Digitisation vs digitalisation
First of all, it is important to make the distinction between “digitisation” and “digitalisation”. A number of people use these two terms interchangeably but they are in fact quite distinct. “Digitisation” means the conversion of data from analogue or physical form to a digital form (bits and bytes) that can be read and understood by computers. “Digitalisation” on the other hand is the actual process of moving from manual or paper-based processes to an electronic or digital mode, to improve efficiency and enhance the customer experience. And further along the digital spectrum is the process of “digital transformation”, which looks at the company’s strategy on using digital technology to completely change the value proposition for the customer and generate additional revenue streams.
Here is a simple example from everyday life to illustrate the difference between each of these terms. Scanning a newspaper to make a digital version of the same paper is digitisation. Sending an electronic copy of that newspaper or making it available online to the readers is the digitalisation of that process. Creating an entirely new online website or app to change the way readers access and read their news is true digital transformation.
Today’s digital world
Today, we live in a digital society and the vast majority of our social and business interactions are digital in nature. Ranging from social media and news to education and ecommerce, every aspect of our lives is touched and shaped by digital technology. Technology is no longer just an enabler but is in fact the very driver of everyday experiences at the social and the business level.
No business today can afford to do without a vision and strategy for digital transformation. And the undisputable fact is that digital transformation is simply not possible without digitisation. The actual process of digitisation can be challenging and does not come without its problems, especially if done in an ad hoc manner without a proper digital strategy in place.
Digitisation needs to be managed within the wider framework of digital transformation with clear articulation of how the digital experience is going to improve the overall employee and customer experience. Just digitising the information, without changing the underlying process and delivery of the information will not yield the desired results and will more often than not derail the entire digitisation process. For digital transformation (and digitisation) to be successful, there needs to be broad cultural change across the organisation and acceptance of the way business needs to be conducted in the digital world. Adaptation of business processes to emerging technologies like AI, APIs and mobile are key to longer-term success of any digital transformation programmes.
The process of digitisation is a means to the end, without which digital transformation and continued growth and very existence of the organisation is not possible. The potential for increased customer satisfaction and corresponding growth in revenues by harnessing the power of digital transformation far surpasses any challenges in the actual process of digitisation.