What’s the difference between digitisation and digitalisation?

So you come across the word digitisation and immediately link it to digitalisation thinking they must be the same thing. Unfortunately, you’re wrong and it could be a worrying trend because you are certainly not alone.

In a world that is becoming increasingly digital it is important that everyone is on the same page.

What is digitisation?

Digitisation is the process of converting a physical piece of information into a digital version. For example, if Gary has written out an essay on paper and then scanned it into a PDF format on his computer, this is digitisation.

What is digitalisation?

Digitalisation is the next step from digitisation by using this to advance, progress and improve business operations. For example, Sally has scanned her essay into a PDF format and saved it to her computer. She has then uploaded it to the cloud so that the information can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

Comparing the two

In the above examples highlighting the difference between digitisation and digitalisation, both Gary and Sally have digitised their business. However, it is only Sally whose business is now digitalised because she has managed to improve her processes through the cloud.

Ultimately, digitalisation leads to improvement and benefits where as digitisation is simply transforming one physical thing into a digital version. Digitalisation requires digitisation but the same cannot be said the other way around.

What’s the next step?

The next step in this process is what is called digital transformation. Digital transformation is when the digitisation and subsequent digitalisation results in the changing of an industry for the better. It is the impact caused by digitalisation.

A great example of this is how digitalisation has impacted the advertising or marketing industry. The internet has led to the digital transformation of the advertising industry as advertising has become more online because it can be easily measured and more accurately measured than more traditional forms of advertising such as outdoor or radio and TV.

One of the biggest digital transformations in the advertising industry has been the adoption of email marketing as opposed to paper mail. Paper mail doesn’t provide a feedback loop, there is no way of knowing if that specific delivery or deliveries had any impact. When it comes to email, however, you know exactly who has received it, who has opened it and how they have engaged with each part of the email.

Digitisation is only the first step and then digitalisation only gets you a part of the way. It is not until digitalisation has turned into digital transformation that the impacts become significant.