by Dean Douglas | April 8, 2022 | 6 min read
Skills, skills, skills… we are constantly reminded to stay on top of our game. Whether it be through LinkedIn posts and ads telling us what we ought to know, the endless stream of emails offering CPD courses and webinars, or even your employer providing development opportunities. All of these offering you the prospect to enhance your skills set, to meet the ever-changing demands of new technologies and systems, and to be able to comprehend and apply the latest forward thinking within the industry.
And really this should come as no surprise that this is the case. Upskill is often one of the most cited barriers to the implementation or integration of any change taking place in an organisation. Like CAD and BIM before it, digital twin is in no way different, requiring the integration of new skills and competencies previously alien to the built environment. But when we are bombarded with so many opportunities to advance our own skills, how can we begin to comprehend what skills we’ll need?
As part of research being carried out at BIM Academy and Northumbria University that seeks to develop a framework for the development of digital twins in infrastructure, we have been working to identify what new skills are necessary for the development of digital twin in an organisation. To do so, we’ve being analysing digital twin job listings to garner some insight into what skills are being sought after, and in turn the areas you should focus on as well as things it may be useful to know, should you wish to work within digital twin development.
One of the immediate things we realised while carrying out this work was that there are no digital twin roles as such. Unlike with BIM, where you can pick from a plethora of job titles, such as BIM Manager, BIM Technician or BIM Coordinator. As of yet, there are no such defined roles for digital twin. Instead, these roles build on existing job roles within the industry, and the commonality they share is in how they relate to the digital twin. Existing roles are largely grouped in the following three categories:
Dedicated Digital Twin Roles
These roles outline a clear involvement in the creation, implementation, operation and maintenance, or development of, digital twin in an organisation.
Digital twin working does not form part of the primary responsibilities or requirements of these roles. However, listings make reference to digital twin potential involvement.
These roles look to further understanding and ability of the field of digital twin through conducting academic lead research.
This lack of defined roles also made clear another trend in the digital twin roles: that is, the importance that is being placed on existing knowledge and expertise held within the industry (this trend of enhancing existing roles rather than creating new digital twin roles). This could be a result of digital twin’s requirement for long-held industry knowledge and best practice to be integrated into its systems and the creation of its inner working. While there is no substitute for years of knowledge and expertise, these roles are enhanced in order for them to meet the needs of digital twin development.
But this begs the question: how do these roles differ? Because those will be the skills we need to develop, and in order for us to find these, we pulled every competency requirement in all the digital twin roles found and categorised them into the following:
Personal Skills & Attributes
Project Management & Delivery
Operation & Maintenance Phase
Research & Development
Data Use & Understanding
Sector-specific Knowledge Area
There are a number of the categories we can already assert are part and parcel of the built environment’s skills repertoire, such as project management & delivery, operation & maintenance phase, and the aforementioned industry expertise, in the form of Sector-specific Knowledge Areas. We can even attribute the categories of Communication Skills, Personal Skills & Attributes and Business Skills to generalist skills that any potential employee should seek to develop and hone. It should be noted that while these skill sets may already be part of the industry, this does not mean that improvement and alterations can’t be made. For instance, in Project Management & Delivery the need to understand and be able to apply agile development techniques to a project were a commonly cited requirement – showing that we should always be open to different techniques even if they challenge the status quo.
Some of the biggest shifts in competency requirements that the research gave rise to is the introduction of skills sets such as:
It is imperative that the built environment embraces the integration of enhancements that the field of computer science has to offer. And while for many of us the prospect of becoming a software developer or cloud computing expert may be way off, if we are to maximize the potential benefits the field has to offer towards the development of digital twin and other innovative processes, then we must become computer science savvy, with at least a high-level understanding of the language, protocols, principles and thinking that governs the field. With this knowledge we can better identify where opportunities lie and the best route to achieving the benefits.
We create and store an inordinate amount of data as an industry, at every stage, of every asset’s lifecycle. However, a vast amount of that data is used to a fraction of its potential, a problem that a multitude of innovations seek to address, with digital twin among them. Therefore, it is simple: we must become more au fait with information management and data science. Being able to implement better architectures and management processes, that can in turn lend themselves to the likes of data simulations and machine learning, unlocking ever greater value.
While research and development are no new great revelation to the industry, it must become an intrinsic part of the built environment’s thinking and operation. Creating an environment that will allow us to challenge norms and take the necessary risks that could see the industry’s productivity and efficiency skyrocket through the implementation of new processes and technology.
Upskilling and retooling are a job never finished, but if we continue to highlight the key areas that the industry should be investigating, then we can all help push the introduction of novel and innovative practices in our organisations, while also developing our own knowledge and skills.
If you would like to know more about the work we are doing around digital twin and digital twin skills, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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+44 (0) 191 269 5444 [email protected]
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