Author: Craig Barker

The Digital Chain Reaction

There’s a lot of noise around digitisation, digitalisation and digital transformation right now.

The terms are interchanged freely, but with blurry definitions. They’re the words every business leader is using in their virtual boardrooms, and as we pivot from reactive to proactive leading now we’re on the other side of lockdown, it’s important to know exactly what it is we’re talking about.

In short, there is no digitalisation or digital transformation without digitisation – but with the accelerated adoption of terms thanks to the pandemic, what does it all really mean?

Let’s discuss the differences between the three digi-terms and help you track where your business is on the digital spectrum.


Gartner defines digitisation as ‘the process of changing from analog to digital form’.

This is the simplest term to define out of the three. Take bookkeeping, for example. We tend to no longer keep accounting records in physical books, writing values down manually – they’re now turned into spreadsheets and stowed away in digital fortresses instead. When you cash in a cheque, the cashier makes a digital scan of the document and stores that. Once you start looking, you’ll see digitisation is used practically everywhere.

The main advantage is that digitised content can be accessed from anywhere in the way physical records can’t – and it’s a lot harder to lose a file than it is a singular physical article. 

Digitisation is usually the first step in modernising processes, streamlining, and making them more efficient to manage. It’s an essential part of becoming an agile business – one able to eventually embark on a digital transformation.


A word with small variations to the last, digitalisation cannot happen without digitisation. This being said, there is no golden definition and ambiguity is rife with this term in particular.

Digitalisation concerns the use of already digitised data to impact how work is completed. It goes beyond implementation and considers the strategy and how this can affect the company at core level, defining the evolution of work.

Gartner pens it as ‘the process of moving to a digital business’. It is the route towards digital transformation, capable of replacing and transforming processes to create an environment for a digital business.

Both digitisation and digitalisation must happen before digital transformation can happen – else it’s like attempting a Master’s with no prior knowledge of your subject.

Digital transformation 

The final step in the digital trifecta, digital transformation is what can happen when all three digital elements combine. Unlike the previous two, digital transformation concerns the end user – your customer – rather than the data itself.

Forbes says digital transformation ‘requires cross-cutting organisational change as well as the implementation of digital technologies’. It needs a business to make change a core competency, and requires agility to facilitate ongoing digitalisation initiatives.

Digital transformation is customer-centric, and centres around companies leveraging technologies that respond to the here and now, to enable and empower both their employees and their end users.

Using these examples, here’s the flow from digitisation through the digital transformation:

Digitisation –> Converting analog information into a digital format

Digitalisation –> Automating the data to streamline processes

Digital transformation –>Developing an improved process to curate a great CX

The word digital relates to applying the culture, processes, business models and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations. I think it’s important to keep people at the heart of everything you do with technology – if what you’re doing isn’t making processes smoother, or helping iron out UX, or just genuinely helping your customer, you need to ask why are you doing it in the first place.

BlackCat’s Talent Manager, Alison Shepherd has recently written about digital transformation in a whitepaper which deep-dives into the meaning of culture to technology leaders and what you can do to influence change, which is a great supplementary read to this article.

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Who contributed to this article

  • Craig Barker
    Co-Founder, BlackCat

    Craig Barker is BlackCat’s Chief Customer Officer and co-founder. He acts as the voice of the customer, ensuring the business remains focussed on their needs and that we always deliver the best possible outcomes. Craig also supports BlackCat’s engagement and delivery functions and can often be found guiding and coaching our teams, encouraging a culture of collaboration and learning. Craig’s background is technical. Prior to founding BlackCat with Simon Godden, he gained a first class honours degree in Computer Science from the University of Aston then built up almost 20 years experience in delivering innovative software across a variety of industry sectors. He’s an advocate of lean and agile methodologies and is happiest in the thick of the most complex of deliveries.