Digitization vs Digitalization: Differences, Definitions, and Examples

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Digital Strategy

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As technology continues to advance, businesses must adapt and evolve to stay competitive. Two key concepts that have emerged in this digital age are digitization and digitalization. While they may seem similar, they have distinct differences and play different roles in driving innovation and digital transformation.

Digitization refers to the process of converting physical information into digital formats, while digitalization refers to the use of digital technologies to improve business operations and create new value for customers. Innovation, on the other hand, is the creation of new ideas, products, or processes that drive growth and competitiveness. Digital transformation is the comprehensive integration of digital technologies into all aspects of a business, with the aim of driving innovation and gaining a competitive edge.

Offering strategic guidance and expert support, they assist organizations in navigating the intricate landscapes of digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation, ensuring that businesses can unlock their complete digital potential and maintain competitiveness in the contemporary, digital-centric business environment.

In this article, we will explore the differences between digitization and digitalization, and how they relate to innovation and digital transformation.

Read on to discover how digitization, digitalization, innovation, and digital transformation are shaping the business landscape.

Digitization vs Digitalization from a Business Perspective

From a business perspective, the terms digitization and digitalization have different meanings and implications.

Digitization refers to the process of converting analog or physical data, such as paper documents or images, into digital formats that can be easily accessed, stored, and manipulated using computers and digital technologies. This can help businesses to reduce costs associated with physical storage, improve data accessibility, and streamline their workflows.

On the other hand, digitalization refers to the use of digital technologies to transform business processes, create new value for customers, and generate revenue. Digitalization involves leveraging digital technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things to optimize and automate business processes, create new products and services, and enhance customer experiences.

In essence, digitization is the first step towards digitalization. By converting physical data into digital formats, businesses are better equipped to leverage digital technologies to drive innovation, improve efficiency, and gain a competitive advantage. Therefore, it is important for businesses to understand the distinction between these two terms and how they can be used in tandem to achieve their goals.

Digitization vs Digitalization: Definitions, Benefits & Examples

What is Digitalization?

The best definition of digitalization is the transition from the physical and biological world to the information world. This definition encompasses social, business, technological, and strategic aspects of the phenomenon, providing a holistic perspective that emphasizes the overarching impact of this process. Digitalization has profound consequences for society, as well as for organizations, governments, and the meaning of work.

In a business context, digitalization involves developing core capabilities across various business components. It requires organizations to embrace digital technologies and integrate them into all aspects of their operations, from customer engagement to supply chain management. Digitalization involves using data and analytics to gain insights and improve decision-making, automating processes to increase efficiency, and creating new products and services that leverage digital technologies.

Simply digitizing some processes is not enough to fully digitalize a business. To achieve true digital transformation, organizations must embrace a digital-first mindset and develop the necessary capabilities to fully leverage the power of digital technologies. This means investing in the right technology, developing a digital strategy, and fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

The Building Blocks of Digitalization Initiatives

The UNITE Building Blocks of Digitalization contain the key dimensions of any larger digitalization effort. If you undertake a larger innovation or transformation initiative, these are the items you should be considering, and which you will have to work on sooner or later.

Building Blocks of Digitalization
The UNITE Building Blocks of Digitalization
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

Digitalization Examples


Online retailers use digital technologies to provide a seamless shopping experience for customers. This includes personalized product recommendations, real-time inventory updates, and fast and secure payment processing.

Digitalization has helped e-commerce businesses to automate and streamline their operations, reducing costs and increasing efficiency. It has also allowed retailers to better understand their customers’ needs and preferences, leading to increased customer loyalty and higher sales.


Digitalization in healthcare includes the use of electronic health records, telemedicine, and remote patient monitoring. These technologies enable healthcare providers to deliver more efficient and effective care, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs.

Digitalization has helped healthcare organizations improve patient access to care, reduce wait times, and deliver more personalized and effective treatments. It has also enabled providers to better track patient outcomes and identify areas for improvement.


Digitalization has transformed the banking industry, with online banking, mobile payments, and digital wallets becoming increasingly popular. Banks use digital technologies to provide customers with a more convenient and personalized banking experience, while also improving efficiency and reducing costs.

Digitalization Benefits

Digitalization has numerous benefits for businesses, and it is a key enabler of digital transformation. Here are some of the benefits of digitalization in business:

  • Improved Efficiency: Digitalization can streamline business processes, reduce manual work, and automate routine tasks. This improves efficiency, reduces errors, and saves time and resources.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: Digitalization can help businesses better understand their customers and provide them with personalized experiences. This can improve customer loyalty and retention, and lead to increased revenue.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Digitalization enables businesses to collect, analyze, and use data to make better decisions. This can lead to more informed and strategic decision-making, and help businesses stay ahead of the competition.
  • Increased Agility: Digitalization can make businesses more agile and responsive to changing market conditions. This can help them adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities, and stay ahead of the curve.
  • Innovation: Digitalization can fuel innovation by providing businesses with new tools, technologies, and opportunities to create value. This can lead to the development of new products and services, and the transformation of existing business models.

Digitalization can lead to digital transformation by enabling businesses to fully leverage the power of digital technologies and create new value for customers. This requires a strategic approach that involves developing the necessary capabilities and building a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Through digital transformation, businesses can become more agile, customer-centric, and competitive in the digital age.

The concept of the three horizons of growth can also be applied to digital transformation. The first horizon involves improving and optimizing existing business processes and technologies through digitalization. The second horizon involves exploring new digital opportunities and business models, while the third horizon involves creating entirely new businesses or products that disrupt the market. Digitalization is a critical enabler for all three horizons, as it provides the foundation for businesses to innovate and create new value for customers. By leveraging digital technologies, businesses can move beyond incremental improvements and achieve true digital transformation.

Three Horizons of Growth
The UNITE Horizons of Growth
Designed By: Digital Leadership AG

Digitization vs Digitalization vs Digital Transformation

As businesses continue to navigate the digital landscape, the terms digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation have become increasingly important. We’ve already discussed the differences between digitization and digitalization and their role in business innovation. Now, it’s time to focus on digital transformation and its relationship to digitization and digitalization.

Digitization vs Digitalization vs Digital Transformation
Digitization vs Digitalization vs Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the process of leveraging digital technologies to fundamentally change how businesses operate, interact with customers, and create value. It involves a comprehensive change in the organization’s culture, processes, and strategies to drive growth and competitive advantage. A successful digital transformation requires a clear digital transformation strategy that aligns with business goals and a strategy execution framework that ensures successful implementation.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation refers to a step change in one or more domains of a business model that results from the implementation of digital technologies and strategies. This change could be in areas such as pricing models, customer targeting, value propositions, and value chains, among others.

such changes are interrelated and require a holistic approach that considers the impact on other domains of the business model to ensure consistency and alignment with the overall business goals.

Digital transformation is a complex and iterative process that requires an innovative mindset, experimentation, and testing to find an ideal configuration that maximizes the potential benefits of digital technologies while minimizing the risks and disruptions to existing business operations.

Why Digital Transformation?

The concept of digital transformation can be confusing and ambiguous, causing different interpretations among individuals in the business world and beyond. However, it is crucial to understand the distinction between digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation to achieve successful transformation.

In the contemporary business environment, Digital Transformation is crucial for organizations to remain competitive, agile, and efficient amidst the fast-paced digital evolution. At Digital Leadership, our Digital Transformation Consulting and Digital Transformation Solutions assist businesses in navigating the intricate realm of digitization, ensuring they harness their complete digital capabilities.

Find out how we can help you

Corporate training, innovation consulting and much more.

For instance, Velvox Engineering Limited is committed to producing high-quality engineering products. To achieve this goal, the company identified quality assurance (QA) as their short-term focus, which required manual and complex procedures. By deploying the right technologies, they transformed the process, achieved measurable results, and established a working model for other construction and engineering companies to adopt.

In summary, digital transformation strategically positions businesses to achieve their desired outcomes by creating a foundation for transformation from their goals and business priorities. Therefore, a thorough understanding of digital transformation in the context of a business’s goals, values, and objectives is essential for executing the transformation successfully.

To effectively plan for digital transformation, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your business model and how it relates to your strategic goals. One useful tool for this is the Business Model Canvas, which provides a visual representation of the key components of your business, including your value proposition, customer segments, channels, revenue streams, cost structure, and more. By analyzing these components and understanding how they interrelate, you can identify areas of your business that are ripe for transformation and develop a clear roadmap for achieving your goals.

Business Model Canvas Template
The UNITE Business Model Canvas
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG – Building on the work of Alexander Osterwalder

Digital Transformation Examples

These examples show that digital transformation can bring significant benefits to organizations, including increased efficiency, improved customer experience, and higher profitability.

  • Netflix: The company began as a DVD-by-mail service but transformed into a digital streaming platform. It achieved this by investing heavily in its digital infrastructure, developing proprietary algorithms to personalize content recommendations, and investing in creating original content. The impact was enormous as Netflix disrupted the traditional television industry, leading to a decline in cable TV subscriptions and a rise in the popularity of streaming services.
  • Maersk: The Danish shipping company implemented a digital transformation strategy that involved upgrading its legacy IT systems and deploying new technologies such as blockchain, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). This digital transformation allowed Maersk to improve its supply chain management, reduce fraud, and cut costs, ultimately leading to an increase in profits.
  • Siemens: The German multinational company undertook a digital transformation by creating a digital twin of its products, which is a virtual replica of physical products. The digital twin allowed Siemens to simulate and optimize product design, test products in a virtual environment, and monitor product performance remotely. This transformation led to increased efficiency, improved product quality, and reduced costs.

Digitization vs Digitalization vs Digital Transformation: Summary

Here’s a summary of the key differences between digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation in terms of their definitions, benefits, and examples. This summary aims to help readers understand the nuances of these terms and their relevance to modern business practices.

DigitizationThe process of converting information from analog to digital form.Improved efficiency, accessibility, and preservation of information.Scanning physical documents and creating digital copies, converting analog media (e.g., vinyl records, cassette tapes) into digital formats.
DigitalizationThe integration of digital technologies into various aspects of an organization’s operations, results in new ways of doing business.Improved customer experience, increased efficiency, and productivity, and access to new markets and revenue streams.Adopting digital tools such as online sales platforms, social media, and cloud computing.
Digital TransformationA step change in one or more domains of a business model that results from the implementation of digital technologies and strategies. This change could be in areas such as pricing models, customer targeting, value propositions, and value chains, among others.Increased agility and flexibility, improved customer experience, access to new markets and revenue streams, and increased innovation.Redesigning core business processes, developing new digital products or services, and implementing machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to optimize operations.
Digitization vs Digitalization vs Digital Transformation

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, understanding the differences between digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation is crucial for any business that wants to thrive in the digital age. While digitization and digitalization focus on the use of technology to improve processes and operations, digital transformation is a strategic approach to fundamentally change a business model and drive innovation.

To delve deeper into the distinction between digitalization and digitization, Explore the comprehensive insights available in our book titled “How To Create Innovation.” This publication not only clarifies the difference between these digital processes but also offers a wealth of valuable information and strategies for fostering innovation in the digital age.

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The UNITE Business Model Framework: A Framework for Innovation Success

Business Model framework
THE UNITE Business Model Framework
Designed By: Digital Leadership AG

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