digital Twin …it is a model - all its components have defined inter-relationships and it is scalable.

Business Models - Modelling business as a Digital Twin involves 3 basic sets of components:

  • The Activities that comprise the transactions and actions that the business undertakes,
  • The Resources that are employed in the Activities – people, products, money, customers,…
  • The Places in which the Activities take place and the Resources are located

These must be defined in the model to enable real-time connectivity.

While a Business Model might accurately define how a business works and its connectivity points with the real world, it needs to be connected to the real world to enable the real-time exchange of information.  This is the role of Business Automation.

Business Automation – There are 2 types of automation: managing and monitoring ‘getting work done’, and manipulating data, either keying it in to a database or retrieving it.  The latter has been the function of CRM and ERP products such as SAP, and more recently with the ‘swivel-chair’ automated data entry of the misleadingly titled Robotic Process Automation products. The former, managing what gets done and when, promises huge improvements in productivity. It is the next frontier of automation even though such products have been available for over 20 years.

One reason for the inability for automation software to take off has been its lack of a Digital Twin Business Model. In controlling the flow of activity, either passing work from person to person or in sequencing the tasks that a person has to do based on the circumstances, automation has to deal with the issues that can occur in the real world – people missing, machines breaking down, and any number of different types of exception that can occur, either anticipated or unknown. The failure to cater for these leads to automated systems being abandoned.

Business Automation products support the manipulation of data, but the older business applications (SAP, etc…) were not designed to provide workflow management. Consequently one of the functions automation software offers is to enable the older products to be embedded in their flows.

Summarizing – Modeling business as a Digital Twin can enable the creation of automated business systems that both manage work and provide data entry capability. This is AptumX.

Digital Twins, Business Models, Automation & AptumX - How they work

AptumX - Business Automation based on a Digital Twin model of business.

AptumX has a Digital Twin model and an accompanying language that reflects what happens in the real world. The model is stored in XML, enabling it to generate several forms of output, one of which is an automated system.

AptumX Automation engages with people (or robots) through a client that handles data entry, data manipulation and inquiry. The client interacts with the AptumX Process Manager which manages the flow of work between people (and robots) and takes care of data storage and retrieval.

There are 3 types of data engagement:

  • Resource data is added to or taken from a local SQL database.
  • Resource data is added to or taken from a database in another system using that system’s APIs.
  • Process data from activities is held in a local SQL database.

Data concerning the Resources employed in a Process is stored in the same sort of tables that have been used by ERP products over the years. The data can be used for reporting performance in a real-time dashboard.

Process data includes every detail about the life of a process - how long each action takes, who did the work, was there any rework, plus the data content of every screen through which users engage with the process. It provides a complete analysis of the productivity of the work being done.

AptumX specializes in handling the events that can derail a process - exceptions. They must either be catered for in the process or eliminated i.e. actions taken to prevent them from happening. There are three types:

  1. A process not proceeding past a stage within a certain time or by a specific time, in which case it can trigger a wake-up message, or a manager to intervene, or to pass the work to a different person or a group of people, or even to take a different route from the one planned.
  2. A known condition that can be tested for, such as the absence of something needed, a missing authorization or any manner of exceptions that have previously been encountered and the system updated immediately to cater for the condition in future.
  3. An event that can happen at any time in parallel with a process and that can be allowed to be actioned between certain stages in the process such as a customer ringing in to change an order, or just a blanket event to cater for the complete unknown.

AptumX comes from the development of an ERP product for Process Manufacturers. This experience led to us espousing certain principles:

  1. To end the huge risk and disruption from the introduction of a product that required major changes to the way staff worked, by basically replicating what staff were used to and then incrementally changing systems in concert with staff – “same today, different tomorrow”;
  2. To replace the ERP concept of large complex application functions through which work must pass and which are almost impossible to change, with small functions that can be joined in a task flow or work flow and changed on demand;
  3. To define a business and its activities in a model (which we now know to be a digital twin) that replicated real life and that was self-validating, thereby eliminating the need for testing and bugs that cause system crashes, and enabling system changes to be made immediately.