Removing the confusion that paralyses
The words or phrases digitisation, digitalisation and digital transformation have become very widely used, and sometimes interchangeably. But do they really mean the same? Well our starting point would be to explore the various definitions of the three and what people understand from them when they hear or use these words. The objective is to bring some light to the concepts that many are currently using loosely and in the process bringing confusion to their audiences when approaching digital strategies.
Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies in an organisation’s processes, models, cultures, competencies and customer experiences across all levels and functions in order to improve efficiencies and effectiveness to better meet the changing business, stakeholder and customer requirements. At the organisational level it involves a shift in culture and approach to the way they do things and its ability to keep changing as needed and inevitably entails monetary and other investments at both the individual as well as organisational levels. It is also about taking risks, upskilling existing talent for adaptation as well as recruiting the best talent in order to meet the technological use requirements that drive the efficiencies and optimisation. At the individual level it calls for commitment and investment in time and learning, and last but not least a shift in one’s mindset and how one perceives issues around their work and their role in the bigger scheme of things. Individuals and organisations that don’t measure up to the demands of digital transformation may unfortunately find themselves by the wayside.
The form that digital transformation takes can include:
- Changes to internal processes that free up the employees’ time so it can be spent on other tasks that benefit the customer and impact productivity more positively
- Automating things like learning, performance management and tracking employee time off
- Installing tools that allow employees to communicate with each other within the company and outside from wherever they are.
- Changes to how a customer and other stakeholders interact with your business
Digitisation on the other hand is the process of turning paper information into electronic information and this may be accompanied by automation. However, digitisation and digital transformation have been erroneously used interchangeably as mentioned earlier. In fact, digitisation must precede digital transformation and the two are not equal.
Digital transformation cuts across sectors but it is more prevalent and pronounced in business and the impact thereof more significant than in the public sector for example. There are a number of technologies that are driving digital transformation and these include Big Data, IoT, machine learning, artificial intelligence among others and these impact the behaviour of consumers as well as how businesses and other types of organisations carry out their work processes and interact with each other. The end goals of an organisation ultimately should influence how its digital transformation agenda unfolds and at the core of that agenda should be its people and strategy.
Digitisation on the other hand is the process of turning paper information into electronic information and this may be accompanied by automation. However, digitisation and digital transformation have been erroneously used interchangeably as mentioned earlier. In fact, digitisation must precede digital transformation and the two are not equal. We have all experienced government processes where we are required to fill in papers where the filing is manual and papers get lost and the frustrations associated with such processes. Digitisation would refer to the process of turning all that manual paperwork described above into computer driven processes like completing an online form and having the information stored in resident servers or in the cloud.
The third concept we are going to look at is digitalisation and this has also been used interchangeably with both digitisation and digital transformation, and this is where the confusion gets interesting. Oxford and Wikipedia both define digitalisation as the conversion of information that is in the form of text, pictures, or sound into a digital form that can be processed by a computer. This definition is similar to the definition of digitisation above, while other authorities describe digitalisation as the reorganisation of life and its processes around digital technologies and infrastructures like digital communication and media infrastructures. This school of thought approaches the definition from the consumer angle and how technologies have been integrated into day to day life of the consumer of services. Yet others approach the digitalisation concept from the business angle and define it as the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities, while yet others include in the definition the use of digital technologies and information to transform business operations. What is apparent from the various definitions is that digitalisation is a multi-faceted concept.
In conclusion, we have seen from the above that digitisation is not the same as digitalisation and digital transformation. Digitalisation is best referred to as the reorganisation of life around digital technologies and the use of digital technologies by businesses to enhance their external and internal end users’ experiences and reorganisation of life around these technologies. The state that is attained thereafter is known as digitalised or as having been digitalised. Digital transformation on the other hand is best described as the actual journey of moving from analogue or being digitised to being digitalised. For best outcomes, it is therefore essential to understand the meanings of the various concepts in order to intelligently navigate the digital applications space and come up with appropriate strategies and end goals. It is also essential that the audiences of one’s communication understand the definitions attached to the concepts and how they are being used, especially when crafting and implementing digital strategies within an organisation.
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