Let’s face it. The word “transformation” is intimidating. To transform means to not only change, but to change in such a way that you’re almost unrecognizable. It’s uncomfortable. People hate change. For most, transformation seems unattainable, and for many, undesirable. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
But when it comes to digital transformation and companies that are clinging to their hard-copy papered past, it is broke, and you do have to fix it. That is, if you don’t want to be left behind in what is already a digital-focused world. Yes, digital transformation is an overused, overly-hyped marketing buzzword. But the result is another overused phrase that, in this case, happens to be true: game-changer.
Digital transformation is not just about converting paper documents to digital ones. It’s about bringing your business out of the dark ages and doing things more efficiently, more cost effective, and in a manner that is better for your employees, better for the environment, and better for your company’s bottom line.
Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight. There are three distinct stages: digitization, digitalization, and finally, digital transformation. We’re going to break them down in a series of three simple, easy-to-understand blog posts.
Let’s get started with digitization.
What is digitization?
Digitization is the process of converting a physical (or analog) object into digits (zeros and ones to be exact) so it can be processed and understood by a computer. It is the first step on the road to digital transformation.
Examples of digitization include converting paper documents into PDFs, scanned photos into jpegs, VHS tapes to digital files, and music cassettes and CDs into MP3s. On a higher level, it’s what Amazon Kindle is to libraries, what Spotify is to record stores, and what Netflix is to movie theaters. And if you want to get even more current, it’s NFTs and bitcoin.
Digitization is simply the modernization of how we create, access, view and share information, photos, entertainment, art, and even money. It provides the “instant access” that we as a society have to come to expect, and it’s changing the way we do everything, especially in business.
Key issues to consider during digitization
Having worked with so many customers from all different types of industries, we know the key issues they face when converting their paper documents to digital. First, it’s important to prioritize. What are the most important files that need to be digitized? Where are they stored? Who is responsible? How will they be safely transported?
What type of technology are you going to use to handle your digitization? Will it read both printed and handwritten text? Will the data be searchable and easily indexed? Can it convert voicemails and voice notes?
Finally, consider costs. This includes not only the scanning of the documents but the storage as well. Will you store the docs on a hard drive or in the cloud? What are the storage costs for both and how does that fit into your budget? Hard drive storage tends to be more expensive, whereas cloud storage can be paid over time with a monthly subscription service. Also, cloud storage is easier to access and more secure, while hard drives can be corrupted resulting in unrecoverable data loss.
Benefits of digitization
One of the best ways to demonstrate the effects of digitization in the business world is to consider the old “interoffice envelope.” Or even the fax. These internal processes of sending paper documents back and forth through the company for review and approval have been replaced by email and document sharing on corporate intranets and cloud platforms. These digitized versions of office communication are more efficient, can be shared instantly, and have a much higher level of security.
Digitization speeds up the communication process and leads to increased employee productivity. It’s much better for the environment and reduces the costs of paper and storage facilities. It can even increase the speed of revenue, as digitized invoices get paid a lot faster than those sent through the mail. Digitization also helps to protect critical business information as part of an organization’s overall disaster-recovery plan.
In short, digitization is really about documenting and sharing information in a faster, more efficient, more cost-effective, and more secure manner.
Digitization is more than just conversion from one format to another. It’s the foundation for document imaging and storage processes, file sharing, electronic signatures, and more, which is what we will cover in our next blog post on the second stage of digital transformation: digitalization.