Digitalisation Versus Digitisation What Are They?

Darren Jacobs
July 25, 2018

What is Digitalisation?

A common misconception in the business world is that digitisation and digitalisation can be used interchangeably. This poses two problems: What do people think these words mean when they use them and what do they actually mean?

What is Digitisation?

Well for starters, it’s not just a business buzzword that can be thrown around in statements such as: “We want to digitise our entire business” or “we want to digitise our workforce”.
When used in contexts such as these, it creates an image of every human process becoming obsolete within a business, yet this is definitely not the case. To get into more detail about what is digitisation, a definition should be established: Digitisation should be seen as the process of creating a digital version of physical/analog artefacts such as paper documents and photographs.

Digitisation defined as this highlights two important points. Firstly, the role of people. The digitisation of processes is done usually with two key stakeholders in mind, the customer and the employee. Without people, digitisation would be pointless. What’s the point of developing an automated customer relationship management system for your business if you don’t have the customers or employees utilising it? But what about robots and AI you say.

The role of technology in digitisation is advancing rapidly yet still in its infancy, relatively speaking. While some jobs are being replaced due to technology and automation, digitisation of processes mainly streamlines and increases efficiency for everyone involved with it. However, we are still a long way off from machine-learning and AI being able to replace every aspect of the human employee and it’s unlikely that this is what the customer even wants.

Is Digitisation Interchangeable With Digitalisation?

The short answer is no. Digitisation cannot be used interchangeably with digitalisation. Digitalisation should be seen as the leveraging of digitised products, services and data by people or AI. Basically, digitalisation is the use of digital technologies to transform and alter existing business models. For example, instead of a bank having to hire staff to go through all transactions to identify suspicious transaction activity, the process gets digitalised so that it is now automatic, streamlined and more efficient.

Digitalisation should be understood as the actions that are completed as a result of both digitised and non-digitised information. Using the customer relationship management example from previous, the system a business puts in place to satisfy this aspect of their operations could be an integration of autonomous, semi-autonomous and manual operations utilising both digitised and non-digitised information.

For example, your customer feedback form on your website could be an autonomous chatbot that transfers to an employee when the questions become more subjective, creating a semi-autonomous hybrid to increase customer satisfaction. How the employee then replies to the customer could be in a non-digitised information format such as over the phone or even using written down question prompts and answers.

It is imperative to remember that the digitalisation of a work process should be aimed at satisfying both the customer and employee.

How Can You Use Technology Yo Enable Digitalisation In The Workplace

While there are many software tools out there that can enable digitalisation, many do not empower their users. A perfect example of this is with software vendors that only sell pre-made applications. Pre-made applications are usually based on extensive research and practical use, however, every business is unique and therefore the digital solutions they need must also be unique.

Another example is software that requires third-party assistance and/or coding whenever a change needs to be made to an application or automated work processes. This often means an extensive changelog is created which needs to be solved by the software vendor which results in change management processes taking weeks.

Software that is highly configurable, requires zero coding and can be understood and utilised by all employees is invaluable and rare. The digitalisation process organisations go-through need to be agile and configurable to their specific organisational context.

Knowing what digitalisation is can help clarify an organisation’s digital transformation strategy and which software they need to achieve it. Make sure you do your research and choose a digital solution that streamlines your workplace, not backlogs it with more change management issues.

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