Digitization doesn’t cut it.

Approximately 5 billion gigabytes were generated from the beginning of recorded history until 2003. In comparison 5 billion gigabytes of data were claimed to be generated every 10 seconds in 2015 according to Ritter, T. LundPedersen, C. (2019): Digitization capability and the digitalization of business models in business-to-business firms: Past, present, and future, Industrial Marketing Management.

Isn’t that mind blowing?

Digitization, or the process of making analog information digital, has made everything more accessible and made life and work easier for everybody with access to it. It has opened up a new world and is the foundation for the digital development we have seen the last three decades. It has it’s uses, definitely.

But since the arrival of smartphones the development has been explosive. Sometimes it feels like the phone is glued to the hand, both to me and to the people I see around me. Digital is “the new normal” since 2010 after all, according to the table above.

Being a consumer and a customer of digital data in everyday life since many years has given us perspective and references to how hard or how easy and effective it can be to perform a task. That has made us, or at least me, somewhat particular and cranky when it is not easy. Or lately, when the site, app or program I am using does not add value. When things are just digitized.

I love reading and have at any given time at least five apps to read in on my phone. The last years there are also many websites that allows you to read online for free, which I do. But then I get annoyed when I cannot bookmark where I am at. I get annoyed when I happen to close the webpage and can’t get the information of what book I was reading last. I would like to have recommendations about what to read next based on my reading history, but there is no such function. It is like walking in to a really large library where everything is categorized, but that is it. You have all this data, but no good way to filter or store my preferences for it. That is when I find digitization lacking in many ways. Like the provider of the service could just have made some more effort to add value, but nooo.

Shopping in some smaller firm’s online shops or surprisingly many online shops of smaller and medium sized industries is another example of when I find digitization is lacking. They have digitized the shop and so you find something you want to buy and enter your information, and then …

Nothing. Shockingly nothing! No order confirmation is sent to your email. No “follow your order”-link is received. No sms telling you that your package has arrived. So you log in to your bank account and see that the right amount of money has been withdrawn, probably sent to the right company even though the name is not exactly the same as the webpage. And one day you just find the package outside your door.

Just digitization is not enough. It leaves me frustrated since it seems like taking the easy way out. Like the company delivering the service can say: “Yes, we have gone digital” but they did not really get it. Or they have not kept up with the changes. For the last 10 years.

As a product developing engineer (physical products) I have strived to apply Albert Einstein’s device “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” 

It has been such a good advice. But applying it to digital products would give you digitization, that is my conclusion. “As simple as possible” is to just take analog and make it digital, no need to think one step further. It is not good advice applied to this area. It just does not cut it in my eyes.

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