Digitisation vs digitalisation vs digital transformation

Digitisation, digitalisation, and digital transformation are frustratingly similar to each other, and – unfortunately for you – digital transformation is so important to the future of your business, you need to understand the difference. Understanding these related but separate terms will better equip you to plan for the future of your business as you move to the cloud, infrastructure management services, or any other digital technologies.

What is…digitisation?

Digitisation is the act of converting something from an analogue format to a digital format.  For example, if you ever got around to scanning all those old print photos from back in the day, you would be digitising them.

What is…digitalisation?

Digitalisation, on the other hand, is the use of digital technologies to transform a process – so, for example, ditching the film camera in favour of a digital one.

What is…digital transformation?

In fact, photography is a great example of digital transformation – from film, to digital, to the earliest (rubbish) camera phones, to the mind-bending magic of modern smart phones and just how easy they make it to take, edit, and share your photographs.

You see, digital transformation is all about people and experiences – and that’s why it’s so integral to business strategy. The experience being stream-lined and easier is what leads to so many more photos being taken on smart phones, even when dedicated cameras might be able to get a better image. Because, done properly, digital transformation will take your business – and customer experience – to the next level.

Digitisation relies on technology; digital transformation relies on people

This is the most important thing to remember. Digital technologies give you the ability to turn print pictures into digital files. But without the right people, the right mindset, the right strategy, it doesn’t happen. Hence why I still have a box of photo albums in my loft, and probably always will. Although I recognise there would be benefits to digitising my parents’ old photos – so that they couldn’t be lost or damaged, for example – my perception of the effort to undertake such a project is greater than my fear of losing them. This is a very basic example of why digital transformation has to be, as the saying goes, by the people, for the people. Because if it doesn’t work for everyone, it doesn’t work.

Should I be focused on digitisation or digital transformation?

Clearly, digitisation is important. It’s an enabler to everything else that follows. But in all likelihood, you have already got rid of your old-fashioned ledger, abandoned letter-writing, and moved most workflows to the computer. You no longer have to think about digitisation in terms of ‘what do I need to digitise?’ You can move instead to the much broader question, ‘what do I want to achieve, and how will digital technologies help get me there?’

For example, if your aim is to increase productivity in your workshop, digitalising process control and automating parts of the manufacturing process will bring you the capability to increase throughput. If you want to catch fraudulent activity in your customers’ accounts, machine learning will enable you to do it faster, more efficiently and more comprehensively than an office full of people staring glazed-eyed at spreadsheets. If you want to free up or even eliminate office space, digitising any remaining physical files and storing all your data in a data centre will allow you to minimise your square footage.

The answer: You should prioritise digital transformation

But above all other things, you should be thinking about what you can do to improve customer experience (whether that’s by increasing productivity, speed, quality, security, or all of these) and how digital technologies can enable those improvements. This is the root purpose of digital transformation, and it is essential that you take this as your starting point or else you risk wasting money on change for the sake of change.

Digital transformation is big news right now, and it’s something we’ve written about a lot. If you would like to learn more about digital transformation, check out our digital transformation resources, or get in touch to talk to one of our experts on how we could help your digital transformation strategy.

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