Grace Information Management Blog

Two words which are often used interchangeably are digitisation and digitalisation; but be warned they are different.

Digitisation is actually a component of digitalisation, which is the integration of digital technologies into everyday life, both work and play. Digitisation is the conversion of analogue or hard copy into a digital format.

There are many examples, some which go back decades of analogue to digital. Clocks and watches are a very common example and of course, we had to change our televisions in recent times around Australia when the analogue signal was shut down forever more.

Then there is data. While a lot of data still exists in hard copy and continues to be born as hard copy, the amount of digital data is increasing rapidly. You only have to think of the activities you do online to realise how much data is now born digital. It is almost irritating when you are compelled to fill out a paper form and fax or post it, no doubt you often ask if you can scan and email the form instead. With this change, many companies are offering incentives to their clients to receive statements, invoices, receipts etc. online, for obvious reasons – less work and reduced costs being high on the list.

But where there is a mix of hard copy and digital, how can you effectively manage the data and how can you extract the information from both to gain the knowledge?

Dark Data

Convert the hard copy to digital format. Turn that “dark data” towards the light. According to Gartner, dark data is the information assets which are collected, processed and stored through regular business activities, but generally not used for other purposes such as analytics and business relationships. Too often the data is kept for compliance purposes only. Gartner rightly comments that “storing and securing data typically incurs more expense (and sometimes greater risk) than value”. While this mostly relates to digital data, it is relevant to all the hard copy kept and not used.

Digitisation

An efficient records management system, or enterprise content management system can manage both digital and physical records for location, access rights, usage, circulation and sentencing. But hard copy cannot easily be analysed, needs to be in-hand for research, takes up space and cannot be shared readily and in a timely manner.

Digital records, on the other hand, can be accessed easily with appropriate access rights, shared immediately, the content analysed and its usage tracked and reported. Digital records can either be a flat scan or scanned with optical character recognition (OCR) and Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR). OCR and ICR enable searching within a document for keywords and phrases, names and dates. Immediately their usability and accessibility increase exponentially.

Flexibility

Consider the ability to combine digital records in various formats into one cohesive, comprehensive presentation, there is even a word for that, an e-portfolio. No photocopying, no bulky folder and you don’t have to carry it. An e-portfolio can be made up of text, graphics, videos, audio and contain hyperlinks. It can be sent electronically, shared online either viewed or edited, and the audience can be anywhere.

Mobility

Mobile devices are here to stay, there usage increase in recent years proves this. In June 2015, June 2015, the Australian Communications and Media Authority published the following statistics:

  •     12 per cent of adult Australians had neither a fixed-line telephone nor fixed internet in their homes, instead using mobile devices for voice, messaging and internet access
  •     29 per cent of adult Australians were mobile-only phone users—with a mobile phone but no fixed-line telephone at home
  •     21 per cent did not have a fixed internet connection at December 2014, they are mobile-only internet users, who rely on mobile devices—whether a mobile phone, tablet or mobile broadband connection—to access the internet.

ACMA also stated, “The incidence of mobile-only phone use has increased substantially over a four-year period from 2.2 million at December 2010 to 5.2 million at December 2014”.

People aged 65 and over are least likely to be mobile dependent but there is a significant proportion of the population who are exclusively mobile. If a business is not catering to this demographic, they will be losing custom.

Mobility doesn’t just apply to customers but to employees, those staff constantly on the road, staff who work from home and contractors who need to access to corporate information are a critical consideration. They need access to information and usually need it quickly and it can happen with digital data.

Success in a digital age environment

A competitive environment in this “digital age” demands business to re-think their operations, their underlying business model to remain relevant. Businesses need to develop a digital strategy, not only for the future but incorporating the past with digitisation. The strategy may be a wholesale scanning project or if this is not possible a scan-on-demand strategy, which is particularly applicable to records which are stored offsite.

In an Ernst & Young report “The Digitisation of Everything” 1or digitalisation, they conclude with “The digitisation of everything is a step change even greater than the invention and adoption of the internet, primarily because of its scale and pace of change. What we describe today as ‘digital’ in a few years’ time will have no need for the descriptive word. A ‘digital camera’ is already a mere ‘camera’ to those who know no different. In the same way, a ‘digital’ strategy will become business as usual strategy. This is why it is so important to get a head start and learn while there is still time”.

The message is clear, embark on a digital transformation or be left behind. There are many examples of businesses who did not transform or kept pace with a changing world, such as Kodak, and they are no longer here. Be an agile, adaptive business and be around for the long term.

1.   Ernst & Young, The Digitisation of Everything