Daily Archives: December 26, 2017

Going Digital. Digitization. Digital Transformation.

Do you know what any of these terms mean? Are you sure? and I’ve been “digital” for three and a half decades — and I’m not sure I’m whatever “digital” is when it’s spoken by someone who hasn’t been digital since before it was cool. I had a TRS-80 which, supposedly, understood the BASIC programming language (it did, but even if you think you know BASIC, unless you had the joy of Level I Basic, you don’t … especially if you haven’t experienced the joy of only three error messages … which, I will admit, was better than the one error message I got on the VAX) and that was followed by an 8088 … remember that? Probably not … it was long before it was all about the pentiums … but, like the TRS-80, it was digital. (And if you don’t understand any of this, all you need to know is I’m the One That’s Cool.)

The thing is if you’re using a computer, you’ve already went digital. It works on bits, not analog signals. So what does it mean to go digital? Since there isn’t a business these days that doesn’t use computers, there isn’t a business that’s not digital. The only question is how much is done on the computer. And, more importantly, how much is done entirely on the computer. This is, simply put, a meaningless bullshit phrase.

Now let’s talk about digitization. Technically, this is just the process of converting an analog signal to a digital one (by selecting a sampling frequency, such as every second, tenth of a second, hundredth of a second, etc.). Or, more generally, converting something in the analog world to the digital world. In the back office, this usually means converting paper to documents. But this can just be the process of scanning paper documents to image files, which can not be searched, automatically indexed on key meta-data, etc. That requires (advanced) OCR, and machine learning to take corrections and improve the OCR so that future digitization of faxed documents (sent as images) or PDF documents can be automatically converted into searchable, indexed, text formats with accuracy. So while this isn’t as much of a bullshit term as going digital is, it’s a pretty ambiguous one. A software provider doesn’t have to do very much to honestly say they support digitization given the multitude of (rather weak) definitions that exist.

So this takes us to digital transformation. This is supposed to imply that you dramatically improve all of your business process through the implementation of a new platform that transforms the way you do business to a process that is faster, better, cheaper … and delivers more value. But if you think about this, pretty much any platform you implement is going to transform the way you do business … but is going to be for the better?

So before you fall into the “digital” craze, think about what it really means!

Just like infinite scroll websites aren’t new (that’s what we sorted with before we could frame and tab and paginate, for those that don’t remember), neither is digitization!